As Michigan basketball coach John Beilein and his staff return to the road for July's second evaluation period, he might not be able to talk with recruits but he has noticed a change.
Winning, facilities and renewed name recognition can do that.
“There’s been really positive feedback and people have great confidence we are heading in the right direction," Beilein said. "This facility and our success over the past couple of years helps that.”
He said this as he leaned forward on a couch in the Victors Suite of the William Davidson Player Development Center, a building that, at less than a year old, has become a major cog in the facility rejuvenation around Michigan basketball.
Michigan brought in the No. 14 class in the country this season, headlined by Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary. It has the No. 2 recruiting class thus far for 2013, with three of its four verbally committed players listed among the ESPN 100.
The success rate in recruiting, though, isn’t more than Beilein anticipated.
“No, I just think it’s the Big Ten, it’s Michigan,” Beilein said. “It’s difficult everywhere and never easy, but it’s easier when you’ve been winning and you have facilities like this.”
That No. 14 class Beilein brought in -- the first group of guys who will have every second of their career in the new facilities since last year’s class came in with the PDC under construction -- already has another advantage: The players can work with the coaching staff from the moment they step on campus.
Beilein and his staff have already seen the benefits of that, implementing part of their September individual workout plans with the five-man freshman class, along with the returning veterans.
They have altered the pace of their installation of both drills and philosophies but figure it will still leave them ahead of the pace of previous years.
“We slow it down,” Beilein said. “We have more time. We have 16 hours now. We have an additional 16 hours. It’s slower than ever. Slower. Just make sure we’re leaving time, we play pickup ball and talk about ball screens and just simple things.
“That takes up a little bit of time but we take that time to evaluate so as we go on the road recruiting, you are looking at what you may need in the future.”
Beilein didn’t want to publicly evaluate what he had seen from the freshman class thus far, in part because his staff is still going through the basic basketball fundamentals and the varying terminology the Wolverines use.
He has, though, started thinking about potential lineups and what type of versatility his freshmen -- and returning players -- could provide.
“I think it depends on what they can absorb,” Beilein said. “So you’re in a decision now as in which positions to teach them first. A lot of them have similarities. If they are going to play two positions, you have to choose the first position first and that’s pretty easy.
“Then you have to say, ‘OK, can they do what is required of other positions?’ Right now, it’s not about positions. We’re just teaching them basic basketball fundamentals.”
With the expanded time spent with them, though, the versatility could come soon enough.
Akunne continues to recover from a broken foot suffered against Purdue in January. The senior walk-on from Ann Arbor, Mich., is expected to compete for minutes behind Trey Burke this fall.
“It’s a slow healing process and it’s in an area of his foot where there is not a lot of circulation,” Beilein said. “Jon seems to be fine and is at 99 percent of where he should be right now.
“Max still has some tendonitis and is working through it. You’re changing how people land, how people run, things that cause people injuries sometimes. It takes a long time. Max certainly is further ahead than he was last year as far as his gait and his soreness in his knees.”
Horford missed the majority of last season with a stress fracture in his foot and Bielfeldt sat out last season as a redshirt.
When WolverineNation spoke with Bielfeldt in June, the redshirt freshman said he was feeling much better.
“Just about,” Bielfeldt said. “I’ve been doing a lot of stuff, figuring the whole thing out. But I’m a lot better than I was during the season.”