He's redshirting now, but Michigan basketball team might need Blake McLimans next year
All the while, though, McLimans is learning and paying attention during his redshirt year with the Michigan basketball team. A season from now, his role will change, perhaps dramatically.
With Sims and Gibson graduating and redshirt freshman Ben Cronin more than likely done for his career, McLimans, at 6-foot-10, will be the tallest player on a Michigan roster screaming for size.
Every day during this redshirt year, he uses future playing time as his focus.
“Absolutely. When I’m out on the floor or in the weight room, it just motivates me to work as hard as I possibly can,” McLimans said. “So I can do what’s best for the team next year.”
McLimans was an unknown player coming out of Hamburg High School in New York and then a prep school year at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. He never played AAU basketball, instead opting to become a three-sport star in volleyball, basketball and baseball, where he could throw up to 90 mph as a pitcher.
It also led him to Worcester, where he gave up volleyball to focus on playing in open gyms with teammates. His raw ability to make shots and run the floor as a 6-foot-10 forward intrigued college coaches, including Michigan’s John Beilein. McLimans’ ability to play on the perimeter as a big man and make shots fits well with Beilein’s offensive system.
“This was a kid who played in relative obscurity up in the Buffalo area and didn’t get a lot of notoriety because he didn’t get a lot of exposure on the AAU level, so there weren’t a lot of people that knew about him,” Worcester Academy coach Ed Reilly said.
“But when he came here and started knocking down shots, he became a very interesting commodity early on, put it that way.”
Interesting enough for Beilein to offer him a scholarship.
Then, when McLimans arrived at Michigan he began to realize how much bigger and faster the Division I game moves. That’s been the biggest learning adjustment for him during his year on the bench.
He said playing in the prep league Worcester plays in - the same one current Michigan recruit Evan Smotrycz is in at New Hampton in New Hampshire - lessened the curve a little.
“In practice, it’s definitely getting more comfortable,” McLimans said. “In the beginning of the year it was definitely a little struggle but, yeah, it’s getting more comfortable adjusting to the speed.
“It was a learning experience. It all of a sudden just didn’t happen. It was progressive over time, kind of. Right now it’s still getting more comfortable to the point where it’s really comfortable.”
McLimans is a project. He hasn’t logged nearly as many games as most high school juniors due to not playing AAU. But he’s learning and the offensive skill set is there.
Reilly said McLimans made marked improvement in the one year he had him when he averaged eight points, three rebounds, two blocks and an assist per game.
“He really goes well to his left and has a great left-hand explosive layup that was pretty impressive when he was here,” Reilly said. “Just getting a mid-range game and playing off two feet, a lot of strength-related issues he’ll have to develop at the Big Ten level in order to be a successful offensive player.
“But he’s got the skill package, and, I think, in time and with work, you’ll see a product that can help Michigan win some ball games.”