Michigan likes Mitch McGary's minutes right where they are, despite his recent upswing
Either way, Mitch McGary's skill level seems to be catching up with his motor. And, at this point, that's nothing but good news for the Michigan basketball team.
But is McGary -- Michigan's 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman forward -- ready to grab more minutes, or even move into the starting lineup?
John Beilein's not pushing it.
"With him and Jordan (Morgan), I've said this probably too much, but the five-man's role is just different than it used to be," said Beilein, whose team will return home Thursday to host Purdue (7 p.m., ESPN). "There's now way a five-man go out and play 36-38 minutes anymore, he just can't, it's too much sprint work and it's too physical.
"You've got to split those guys up a little bit, and I'm real pleased that both of them are getting a good share of the 40 minutes."
Against Minnesota last Thursday, McGary and Morgan split the game right down the middle -- with both playing an even 20 minutes. Together, they combined to put up 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals and a blocked shot.
Not bad production.
Earlier this season, Beilein said he and the coaching staff were being patient with McGary, waiting for the finer points of his game to catch up to his relatively relentless energy.
During Big Ten play, McGary's minutes have gone up to 19.2 per game, and he's averaging 5.2 points and 6 rebounds during that time. He's also blocked eight shots and made six steals in five league games.
He's not all the way there yet, but Beilein says he's more than encouraged.
"He's playing much bigger, that was an issue when he first got here," Beilein said of McGary. "He was not playing at his full height, because of habits. But he's cleaned up a lot of those areas.
"He's much more comfortable playing without fouling now, and that's given him some minutes. Earlier in the year you saw a few cameo performances (from him) because he was in foul trouble, but he's learned how to play without fouling. He's got so much energy, he's got to be able to harness it."
Through 18 games, Michigan has been using Morgan -- who has started all 18 games -- 21.2 minutes per game. McGary's averaging 15.9, and a combination of Jon Horford and Max Bielfeldt have filled in the rest of the gaps along the front line.
Beilein said Wednesday that Horford continues to round back into shape after missing time with a knee injury, and though he's available to play, he's got work to do in order to pass Bielfeldt again on the depth chart.
But no matter how you slice Michigan's big man minutes, the Wolverines' bulk situation this season is infinitely better than anything Beilein's had to work with during his tenure in Ann Arbor.
"I'm not scouring over those minutes (in great detail)," Beilein said. "You just try to use them within the flow of the game, but they're certainly doing a good job of (giving quality effort during) those 40 minutes."
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