Michigan’s basketball core getting closer to full strength
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Zak Irvin is ready for Michigan to play at full strength again at long last.
"I just can’t wait for everyone to get healthy," Irvin said. "We’ve at least had an injury I think all throughout last year."
Irvin’s back problem is the last major issue the Wolverines are waiting on after an offseason in which several key players needed to work their way back from injuries. Michigan held its media day Thursday and allowed reporters to watch an hour of practice. Irvin was able to do some light shooting and participated in other drills as well.
The school announced in early September that Irvin was having back surgery and would miss 6-8 weeks. The Wolverines open the season Nov. 13 against Northern Michigan.
"I’m definitely not going to go out there if I’m not 100 percent — with my back 100 percent, also being in shape," the 6-foot-6 Irvin said. "I can’t just get back on the court and not be in shape."
Irvin is showing patience with his recovery, and guard Spike Albrecht continues to make progress with his. Albrecht had hip surgery in the offseason and is almost back to full strength.
"Obviously I’m not where I want to be," Albrecht said. "I think it’s been a little bit tougher than I expected, just because I kind of jumped back in and just kind of expected myself to be right where I was, skill-wise and shooting the basketball and things like that. I’m not there yet."
Caris LeVert (foot injury) and Derrick Walton (toe problem) both missed significant time last season, but they’re back now.
Those four players — LeVert, Irvin, Walton and Albrecht — give Michigan a talented, experienced core that should help the Wolverines recover nicely from missing the postseason last season. And the injuries that made 2014-15 so difficult allowed some of Michigan’s younger players more minutes. Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman started 13 games apiece.
"I think that our skill level, as far as seeing the floor, understanding offense and defense, is at a different level than it was last year," coach John Beilein said. "We’ve worked a lot on it, all last year, but the Aubreys and Muhammads and guys like that, the game was moving so fast. The game has slowed down for them."
Beilein said Abdur-Rahkman has "his work cut out for him" if he wants to play as much as he did last season. For once, the Wolverines aren’t dealing with a major exodus to the NBA — and that depth could certainly be an asset.
"Our best teams had two or three guys that we could go to late," Beilein said. "Caris is certainly going to be one of those, but I don’t think he’s like the only option late in a game."