The Michigan basketball roster looks markedly different than many expected due to transfers, and it could have been more so had Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner left for the NBA. There was also a report, quickly debunked, that head coach Juwan Howard was of interest to NBA teams.
With those three returning, the Wolverines enter this season with high hopes in Big Ten play … assuming there is a season. Most believe the campaign will begin in January with conference play.
“Realistically, I think it’s possible to play some Big Ten games,” Wagner, reportedly approaching 6-10, told the Big Ten Network recently. “That’s great competition. We really wouldn’t need to play with out of conference teams to really get better and have some good games.
“I just hope we get some Big Ten games in. I know the decision has yet to be made. Obviously, everyone wants fans in the stands because that’ a big part of the game. It’s a lot more fun with that. We’re going to see how this turns out. It’s going to be interesting.”
It would have been much more interesting had there been any truth to the Howard rumors. Wagner and his teammates learned quickly there was no truth.
“I was happy. I think having a coach like that, you’ve got to expect stuff like this, especially with him coming from the NBA,” Wagner said. “I think that’s normal. I think everyone on the team, the staff, we’re all super happy with how he handled it and how he showed his commitment to the program.”
Wagner and Livers did, too, but not without some consternation. The two gave each other space and time to do their research and make their own independent decisions. Wagner heard he was “at least on the radar,” a potential second-round pick, which he expected after a solid freshman season in which he averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and shot 31.1 percent from long range.
Livers was outside the second round according to most draft experts, but he was still very interested in taking his game to the next level.
“He had a much harder time than me just because it was a different situation for him going into his senior year,” Wagner said. “I’ve still got a couple years back. For me, I just wanted to see how the committee evaluated me. That’s really all I did. I Just waited to hear back from them.
“I heard what I wanted to hear, and I was really ready to get back to work for Michigan … I also knew I had a lot to learn, so I’m really excited I had the opportunity to go back.”
The team has had a number of Zoom calls and worked out together this summer in preparation for the season, staying sharp mentally for when they (hopefully) get the call to return to action.
If this is his last season, as many expect, Wagner is going in prepared to make it a good one.
“We’ve been talking about how we can improve as a team, not just from a basketball standpoint but also a mindset standpoint, how we can help each other on and off the court, so that when the season does come we’re prepared for everything,” he said.
They’re just hoping to get their chance, sooner than later.