Tim Hardaway Jr. looks like a 'different player' as Michigan wins Preseason NIT, pushes to 5-0 start
NEW YORK -- Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has seen plenty of Tim Hardaway Jr. over the past two years.
And the Michigan guard he saw Friday night at Madison Square Garden looked nothing like the guy he remembered watching during his days in the Big Ten at Illinois.
"He's a different player now, you can just see it," Weber said Friday after Hardaway dropped in 23 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in Michigan's 71-57 NIT Season Tip-Off title game victory. "Confidence-wise, pull-up jumpers, getting to the basket.
"It's tough for people to guard him."
Hardaway wrapped up his stint in New York with 39 points in two games before easily being named the tournament's "Most Outstanding Player."
His confident play at both ends of the floor has been a breath of fresh air for the Wolverines, and his improved demeanor appears to be much-improved from last season, when he struggled to make shots basically all season long.
"His freshman year he was obviously very good, I don't know what happened (last season)," said Weber, who was also a staff member on the Team USA Under-19 Hardaway played for two summers ago. "It started with USA basketball, he just didn't make any shots. I was on the committee and he was going to be our go-to shooter, I don't know if the pressure (got to him) or what happened last year.
"But he's a different player now."
Hardaway's struggles last season have been well documented, as he finished the year shooting a horrendous 28.3 percent from 3-point range and a paltry 41.7 percent from the floor.
Through five games this season, though, Hardaway's been fantastic. He leads the team in scoring with 18.2 points per game, and he's been far more efficient in getting there.
Hardaway's shooting 47.6 percent from 3-point range and a sizzling 61.8 percent from the floor. But that's not all, he's also pulling down 6.8 rebounds per game and showing a much-improved ability to handle the ball in transition.
About the only thing that went wrong for Hardaway in New York was the bump to the head he took late in the win over Kansas State. He was not made available to the media following the win, but athletic trainer John DoRosario said he passed his concussion tests and was doing 'fine.'
"The biggest difference would have to be his confidence," Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke said. "Once he gets going, we've got to feed him.
"With Tim being as aggressive and as good as he was (Friday), it opens the offense up, it's something that we have to continue to work on with him."
With Hardaway maturing into the player Michigan hoped he'd be a year ago, the Wolverines' potential as a unit continues to seem relatively limitless.
They've got an All-American point guard in Burke, an incredibly improved slasher in Hardaway, and thanks to freshmen Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas, the Wolverines have all the depth they need.
Through five games, Michigan has barely broken a sweat -- winning all five by an average of 24.8 points per game.
And so far, Hardaway's been a big reason why.
"He's got the great DNA, but DNA doesn't get you there alone," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "You have to have that great work ethic, like his father (Tim Hardaway Sr.) had.
"And that young man is in the gym all the time."