Michigan's new backup PG Spike Albrecht works much better than last year's solution
ANN ARBOR -- When it came to Trey Burke's minutes last season, Michigan basketball coach John Beilein tried just about everything to get them under control.
For a short time, he tried to use junior Eso Akunne as a backup ball-handler during the early portion of the season. But that ended in January when a foot injury cost Akunne the rest of the year.
Early on he tried to insert senior Stu Douglass in the backcourt instead of Burke -- but Douglass was eventually needed as a full-time off-guard, and that plan blew up, too.
In the end, Beilein finally found a way to get Burke rest. But not in the form of a substitution.
"Last year, there was really no one that felt comfortable (backing up Burke)," Beilein recalled. "It was 'I know Trey's tired, so let's call a timeout.' "
This season, Beilein's hoping his new backup point guard -- freshman Spike Albrecht -- can contribute a bit more than a timeout on the stat sheet.
Albrecht was recruited to Michigan during Burke's NBA contemplation last spring. At the time, he looked like a last-ditch effort to get a floor leader on the roster in case Burke decided he wasn't coming back.
But when Burke did declare he was returning, Albrecht's role became crystal clear -- to stand in for one of the country's best point guards five to seven minutes a game, and do so with a smile on your face.
Albrecht's smile, by the way, hasn't left his face yet.
"This has been a good experience," Albrecht said during the team's annual media day. "Trey's a great mentor, a great player and he's someone that I definitely like learning from.
"It's been great."
Burke played 1,227 minutes last season, the second-highest single-season total in Michigan history. At first Burke claimed the minutes weren't a big deal, but as the summer went on, he changed his tune.
He admitted that the heavy playing time took a toll on his body, and when March rolled around, he definitely felt the wear and tear of the Big Ten season. The summer, he's spent most of his weight room time strengthening his legs and adding weight to combat the heavy minute action he'll see again this season.
But he's also got Albrecht. At 5-foot-11 and a generous 170 pounds, Albrecht was nowhere near the heavily recruited player that fellow freshman Mitch McGary was -- but he might end up being just as valuable if he can keep Burke fresh.
And, he's not exactly a statue out there either -- apparently, he can play a little bit.
"Spike has a really high IQ for the game," Burke said. "I've actually learned some things from Spike, passing-wise and things like that. He's a great passer and that's something a lot of people don't know.
"My job is to continue to get him comfortable, keep building him up and getting him confidence. The quicker he learns, the better."
Albrecht wasn't heavily recruited and his role this season is to simply stand behind the team's star player and make sure he's well rested.
Not exactly flashy. But Albrecht doesn't care, he's just happy to be there.
He's not making any promises about what he can contribute this season, but Albrecht knows one thing for sure:
He'll likely be better than a timeout.
"I just have to deliver and do what they expect," Albrecht said. "Whatever that may be. However I can help contribute is what I'm looking forward to doing."