Michigan basketball: D.J. Wilson emerging as a force inside
In just the second game, D.J. Wilson showed this season could be different for him and the Michigan basketball team.
The 77-65 win over IUPUI on Sunday showed his development as he grabbed 14 rebounds, the highest total for a Michigan player since Mitch McGary had 14 on Dec. 3, 2013.
It was so long ago that Wilson, now in his third year at Michigan, had only committed two months before.
"In high school I got 20-rebound games, but never at this level," Wilson said. "It's not something I really paid attention to until the end of the game when I came out and looked up."
Add in his five blocks, and Wilson is emerging as a force.
Much of it is getting stronger in the offseason, but he also has more freedom to move and use his athleticism.
Pigeonholed as a center last year due to a lack of depth, Wilson played only spot minutes and never fit well in the center position. He was more apt to float to his previous wing position and shoot from there.
Now he's playing within the offensive structure as a forward and even more within the new defensive plan, given his massive wingspan.
"I think he's taking his game to a whole 'nother level," U-M senior wing Zak Irvin said. "We've seen glimpses of it in practice, but this year, I tell him, once the summer started he was a whole different player. That was going to be huge for his development and our team as well.
"Fourteen rebounds? That's special. And to get four of those on the offensive end as well, giving us extra possessions, that's huge, especially as we get into a tough game with Marquette [Thursday]."
Michigan's trip to New York City for two games in the 2K Classic begin with Marquette at 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines will face SMU or Pittsburgh on Friday, depending on the two games' results.
Wilson made defense and rebounding a priority after looking at the end of last season and the 12-point halftime lead surrendered to Notre Dame in the first-round NCAA tournament loss.
"We all didn't like how [last] season turned out as far as the Notre Dame game, and we watched a lot of film from the past season and we realized that we're deficient in the rebounding area," Wilson said. "That's something that I could bring and something that I needed to bring, and that would keep me on the court."
U-M coach John Beilein has been impressed with Wilson's ability to absorb defensive concepts. He's one of the most vocal players, directing his teammates around the court.
The new Wilson on the court may be fueled by fashion a bit. He's wearing very short shorts, much shorter than his teammates, so they stand out.
Beilein, who has fashion far down on his priority list, even got roped into the buzz.
"I met with the Maize Rage the other day, and there was 100 of them there, and [I said] 'Any questions?' " Beilein said Wednesday, grinning."'What about D.J.'s shorts? They're awfully short,' A co-ed asked me. [I said] 'I don't have an answer. I'll get back to you.' A fashion statement, I would assume."
Wilson is 6-foot-9 with hair that goes four-to-five inches higher so the shorter shorts stand out even more on such a tall player.
Though his teammates say it's his "Cali swag," the Sacramento native said it's just part of what he did in high school.
"If I wear shorts, I usually wear higher shorts above my knees or whatever," he said. "It's something back home a lot of people do, and I've gotten used to it. And they are, too."
He may have inspired a trend.
"It's comfortable," he said. "I know some of them are getting on it, too. Derrick [Walton Jr.] had some thoughts of it. Brent [Hibbitts]. Ibi [Watson]. So you may see it later from them."
If they do produce 14-rebound games, Beilein may let Wilson all the uniforms.
This article was written by Mark Snyder from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.