Call it a Seniority Complex.
The Michigan basketball team has an interesting dynamic – the notoriety isn’t about the Seniors. Maybe it’s because the good ones leave before their last year. Or maybe it’s because they slowly take a back seat when new recruits come on.
Maybe we should blame it on the Fab Five. Or maybe the one year minimum college ball rule. Either way, it’s all about the freshmen.
When Tim Hardaway entered, he was talked about from every angle. He had spunk, determination, and a real go-getter attitude. Over the past two seasons, we’ve seen him make those glorious three’s, but we’ve also seen him ice cold. And although his stats are still pretty striking (14.1 avg ppg, .400 from the 3-pt line) his accomplishments usually get overlooked. Why?
Enter Mitch McGary.
The freshman from Chesterton, IN only averages 6.2 ppg, but he is 250lbs of solid energy. He has played in all 33 games, coming off the bench in 31 of them. His first career start was at Michigan State. Why? Because Michigan had just come off a terrible loss in OT to Wisconsin and was about to face their in-state rival. Nothing was needed more than a new burst of energy, a new life, which is exactly McGary’s role. He isn’t afraid to get physical. In fact, being physical is his strong suit. He has a never-back-down attitude that rubs off on the rest of the team.
However, McGary isn’t the ideal freshman. He commits unnecessary fouls and has a high number of turnovers. But the one thing he has that will scare opponents is his ability to learn from his mistakes. He’s a gutsy player and when he commits fouls or makes a lousy pass, he learns. McGary has consistently improved throughout his entire debut season. With every game he’s made smarter plays, held onto the ball more, and caused the other team to commit more turnovers.
He’s been Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice. Holds a 57.0 percent shooting record from the field and grabbed 182 rebounds equaling 5.5 rpg. He also leads the team in blocks with 21. His mere presence intimidates opposing teams.
Which is again why he was chosen to start against South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In fact, at the half he was over his ppg average with 7 points. The 6’10” freshman with infectious energy is a monster that won’t go away. After all, they don’t call him “White Thunder” for nothing.
Opponents, this is your warning.