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Posted on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan basketball recruit Mitch McGary eager to prove critics wrong

By Nick Baumgardner

What's in a number?

For Mitch McGary, as it turns out, plenty.

After becoming one of the most-ballyhooed Michigan basketball signee since the Fab Five in November, the hulking power forward from Indiana began to hear an awful lot about numbers.

First he was up, then he slid. He lost a star and heard criticism he'd never really experienced before. Initially, he said the numbers game didn't bother him, and was no big deal.

But McGary's a competitor, and, naturally, he wasn't being completely honest.

"I felt like (the criticism) was unfair a little bit," McGary told last week. "I was just doing what I was told."

The numbers McGary encountered, of course, revolved around the ever-popular world of recruiting rankings.


Michigan basketball recruit Mitch McGary says his team-first approach may have hurt his ranking with recruiting websites.

Bloomington Herald-Times

Something prospects didn't have to worry about 15 years ago has turned into a defining gauge of a player's value. A number and a star-ranking tagged next to a recruit's name is something fans eat up with a spoon, and something (admittedly or not) the players monitor religiously.

When he signed with Michigan last fall, McGary was on top of the star-system world.

A five-star prospect by Rivals, Scout and, McGary was the country's consensus top power forward prospect, and ranked as high as No. 2 overall in America.

When the season and subsequent expectations began, the 6-foot-10, 260-pounder had nowhere to go but down.

"I was top five, then I fell down to top 20," McGary recalled. "They bumped me down because of the game they saw on ESPN. All they saw was me with, like, three points. But I had 15 rebounds.

"And we won."

The game McGary referred to was a January made-for-TV contest featuring his Brewster Academy team, a club featuring six Division I prospects, and the Tilton School -- led by the country's top prospect, Kentucky commit Nerlens Noel.

McGary struggled against Noel, a player dubbed by The New York Times as the best Boston-area prospect since Patrick Ewing.

After going 1-for-8 from the floor against the country's top prep shot-blocker, recruiting analysts began to question McGary's motor, his overall offensive skill level and their own estimation of how impactful a player he may become.

Shortly thereafter, one by one, each service moved him down. Out of the top five, out of the top 20 and out of the fabled five-star status.

"He'll tell you those numbers don't mean anything, but I know it bothered him," McGary's father, Tim McGary, told "I know it did. Because people started to say things and people started to question him as a player, and he doesn't like that.

"But I think he'll use that. And I think it'll make him better."

Maybe it was because of his poor showing on ESPN. Perhaps it was due to his lack of touches on a perimeter-oriented Brewster club, lauded by some as the best prep squad in America. Or, maybe it was the constant bout with plantar fasciitis, a foot affliction that has bothered McGary since the seventh grade.

In any event, McGary will enter his college career a bit less hyped than most originally believed. In fact, he's no longer the highest-rated recruit in Michigan's signing class. That distinction now belongs to Glenn Robinson III -- McGary's former AAU teammate, future roommate and best friend.

And that's all fine. McGary never really liked the spotlight anyway.

"At the offensive end, last season wasn't as good a performance as it could have been," McGary admits. "But I was doing what I was told. I averaged about 10 or 11 rebounds per game, my coach was happy with my performance and we won. A lot. So that's all that really matters.

"It'll be great to be able to come in and fit right away and know that I don't have to force things. I'm not going to force things as much as people might think, I'm going to be a team player and try to help get everyone involved. That's the main thing for me."

McGary's team-first attitude was on display earlier this month during the Nike Hoop Summit all-star event in Portland. Playing alongside some of the best prospects in America (and the world), McGary barely played.

But it didn't matter.

"He didn't play much (in Portland), but he was the first one off the bench whenever there was a good play, jumping up, high-fiving everybody," Tim McGary said. "He's always been a team guy, and he doesn't really seem to care about numbers.

"I used to ask him, ' how many points did you get?' He'd say, 'Dad, I don't know. We won.' That's just how it is with Mitch."

It's only been five months since McGary turned heads by choosing Michigan during a live television broadcast. Plenty has happened since.

McGary's Brewster club won a national championship, he played in various all-star events and he's gotten his first taste of national scrutiny.

In the end, there's only one number McGary cares about these days.

June 25. The day he moves to Ann Arbor to begin his college career.

"I'm ready to get to work," McGary says. "Trey Burke's coming back, I get to play with Glenn and Michigan is just the school for me.

"I'm excited."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Dayne White Bull The Terrible.

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

If he keeps up the rebounding then who cares? ESPN might but I think we'll be happy


Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 4:14 a.m.

He will progress the program.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

"... All they saw was me with, like, three points. But I had 15 rebounds. And we won." It sounds to me like McGary is a very coachable player, who will do what needs to be done to win the game. Talented, unselfish, and a team player. He will be a great addition to the Michigan program.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

Could he be overrated........too much pub and he has been found out.......


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

Doubtful. It's too hard to believe that Duke, NC, Maryland, Florida, and Kentucky would have pursued him so hard if they did NOT see the huge potential. He doesn't have off the chart athleticism, but he doesn't need it if he's coached correctly and he is used in the right roles.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

I'm excited to see a kid coming into the Michigan program who can help them get back to the three Rs of basketball: rebounding, rebounding, and rebounding. Hopefully Beilein doesn't try to turn him into a perimeter player, like he does everyone else.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

This kid is gonna be the difference maker for UM the next couple of years...and with Trey coming back and so many offensive weapons to choose from, teams will have a hard time preparing for Beilein's offense. It is telling that Glenn Robinson Sr. and Tim Hardaway Sr. wanted their kids to play under Beilein...that says a lot about how he is perceived as a coach by those that know the game. He now has the opportunity, with this class, to gain some serious momentum and tilt the "power structure" of basketball in the state of Michigan, and in the nation, for recruiting down the road. Win big with this talented squad and they become a power player in recruiting nationally for years to come.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

McGary won't have to come in and be a big scorer. There will be other players on Michigan's roster to do that. He can come in and be the presence in the paint Michigan has been lacking for years. If he does nothing but get lots of rebounds, block a few shots, plays some solid D, and score 8 points or so a game, that will be huge. Beilein and staff will turn him into a top college big man.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

This guy is going to be exactly what michigan needs for about 4 years if we are lucky. I love this pickup. Like the man said "we won!"


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

All those rebounds! He sounds great. I can't wait.