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In summer workouts, Michigan basketball shows depth, with reinforcements coming

A few weeks into summer workouts, a few things have stood out to Michigan men’s basketball assistant coach Phil Martelli. Sophomore Kobe Bufkin is playing with great confidence. Will Tschetter and Isaiah Barnes took advantage of their redshirt seasons. Hunter Dickinson is the primary team leader.

Other returners, a talented freshman class, and two graduate transfers have Martelli optimistic about Michigan’s potential depth. And that’s not including a pair of players who have yet to suit up.

Michigan’s preparation for the 2022-23 season is underway at Crisler Center, and Martelli shared some observations with MLive on Monday (July 18).

He started with Bufkin, a McDonald’s All-American last year out of Grand Rapids Christian. As a freshman, the 6-foot-4 guard was in and out of the rotation, averaging 10.6 minutes over 28 games.

It’s clear Bufkin put in a lot of work in the offseason. He’s a stronger, more complete player than he was last year. Michigan lost its starting shooting guard, fifth-year senior Eli Brooks. While the season is still 3.5 months away, Bufkin has a good chance to fill that spot.

Point guard Jaelin Llewellyn transferred from Princeton, and he’s given every indication he can excel in the Big Ten. “Llewellyn is the whole package,” Martelli said of the All-Ivy League first team selection. “He’s older, he’s basketball bright, he’s a good athlete. He’s a Princeton grad. What else can you say?

Tschetter and Barnes redshirted as freshmen last season. “Sometimes with a redshirt the kid comes in and you think, ‘Man, we’re starting again, he’s just a freshman,’” Martelli said. “In their cases, they’ve improved.”

Both will have a shot to crack the rotation this season.

Dickinson, Michigan’s leading scorer and rebounder each of the past two seasons, is back for his junior year. Martelli said he’s slimmer, moving better, and attempting to fill the leadership void Brooks vacated.

“It’s Hunter’s team,” Martelli said. “Hunter speaks, they all listen. And he’s not afraid to speak.”

Because the Wolverines are going on an overseas trip this summer, the NCAA allows 10 extra practices. From a basketball standpoint, those will be more beneficial than the three or four exhibition games Michigan will play in France and Greece, Martelli said.

By then, Michigan hopes to have at least one more player on the court. The plan is for freshman Youssef Khayat to arrive in Ann Arbor before the team leaves for that trip in mid-August. Khayat is currently playing for the Lebanese national team in an international tournament.

While none of Michigan’s coaches have met Khayat or seen him play in person, Martelli is impressed with his film and his phone conversations with the 6-foot-8 forward.

Martelli said Khayat reminds him of Michigan’s last international import: Franz Wagner, who played with a pro team in Germany before enrolling at Michigan. Khayat, like Wagner, displays toughness and a high basketball IQ. “The biggest reason he plays is to win,” Martelli said.

“That was the separator for me with Franz. Franz wasn’t into, ‘I gotta get to the league.’ No. It was, ‘All the attention will come as long as my team wins.’ I understood that. Not a lot of young guys understand that.”

Khayat apparently does, and will compete for a starting spot once he gets on campus.

Another newcomer, Duke transfer Joey Baker, is already in Crisler and getting up shots, but is not yet a practice participant. He had hip surgery in April, is still rehabbing, and hasn’t yet been cleared for contact. “He’s clearly moving better than he did when he first got here,” Martelli said. “(The medical staff) likes his progress.”

Whether Baker will play in Michigan’s overseas exhibitions hasn’t been formally discussed. Martelli noted the Michigan courts will play on might not meet the Big Ten standard and that it might not be worth it for someone like Baker to play. Regardless, his outside shooting of him should help the Wolverines come November.

There are four other fresh faces inside Crisler — the freshmen quartet of Gregg Glenn III, Jett Howard, Dug McDaniel, and Tarris Reed Jr. — who, per Martelli, “have such energy and excitement.” Stay tuned for a story about their summer performances to date.

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