Michigan has three freshmen who will undoubtedly play big minutes in wing Caleb Houstan, forward Moussa Diabate and shooting guard Kobe Bufkin. But what can we expect from the others?
Point guard Frankie Collins, forward Will Tschetter and wing Isaiah Barnes are all very skilled and have had their moments. More importantly, assistant coach Phil Martelli said recently, they are all improving steadily.
Collins will likely have a role similar to Xavier Simpson’s in his first year with the program. Simpson wasn’t great offensively, but he provided a defensive spark and some ball handling at the point before bursting on to the scene as a sophomore.
“You know what I like about Frankie’s progress is he is recognizes that you have — and I think sometimes we undervalue this — but having Howard Eisley, he’s a point guard guru,” Martelli said of his fellow assistant. “Sometimes we lean so heavily and say Juwan, man, what a masterful big man coach, but we have that same guy in Howard Eisley.
“Frankie recognizes that; he’s gravitated to that. What I like about him is he’s slow and steady. What we’re seeing this week is a little better than we saw last week.”
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Getting into the lane, finishing and distributing and defense are going to be the areas in which he excels initially, Martelli added.
“That’s going to have to be his whole game. His shot is not broken, but it’s developing,” he said. “It needs to develop further and further, for sure.
“One of the things [in his favor] is that he is a relentless defender. When we talk to people, even when we talk to recruits, that’s what they’ll say — ‘Man I remember playing against Frankie Collins. He was a relentless defender.’ When your peers are saying that, that’s what’s going to be expected.”
Barnes overcame a few setbacks to start to thrive by the end of the summer, especially off the court. He continues to show he might provide help from the perimeter.
“He did grow,” Martelli said. “You know where the growth was? Off the court. There was a time when he couldn’t be here physically, but man he knocked it out of the park academically and since he’s been back, for him, he is the prototypical freshman …”
Meaning he’s still learning the pace of the game and needs to add strength.
“But he has a very, very pretty stroke. He’s going to benefit from the Sandman [strength coach Jon Sanderson] getting his legs underneath him, getting his core tighter.
“Then, it’s utilization of everything we do with stuff on the IPad, opportunities to watch film. There has been growth, there will be more growth and there needs to be more growth.”
Finally, Tschetter is a guy who is more athletic than expected and can stretch the floor from the four spot. He’s probably prejudicial because he likes him so much off the floor, Martelli admitted, but he believes there’s a frosh Terrance Williams type role for him.
“He’s one of those hybrids who can play inside and can play out. Some of the stuff being presented is brand new to him, but he’s another one right at the top of the list in terms of being a gym rat,” Martelli said. “He can score from the three-point line, can take the ball to the lane, dunk it on you. He has that unique ability to make a mistake and shake it off. It doesn’t linger.
“Will, he gets to the next play. He really does remind me very much of Terrance. He had an impact on winning when the lights were off, so to speak. People say he only played ‘X’ amount of time or this or that, but at practice, he was a force. He made Isaiah Livers better. He made Brandon Johns better. That’s where I think he will shine.”
And, in time, become a player they depend on in games.
The Wolverines have a lot of those this year. It’s up to the coaches now to figure out how to best utilize them, something they did with great success a year ago.