One of the fan favorites on the roster in recent years has been Blake McLimans from Hamburg, New York. He'll be a senior this year and despite making limited contributions during his career, he was an important piece for the Michigan team that won a Big Ten championship last season. He's certainly not the most talented or the biggest contributor on the team, but bench players are a key piece of any team, especially for getting through some of the more difficult games mid-season.
One interesting thing to note about McLimans is that although he is a senior, he technically still has the option to come back for another year. During his freshman season, he effectively redshirted, but with Michigan's incoming recruiting classes, it's pretty doubtful that he will be renewed for a 5th year. This likely makes this year McLimans' last chance to make an impact at Michigan as a player. Last year, McLimans actually played in 5 more games than he did the year before, but his total minutes and points decreased. One could argue this was a step back, but part of it was the emergence of Jon Horford, which decreased his minutes, and the later injury of Horford, which meant McLimans played much of his time against the tougher Big Ten teams. Despite these challenges, McLimans arguably improved his play and has the potential to be a solid player off the bench this year.
Things To Look For In 2012-2013:
1. Better Inside Play
Blake McLimans will never be an inside threat like many big men. In fact, he'll probably never be as good at inside play as several players on his own team, such as Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary. However, if he wants to make an impact off the bench, he needs to show consistency and the ability to maintain what the starters give him. Last season, McLimans had 25 points over the season. Not horrible production for a big man off the bench. However, 15 of these points came from outside the arch. You have to respect his ability to nail some nice outside shots, but this is a pretty unreliable technique and it showed in his play. If he can become more effective at playing the inside, he will become a much more consistent player and won't have to rely so much on "freak" shots to contribute. Coaches are looking for two things off the bench. Either an offensive spark or consistency. Typically, the spark deals with back-court players like Matt Vogrich and Nik Stauskas. McLimans is neither of these. Consistency will be key in the coming season if McLimans wants to see some legitimate playing time with the return of Jon Horford and the arrival of Mitch McGary.
2. Continued Improvement Of Mistakes
Typically, McLimans gets on the floor for one of two reasons. The game is a blowout or someone is in foul trouble. As we saw several times last season, Michigan often needed to look down the bench after some of its big men like Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotcryz got into foul trouble. This made any mistake by McLimans that much more significant. If he comes off the bench and gets into foul trouble himself, then Michigan will have some major issues on who they can play and when. Along with this, just about any potential contributions go out the window because if both players are in foul trouble, McLimans will likely be the one hitting the bench.
This year, there will be even more depth inside, which means there will be fewer opportunities for McLimans to get on the floor, even with foul trouble. When he gets on the court, being mistake free, or close to mistake free, will be incredibly important in determining how much playing time he receives. He did improve last year, decreasing his personal fouls from 16 to 9 while only playing 8 minutes fewer. It's hard to demand that a player avoid committing any fouls, but if McLimans can continue this trend and commit fewer fouls per minute, he could be set to have some decent contributions off the bench.
3. Improve Rebounding
Any casual basketball fan could tell you about the importance of rebounding, especially for a team's big men. Statistically, McLimans improved his overall rebounding last season. He played 8 fewer minutes, but was able to snag 1 more rebound than he did the year prior. However, he was very inconsistent in his rebounding, which can be highlighted by Michigan's second game against Northwestern. The Wildcats are an unusual team on the offensive side, but McLimans got some serious playing time due to a flurry of Michigan fouls. He played 11 minutes in a tight game and didn't come up with a single rebound. For a big man fighting for playing time, that's not what you want to see. This goes along with my statements above, but stepping up his rebounding will only make him more consistent and his inside play better. All of these points are connected and I think McLimans will be more effective this year and I have some high hopes for him, but with the increased depth, I'm going to predict that his overall contributions and time will decrease, despite having improved play.