Michigan coach John Beilein, center, instructs his players against Saginaw Valley State last week. Beilein hopes to improve upon UM's 31.2 percentage from 3-point range last season.
Tony Ding / AP Enlarge
ANN ARBOR - Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has his own playing style and his own ball.
The Michigan coach prefers a fast-paced, catch-and-shoot, hoist-the-3 offense, and he has the Beilein Ball to teach his players how to knock down those shots.
Beilein used to draw solid lines around basketballs with a magic marker so that a shooter would place his shooting hand on the line to generate proper backspin and greater accuracy. He teamed with the makers of The Rock basketballs to create and market the Beilein Ball, which replaces that solid, magic-marker line with "B-E-I-L-E-I-N."
The idea is to help players' shots make a beeline to the basket, except: "It didn't work last year," he said.
The Wolverines went 10-22 in Beilein's first season last year and were ranked 290th out of 328 Division I teams in 3-point field-goal percentage (31.2 percent). Only two players returning from that group who shot at least 10 3-pointers - David Merritt and Kelvin Grady - hit more than 35 percent.
As UM gets set for its 2008-09 season opener tonight at 7 against Division II Michigan Tech in the 2K Sports Classic at Crisler Arena, Beilein is hoping all that extra work with his specially marked ball pays off.
"It's not a magical remedy," he said. "Average shooters could become good, good become great, poor become average. That's what you see."
Beilein brought in two good freshmen shooters from Indiana who hope to become great in Stu Douglass and Zack Novak.
Douglass started at shooting guard in UM's 81-55 exhibition victory over Saginaw Valley State last week and made 3 of 5 3-pointers. Novak made 2-of-4 from beyond the arc off the bench, and overall the Wolverines made 11-of-24.
Douglass, who may start again tonight, said Beilein told him during recruiting he could help hone his skills to become a "great collegiate shooter."
"It was surprising in the exhibition how comfortable I felt," Douglass said.
The 3-point line was moved back one foot for this season to 20 feet, nine inches - which Beilein doesn't figure will be a problem. And if his marksmen are indeed hitting from the outside, the extra foot will create even more room for his big men to work.
Manny Harris, a 6-5 sophomore who led UM in scoring (16.1 points per game) as a freshman and is a preseason All-Big Ten pick, is a slasher who will benefit if opponents have to honor his teammates' long shots. DeShawn Sims is a 6-8 junior who averaged 12.3 points a year ago and also stands to improve if the Wolverines can consistently knock down 3s.
"It spreads the floor," said Sims, who led UM with 19 points and nine rebounds off the bench last week. "You can't sag off any of our guys, one through 15. It's just going to open the lane and give us more room to work."
The other 2K Sports Classic game to be played in Ann Arbor today features IUPI and Northeastern at 4 p.m. The winner of that game will play the winner of UM/Michigan Tech tomorrow at 8 p.m. to earn a trip to Madison Square Garden for the tournament's semifinals on Nov. 20.
The losers of today's games will play at Crisler at 5 p.m. tomorrow.
NOTE: To commemorate tomorrow's national signing day for basketball recruits, Dave Revsine and Toledo native Jim Jackson will discuss the Big Ten's 2009-10 freshmen during a Big Ten Network special tomorrow at 6 p.m.
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