Beilein’s students aim to pass tests
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — John Beilein has set up his new office a lot like a classroom.
The Michigan coach has a white board on the wall across from his desk. A few feet away, there’s a table where he can diagram plays and drills. On the table’s surface is a drawing of a basketball court.
He opens a box and pulls out little tokens — the size of Monopoly pieces — that represent players. On this Friday afternoon in September, he’s smiling as he plays around with his version of a toy box, moving tokens around to show a pick-and-roll drill.
Beilein slides one token toward the three-point line and begins gesturing. This one represents Trey Burke, he explains, showing the different options Burke has when he gets the ball at the top of the key and a pick is set for him.
Beilein moves the token again, and suddenly he’s explaining a different drill featuring another player.
“He’s a teacher,” freshman forward Mitch McGary says, “of basketball.”
Beilein’s pupils this season are young. Five freshmen are on the roster, which means he gets to do a lot of teaching.
An NCAA rule change allowed coaches to work with players for two hours on skill-related instruction each week during the summer — coming at the perfect time for these young Wolverines — so Beilein has been forced to change his normal routine.
“Basically, I had to tear up my old September-to-October plan that I’ve had for years because we could get most of the offensive stuff in over the summer,” Beilein says. “I’m talking about footwork, shooting, use of the dribble.”
He knew these freshmen were talented so they’d pick up things quickly. The group, led by two top-50 players in McGary and Glenn Robinson III, make up the best recruiting class of the coach’s career. What Beilein didn’t know for sure — though he had a good idea that it would be the case — was that they’d be so eager to be students of the game.
“When you’re talking with some of our young men, their eyes are right on you,” … [For more on Beilein's students aim to pass NCAA and Big Ten tests, click here.]