Those who stay will be stronger: Michigan basketball takes advantage of offseason

The Michigan men’s basketball team will look much different this season, and not just because the majority of the players are new to the program.

The roster is filled with guys who got stronger over the offseason, according to strength Coach Jon Sanderson. As a result, they’re jumping higher, running faster, and are better prepared for the upcoming season.

All Wolverines reported back to Ann Arbor in late June for team workouts. Some players were already there. Sophomores Kobe Bufkin and Isaiah Barnes worked with Sanderson all spring and summer, and reaped the benefits.

The 6-foot-4 Bufkin weighed 169 pounds when he arrived on campus in June of 2021. That’s not big enough for the Big Ten, Sanderson said. Bufkin was skilled enough to be a part of Michigan’s rotation, which meant he couldn’t fully take advantage of in-season training. He’s since made up for last time, and is up to 195 pounds. His vertical leap improved by three inches, with massive gains in all strength tests.

Bufkin is likely to be Michigan’s starting shooting guard this season.

Barnes, a 6-foot-7 guard/forward, redshirted as a freshman last season and could therefore train intensely with Sanderson throughout the winter. Since his arrival, he’s gained 21 pounds and is up to 200 pounds. His vertical jump increased by 5.5 inches. Like Bufkin, he’s faster, quicker, and stronger.

Will Tschetter also redshirted and also spent a good amount of the offseason at Camp Sanderson. He’s gone from 220 pounds to 240, but Sanderson is careful not to get him too big. As a power forward, Tschetter still has to be able to move around the perimeter. They can, Sanderson said, despite the added weight.

Both Barnes and Tschetter will try to crack the rotation this season.

Michigan’s new freshmen have only been around for a few months, and a chunk of that time was spent overseas. Still, there have been noticeable improvements. Dug McDaniel, a 5-foot-10 point guard, had already gained 12 pounds when Sanderson spoke to MLive last week, to reach 170. Sanderson noted McDaniel’s quickness and ability to get in the paint.

Jett Howard is unlike previous Michigan guards given his size (6-foot-8). He’s at 215 pounds, and Sanderson doesn’t want him much bigger. “He has the genetics to be big and physical,” Sanderson said. Instead of adding bulk, it’s about minor improvements to strength, durability, and quickness.

Gregg Glenn III and Tarris Reed Jr. are making strides as well. Both arrived with good size; their focus has been on becoming more efficient. (The other freshman, Youssef Khayat, didn’t come to campus until after Europe trip and is still undergoing baseline testing.)

Another newcomer, point guard Jaelin Llewellyn, has been an interesting case for Sanderson. Most Graduate transfers have mostly maxed out their bodies. Michigan’s last two grad transfer guards, DeVante’ Jones (last year) and Mike Smith (the year before), were already about as strong as they could get.

But Llewellyn came from Princeton, and Ivy League students often have summer internships. Llewellyn had four years of college experience, but he was “more like a sophomore in training age,” Sanderson said.

At Michigan, he’s added 12 pounds, and showed a 25 percent improvement in his strength tests. Those are some serious results for such a short time, especially for a veteran player.

Michigan’s other grad transfer, Duke’s Joey Baker, spent the start of his summer rehabbing his surgically-repaired hip. Per Sanderson’s eye test, Baker has improved a good amount; Baker just hasn’t been able to do the standard baseline testing.

Among the upperclassmen returners, gains are usually moderate. Junior Jace Howard exceeded expectations. “His numbers are through the roof,” Sanderson said. When he arrived two years ago, he could bench press 175 pounds. That number is now 265. “He’s looking more and more like an NFL tight end,” Sanderson said. “I joke with him about that all the time.”

Howard is another player who could get even bigger, but there’s no need. They still need to maintain mobility. Sanderson said Howard’s weight-room improvements have made him a dogged on-ball defender.

Terrance Williams II will have a shot to move into the starting lineup as a junior. His improved speed and agility will help him there. He’s slimmed down since arriving on campus and is now at 225. “After losing weight, it’s hard to have crazy improvements in the strength testing,” Sanderson said. “But he has.”

Classmate Hunter Dickinson had another offseason to make tweaks to his body. He shaved additional time off his three-quarter-court Sprint and lane agility drill. His bench press improved. He’s a potential preseason All-American who should look the part in 2022-23.

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