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Orion Sang | Detroit Free Press | October 23, 2018

Michigan basketball preview: Jon Teske could be the next big thing for the Wolverines

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The Michigan men's basketball team held its annual media day on Monday and also opened up practice for an hour. Here are five takeaways from the availability:

1.) Working on shooting

The most fundamental aspect of basketball has been an area of focus for Michigan, and it's no surprise why.

The Wolverines were not a great 3-point shooting team last year, and the top three shooters — Moritz Wagner, Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — have all left.

Michigan wasn't a great free-throw shooting team, either.

That means Michigan has spent a lot of time working on the basics with John Beilein.

Before the open practice, he explained a drill the Wolverines constantly practice.

"When you come out there, we're doing form shooting," Beilein said. "When you see us throwing the ball off the backboard, working on our spin, on our catch, on our footwork, on our follow-through. And we do it every day for 10 minutes. There's two groups that do it. It's the most boring drill. It's every single day. Before the Final Four last year, we're doing form shooting."

Sure enough, Michigan's open practice included the drill, which saw players purposely shooting the ball at the backboard and not the rim, before moving to a different spot and banking in shots off the same area.

Free throws have earned the same level of scrutiny.

MORE: The best 3-point shooting college basketball teams this century

"The improvement is that I'm a better coach at it," Beilein said. "We're practicing it more. It's been a thing that we've taken for granted. Because we had so many good foul shooters, we didn't practice it as much. And we've probably practiced it 500 percent more."

2.) Jon Teske will be key player

Beilein has high expectations for Teske, the junior center who backed up Wagner last year. Teske was an imposing presence down low who profiled as a much different offensive player than Wagner, a stretch center.

The Wolverines still need Teske to make an impact on defense. They'll also need him to at least replicate some of Wagner's shooting if they hope to space the floor as they did last season.

Early returns? Teske shot well in the open practice. He has a high release and his form and rotation looked good. Time will tell if that carries over to the regular season.

"He should be playing above the rim with some of his finishes. He should be shooting little 15-footers. He should be doing all of those things," Beilein said. "I think the whole idea with him is he's in much better shape. He's going to have the opportunity to do it.

"Behind him, between Austin (Davis) and Brandon (Johns) and Colin (Castleson), we've got guys waiting, but Jon's really a key to the season for us in many, many ways. He's going to be out there for a long time. He can give us 25 to 30 (minutes) if we need him to."

MORE: Andy Katz's top 36 preseason college basketball power rankings

3.) Pistons interest helped recruiting?

Beilein had a brief flirtation with the Detroit Pistons about their head coaching job this past summer.

Could he use that as a recruiting tactic? Well, he's certainly trying to.

"I'm sure people could use it negatively against us, that I was trying to leave. Which, it was the Pistons. It was local," Beilein said. "We also will say if the Pistons thought I could do it at that level, then you should think we're pretty good at preparing you for it. We always try to put a positive spin on it."

4.) Zavier Simpson continues to lead

The junior point guard set the tone for Michigan last year. His fierce mentality was a reflection of how the Wolverines played defense.

Simpson hasn't changed his approach. During the open practice, the Wolverines ran a drill that focused on transition defense, before later moving toward a half-court, 5-on-5 scrimmage.

In both portions of practice, Simpson could be heard trash-talking teammates after his unit — made up of Teske, Jordan Poole, Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews and Brandon Johns, all wearing blue jerseys — got a stop.

5.) Beilein on one-and-done

Last week, it was reported that the NBA will offer a "professional path" to the G-League — the NBA's official minor league organization — with $125,000 contracts as an alternative to college basketball's one-and-done route.

Beilein didn't quite say where he falls on the proposal. But he did touch on his perception of the current system.

"We just keep trying to find the right way to do it. Fixing it? I don't know," Beilein said. "We say we want to fix it. But let's keep trying to find a better way for kids. They're going to classes in September, October, November, and then they start checking out. We've got to do something about that."

This article is written by Orion Sang from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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