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Michigan basketball summer workouts: 'Everyone is surprising each other as the days go by'

clayton-sayfieby:Clayton Sayfie07/09/24


The Wolverine discusses their takeaways from Dusty May's presser

Michigan Wolverines basketball is currently on a brief break amidst its summer training cycle, but the Maize and Blue have worked hard with a brand-new roster under first-year head coach Dusty May. Junior center Danny Wolf, a Yale transfer, provided some insight on workouts in an interview with Brian Boesch on the ‘Defend The Block’ podcast.

For Wolf personally, he’s preparing for the adjustment from the Ivy League to the Big Ten. He played center at Yale, too, and will see significant time at the ‘4’ with the Wolverines, along with backup minutes behind graduate Vladislav Goldin at the ‘5.’

“When I got to Yale, it was just a little bit of everything,” Wolf said. “It was playing with smaller bigs, so learning how to use my size in the post, and also being able to take slower bigs off the dribble.

“And I think that even these last few weeks, a big emphasis for me has been to really hone in on my body and my conditioning. That’s really the one big piece of my game that I really need to keep working on, and it’s gotten better.”

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Wolf shot 34.9 percent on 83 three-point attempts last season, and he can handle the ball. As mentioned, he’s also able to guard big men of different sizes.

“Just with how I play, I have a different skill set for my size,” Wolf continued. “I pride myself on being able to do things that some other guys my position and size can’t do. And the coaches here — that was a big reason why I came here — they saw that from me and that’s what they wanted from me and that’s how they feel they can best utilize me and my skill set with their play style.”

Since Wolf is set to play such a big role at multiple positions, it’ll be crucial for the 7-foot-0, 250-pounder to avoid foul trouble and stay on the floor. He excelled at that a year ago with the Bulldogs, fouling out only twice and averaging just 2.7 fouls per 40 minutes.

“It’s me trying to put myself in positions and trying to take different angles on defenders,” the Michigan big man said. “Here, it’ll be a little different, as I’m gonna be pretty perimeter-oriented, especially when I’m at the ‘4’ and playing a lot of minutes with Vlad. So it’s gonna be a lot of learning about new angles and how to do with that. And these last few weeks, I think I’ve showed and proved that I can do that at a high level, and I think that the coaches agree. They’ve been pleasantly surprised about that. 

“Just learning from a young age techniques of jumping straight up and not bringing your hands down. In college basketball, tacky fouls catch up to you quickly. You only have five fouls, and once you get your fourth, you have to play pretty timid. So just trying to do everything I can to not get to that point.”

Wolf isn’t the only one transitioning to a new school and team, along with a fresh conference. He’s one of six transfers and nine scholarship newcomers on the roster. Only three scholarship players are back in graduate guard Nimari Burnett, graduate guard Jace Howard and redshirt junior forward Will Tschetter.

“At Yale, there are no summer workouts, so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Wolf said of summer training. “But all I heard was summers are big on guys getting to know each other and building camaraderie and relationships. If you watch our practice, you watch our workouts, you see us in the locker room, you would never know that it’s 15 new guys.”

‘Really special group’

Michigan coaches have said playing ‘connected’ as one unit will be key heading into the 2024-25 campaign. That buy-in is starting to take shape, Wolf said.

“Everyone really has hit it off instantly, and everyone’s on the same page as to the common goal of winning,” Wolf noted. “Coach May has been in Turkey recruiting for a little bit [at the FIBA U17 World Cup in Istanbul]. He was watching practice, and the thing that stood out to him most was how well we passed the ball with each other. And when you have a new team, it’s usually guys are trying to prove themselves and show everyone who they are and what they can do and scoring the ball, but for the head coach to tell you that the thing that stood out most was how well we pass the ball … he made a point that not a lot of teams pass it like we have.

“Just seeing everyone together, I think that we have a really special group of guys. I think everyone is surprising each other as the days go by, and we have a really special group that can do some big-time things this year.”

PG Tre Donaldson ‘taking on a leadership role’

Every great team needs a high-level point guard, and Michigan is hoping junior Tre Donaldson will become that player. He started 10 of 35 games for Auburn last season, averaging 6.7 points, 3.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 19.2 minutes per contest, but is slated to have a much bigger role this coming season in Ann Arbor.

Wolf and Donaldson went head-to-head in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, with No. 13 seed Yale edging out No. 4 seed Auburn, 78-76, in Spokane, Wash. Wolf shared some insight into he and Yale’s pregame preparation watching Donaldson on film.

“Of course, Tre and I matched up in the Big Dance, and fortunately we came away with the victory,” the Michigan forward said. “When I knew that the coaches were honing in on getting Tre, I just remember our film session with Yale before we played Auburn, and watching him in the SEC [Tournament] championship or the semis, he had a really big game. When I was sitting there watching the film, I was like, I don’t know if ‘confused’ is the right word, but he came off the bench.

“And I just remember he’s a big-time shot-maker and he’s a creator and he’s a strong, bulldog defender. So when I realized that [he was coming to Michigan], I was very excited, because playing with a high-level point guard makes everything so much easier.”

Now that they’re teammates, Wolf and Donaldson have created a relationship, and the point guard has played a part in taking control of the team this summer.

“Once I got here, Tre and I also connected instantly,” Wolf explained. “He’s been very vocal in practices, and he’s taking on a leadership role, as point guards should do. And he’s really taking pride in that, walking guys through actions and what he sees.

“And then especially when Vlad and I are playing together, there are going to be some times where I don’t know where the right term is, but when Vlad and I are playing together with Tre, it’s just a bunch of talking through things and new actions, and he’s been very helpful.”

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