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Posted on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Zack Novak discusses his role in bringing Mitch McGary to the Michigan basketball program

By Nick Baumgardner

Michigan basketball captain Zack Novak has been a Mitch McGary fan for quite some time.

High school teammates once upon a time in Chesterton, Ind., Novak saw the potential in McGary's game long before any recruiting analyst or college scout ever did.

Back then, McGary was just a kid Novak continually kicked in the pants.

"God bless him, but I wanted to wring his neck," Novak told reporters Tuesday. "I saw a kid with so much potential and raw talent that really wasn't using it.

"Even when I (got to Michigan), I'd go home to see how he was doing, talk to him and say 'Mitch, you've really got a good shot here, you should get this going.'"

McGary, who eventually transferred from Chesterton High School to Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., finally listened to Novak's pleas, going from a tall, skinny kid (roughly 160 pounds, by Novak's estimation) into a hulking 6-foot-11, 260-pound five-star power forward.


Mitch McGary, shown watching a Michigan game at the Crisler Center earlier this season, attended the same high school as Wolverines' captain Zack Novak.

Angela J. Cesere |

And thanks to an assist from Novak, the Michigan basketball program will get to reap the benefits of that transformation.

"Thank God," Novak joked. "We finally got a good player from Chesterton."

McGary, rated as a five-star prospect by both Rivals and Scout, chose Michigan over Duke and Florida last November, giving the Wolverines their first serious big man prospect in more than a decade, and giving Novak even more reason to watch his soon-to-be alma mater next season.

"That was cool, for me, just because I've known Mitch forever and I can remember Mitch from high school," Novak said. "I had no idea he'd blow up like he has, but just to have someone else from my hometown to pass the baton to and just kind of say 'here you go, it's you now, take care of it.'"

Before Novak ever began recruiting McGary to Michigan, he first had to convince Wolverine coach John Beilein of McGary's potential.

During his sophomore season at Michigan, Novak said he urged Beilein to give McGary a look, telling him "trust me, he's not there yet, but he's going to blow up."

McGary did in fact "blow up," and Beilein eventually found himself in a national recruiting battle for the big man's services.

Novak, Zack (Crop).jpg

Zack Novak

Novak stayed in McGary's ear the whole time.

"I just told him the whole time, 'look, I actively recruit for Michigan and have helped get a lot of our guys here, but we go back much further than that,'" Novak recalled. "'I'm not going to tell you to go into a bad situation, I know what's at stake, I'm not going to tell you to come here just because.'"

The push from Beilein and Novak eventually paid off, and McGary ended his highly-publicized recruiting process by giving Michigan a commitment live on ESPNU just before the signing period began.

Novak will never have the opportunity to share the Crisler Center court with his former high school teammate, but he doesn't mind. The Wolverines have another "Michigan Man" from Chesterton, Ind.

And Novak can't wait to see him play.

"It's no secret, we could use the help on the boards," Novak said. "Big guys like that are tough to guard, he's someone who's 6-foot-11 and can shoot and he's going to get wide open.

"You get a guy like that with talent in space, (and Beilein's system) will definitely benefit him."

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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Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 10:55 p.m.

Players like Zack Novak is rare and far between. Not only is Zack an above average player, he is definitely a leader. Cannot recall anyone like Zack unless going way back to Gary Grant. Zack may not possess the NBA talent but coaching is clearly his future.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

What is the play of the year so far for Michigan? How about Novak giving up his body and driving near mid-court against the Badgers and flipping the ball to Burke for the easy lay in? His hustle helps to define this team and a bunch of scrapers that will battle you for 40-minutes.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

I don't know what plans Zack has for the future, but I hope he stays close to the program. If he goes into coaching, then I would like him to take the program from Coach B, say in 2020, maybe 2025?

r treat

Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

Michigan 7011: 12 rebounds 11 points on your court. That's called a double-double. Lol, you really owned him his freshman year!


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

Zeller did pretty well, but his team was buried by 22. Next season, IU's bigs will be: 6'8", 6'9", 6'9" and 6'11" Michigan's will be: 6'8", 6'9", 6'10", 6'10" and 6'10"


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

thanks again zack.

r treat

Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

Zeller will own McGary for the foreseeable future.


Thu, Feb 16, 2012 : 1:36 a.m.

Are you kidding? Zeller is a stick who McGary will push around like he's his little brother.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

Didn't we kick Zeller's arse without McGary? I think we did after a narrow win at home Zeller got trounced.

Heidi Koester

Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

Too bad Mitch and Zack can't play together. How about Zack as grad assistant to keep up his good influence on Mitch and the rest of the team??


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 6:31 p.m.

Since McGary dropped drastically in national rankings he better take the summer to work hard on flopping and launching 3's from half court. Maybe he should take the some time to work on these UM staples while at home watching the McDonald's All-American game since he wasn't even in consideration to make a roster.


Sat, Feb 18, 2012 : 7:05 a.m.

Nick? What's wrong with you? Bringing common sense to Spartysans. You and your logic, sheesh!

Nick Baumgardner

Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

rnich231, McGary is a fifth-year prep school player. Meaning he wasn't eligible for selection to the McDonald's game. Just wanted to clear up any confusion. Thanks, Nick


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

Well, considering Mitch is number 22 on the ESPNU top 100 and Staukas is number 79 and Robinson is number 27. I don't really care if he plays in the McDonald's All-American game. What I do care about is those three along with the rest of the Wolverines kicking the crap out of Ohio and MSU for the forseable future.


Wed, Feb 15, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

He's still a 5-star, so he didn't fall that drastically. For as much as McGary fell, Glenn Robinson III and Nick Stauskas jumped even farther up in the rankings. Troll all you want spartina, next years Michigan basketball team will be stacked with Horford coming back also.