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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Wolverines await career decisions

Stauskas among players who could make leap to NBA

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan's Nik Stauskas dunks during the second half of an NCAA Midwest Regional final college basketball tournament game against Kentucky Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Indianapolis. Michigan's Nik Stauskas dunks during the second half of an NCAA Midwest Regional final college basketball tournament game against Kentucky Sunday, March 30, 2014, in Indianapolis.
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INDIANAPOLIS — A day after his season ended, Nik Stauskas earned second-team All-American honors, adding another accolade to an already decorated sophomore season with the Michigan men’s basketball team.

Yet with the close of Michigan’s season, questions now face the sophomore guard, two of his teammates, and the Wolverines as a whole: Will the key cogs in Michigan’s NCAA tournament runs in 2013 and 2014 turn professional? And what will next season look like for the Wolverines?

Following a 75-72 loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Stauskas deflected questions about his immediate future, whether it’s at Michigan or at the professional level.

Mitch McGary, a forward who missed much of the season because of back surgery, deflected those same questions — similar to the ones he got after the 2013 season. So did forward Glenn Robinson III, who was also an NBA prospect after last season.

“Right now is not the time,” Robinson (13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds) said after Sunday’s loss to Kentucky. “We’re going to discuss that with our families and review upon that. Our season is over right now, so that’s all we’re really thinking about and reflecting on.”

The loss to the Wildcats left Michigan one step short of a return to the Final Four, and the 2014-2015 Wolverines could have a different complexion.

With the graduation of Jordan Morgan and potential loss of McGary, if he decides to go pro, it would bring new faces at forward in Anthony Wayne graduate Mark Donnal, a 6-foot-9 freshman who redshirted this season, and 6-foot-10, 250-pound redshirt junior Jon Horford (3.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 26 blocked shots off the bench).

“The problem we had this year was Jordan was playing so well, he was such a leader and such an asset to the team,” Michigan coach John Beilein said of Morgan, who averaged 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in four tournament games. “So we're looking forward to Jon and what he can bring to this team. He brings a very mature influence on the team.”

Sophomore guard Caris LeVert also emerged this season as a threat at the perimeter, and he could team with Spike Albrecht to pick up some of the scoring if Stauskas (17.5 points a game) leaves for the NBA.

“He has been in these games,” Beilein said. “He hit big shots against Syracuse last year in the Final Four. He has that experience. His future's so bright, and besides all that, he's one of the, like these other guys, one of the best I've ever coached.”

UM won the regular season Big Ten title and lost to Michigan State in the postseason conference championship game, yet still earned No. 2 seed in the Midwest regional and easily handled Wofford and Texas in the second and third-round tournament games in Milwaukee.

Friday in Indianapolis, the Wolverines slipped past Tennessee and into the Elite Eight, but the season ended Sunday with only a second left on the scoreboard, as Stauskas’ last-second shot bounced off the backboard and fell to the floor.

“This team has grown throughout the year,” McGary said. “For us to win the Big Ten like we did, by three games, is unheard of. I really don’t know if it’s been done in the Big Ten. For us to start off the way we did and then to grow throughout the season and mature, to get this far, and being just a couple seconds away from back-to-back Final Fours is amazing.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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