Top 10 University of Michigan Basketball Players of the Decade

I have been watching college basketball ever since I can remember. Back when I was one and a half, I was caught on video saying that I wanted to play for Coach K, the Duke men’s basketball coach, when I grew up. It was weird for a kid with no relation to Duke to say that, but it showed my love for college basketball and how much I paid attention even at only a year into my life. Since then, I have grown up as a hardcore Michigan fan and have been rooting for Michigan in March Madness ever since with a ton of bias when giving my predictions in my brackets, some have paid off. I have only experienced the 2000s for Michigan basketball but have learned all about the history and success of Michigan basketball in the past. I have decided to go decade by decade and highlight the top players from each time period and perhaps show how Michigan basketball has changed throughout the years. Starting with the most previous decade, the 2010s, I will be going back and giving my top ten players to put on the maize and blue uniform. Since many players opted to go to the NBA draft before playing four seasons, I will be highlighting their stats from their best season and on a per-game basis rather than total career stats. To start this series off, I present my top 10 Michigan basketball players of the 2010s.

1. Trey Burke

There is one name that comes to mind immediately when thinking of the best Michigan basketball players in recent history. That name is Trey Burke. In the 2012-13 season, Burke led the best Michigan basketball team in recent history in points and assists. He started every game that the Wolverines played that season and won countless awards. One of his accolades is the Naismith Award which is handed out to the player of the year. He also won the AP, Big Ten, NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches), USBWA (United States Basketball Writers Association) player of the year awards. His game-tying shot against #1-seed Kansas to force overtime in the Sweet Sixteen is one of the most memorable shots in Michigan history. Burke went on to lead the team to the National Championship game. While he had a great team to work with, his dominance on the court could be seen in both years he played. He currently still plays in the NBA and has been sent all over the US to different teams. He now finds himself on the Dallas Mavericks in which he will try to add depth to their bench, playing with a former teammate of which I will later name.

2012-13 Key Stats
PPG: 18.6
APG: 6.7

Accolades
-2011-12 Big Ten All-Freshman
-2011-12 Big Ten Rookie of the Year
-2012-13 1st-Team All-Big Ten
-2012-13 AP, Big Ten, NABC, & USBWA Player of the Year
-2012-13 Naismith and Bob Cousy Award
-2012-13 1st-Team All-American
-2013 NCAA All-Tournament and All-Region
-2012-13 Assists (260) and Points Produced (776) Leader
-9th Overall Draft Pick

2. Moritz Wagner

Moritz “Moe” Wagner slots in closely at 2nd. After a poor Michigan basketball season in the 2015-16 season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the young player out of Germany. After playing off the bench in his freshman season, Moe saw nothing but success. I remember one particular instance in 2018 when he crossed up Nick Ward on Michigan State with a behind-the-back move. Michigan saw its most successful period with Wagner starting on the floor. In the 2017 tournament, 7-seeded Michigan upset 2-seeded Louisville to make it to the Sweet Sixteen where they ran into a red-hot Oregon team. This was after winning the Big Ten tournament against all odds, of which I will get into later. The following season, 3-seeded Michigan surprised everyone by making it to the National Championship game where they finally found their end against Villanova. In the 2018 run, Wagner was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. Before that tournament run, Michigan won the Big Ten tournament as a 5 seed in which Wagner dominated every opponent and was named the Big Ten Tournament MVP. There is a case to be made between Burke and Wagner due to how much success Michigan saw around Wagner.

2017-18 Key Stats
PPG: 14.6
RPG: 7.1

Accolades
-2018 1st-Team All-Big Ten Tournament
-2018 Big Ten Tournament MVP
-2018 NCAA Tournament All-Region
-2018 NCAA All-Tournament
-25th Overall Draft Pick

3. Nik Stauskas

Nik Stauskas came to Michigan just in time to be a part of one of the best teams in Michigan basketball history. He came through in Trey Burke’s prime and was the perfect complement to him. When Burke was not open, he could find Stauskas who was one of the surest shots in the game. He shot 44.2% from 3-point range in the 2013-14 season which was just outside the top 10 in the country. After Burke’s early departure, it was Stauskis that fit into his shoes and led Michigan in scoring with 17.5 PPG. His stepback three was basically unguardable. In both of his seasons at Michigan before opting for the NBA draft, Michigan reached the Elite Eight in their NCAA Tournament runs, once making it to the National Championship. He went on to be drafted 8th overall and still sees some action in the NBA.

2013-14 Key Stats
PPG: 17.5
3PT%: 44.2

Accolades
-2013 NCAA Tournament All-Region
-2013-14 1st-Team All-Big Ten
-2013-14 Big Ten Player of the Year
-2013-14 2nd-Team All-American
-2014 1st-Team All-Big Ten Tournament
-2014 NCAA Tournament All-Region
-8th Overall Draft Pick

4. Derrick Walton Jr.

My next two rankings could easily be flipped back and forth depending on what you consider most important. Derrick Walton Jr. takes #4 for me based on how he was able to lead a team that had lost a load of its major talent. He came into Michigan conveniently the year after Burke had left and quickly took over the starting point guard position his freshman year. He consistently improved in almost every statistical category, peaking with what he did his senior year. Why I hold Walton Jr. so high is because of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament. If you have never heard the story of it, I highly suggest you read more into it. The brief recap is that the plane carrying the players to the stadium slid off the runway with no injuries. Nothing was going right for the team who came in as the 8th seed. Some players were convinced that they should drop out, but Walton led the team to go ahead and play, even playing their opener in their practice jerseys because their game jerseys did not initially arrive with them. In the end, Michigan upset everyone and won the tournament on the back of Walton who was named the tournament’s MVP. They remain the lowest seed to ever win a Big Ten championship. For this accomplishment, I leave Walton in 4th place.

2016-17 Key Stats
PPG: 15.5
APG: 5

Accolades
-2013-14 Big Ten All-Freshman
-2017 1st-Team All-Big Ten Tournament
-2017 Big Ten Tournament MVP

5. Zavier Simpson

I have a bias towards Zavier Simpson just because he has been the guy for Michigan ever since I started attending Michigan. After having a weak freshman year behind Walton Jr., Simpson was the guy to step up ahead of Eli Brooks to start at point guard. While he is not the guy to shoot the ball, he could find some of the best passes I have ever seen to set up his teammates to score. He led the Big Ten in assists in his senior year, going out on a high note. On top of that, he was one of the most defensively sound players to play the game. Cassius Winston was arguable the best player in the Big Ten the past few years, but he could never figure out Simpson. He was the shutdown player. In 2018, Simpson headed the Michigan offense that went to the National Championship, helping Moe Wagner boost his scoring stats with Simpson’s incredible passing ability. Simpson’s career assists at Michigan rank 2nd behind the great Gary Grant. What will stand the test of time is his famous hook shot near the basket that almost never failed to miss. Simpson is projected as a sleeper second-round draft pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA draft.

2019-20 Key Stats
APG: 4.5
FG%: 47.6

Accolades
-2018-19 2nd-Team All-Big Ten
-2018-19 Big Ten All-Defense
-2019-20 2nd-Team All-Big Ten
-2019 First-Team All-Big Ten Tournament
-2019-20 Big Ten Assists Leader (236)

6. Tim Hardaway Jr.

Tim Hardaway Jr. was the third part of the great 2013 Michigan team. With Trey Burke being the playmaker and Nik Stauskas taking the perimeter shots, Hardaway was everywhere in between. He provided the combination of scoring and rebounding even as a listed guard. After coming in as a freshman in 2010, he never saw a game in which he did not start in the three seasons he played with Michigan. He was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman list his first year and to the All-Big Ten team in his final year to round it out. Over the course of those years, he averaged 14.3 points per game. He was always second on the team’s scoring leaderboard behind Darius Morris or Trey Burke but was the guy who could take the ball strongly to the hoop or step back and make a jump shot. He was one of the all-around players that the team could always count on. He went on to be a very successful NBA player and now starts for the Dallas Mavericks with Trey Burke as his teammate once again.

2012-13 Key Stats
PPG: 14.5
RPG: 4.7

Accolades
-2010-11 Big Ten All-Freshman
-2012-13 1st-Team All-Big Ten
-24th Overall Draft Pick

7. Caris LeVert

The only thing that could hold Caris LeVert back was injuries that have plagued his whole career even through the NBA. LeVert’s freshman season was the 2013 Championship run year in which he rolled on the bench. The following year, he stepped into Tim Hardaway’s shoes and posted practically identical numbers to him. LeVert helped lead Michigan to a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament the year after their monster run and got them into the Elite Eight. He was named to the NCAA tournament All-Region team which ended as LeVert’s final full season. The next two seasons were both cut short due to injury, but before a season-ending injury in his senior season, he posted some insane numbers. He had averaged 16.5 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, and 4.9 assists per game. LeVert’s foot and leg played a big part in his college career, which was even the reason why he stayed for his senior season, but his success is still remembered by fans and teammates alike.

2015-16 Key Stats
PPG: 16.5
RPG: 5.3

Accolades
-2014 NCAA Tournament All-Region
-20th Overall Draft Pick

8. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (MAAR) was dedicated to making Michigan basketball return to glory. He was never the flashy time of player that posted over-the-top stats but, over the course of his four years, gave Michigan what it needed to become a contender in the Big Ten again. He began playing the year before I started going to Michigan, but I remember going to games as a freshman and barely any students would show up. Now, Crisler Arena gets packed with students for almost every game. He consistently improved in every category throughout his four seasons as a starter. He holds the most games played in Michigan history with 144 games. He helped Michigan get back into the NCAA tournament in 2016, again in 2017, and to the finals in 2018. In 2018, he was voted to the NCAA Tournament All-Region team, alongside his teammates Charles Matthews and Moe Wagner. He played alongside Walton Jr. in the 2017 Big Ten tournament run. All in all, MAAR was the guy who helped form Michigan basketball into what it is today.

2017-18 Key Stats
PPG: 12.9
APG: 3.2

Accolades
-2018 1st-Team All-Big Ten Tournament
-2018 NCAA Tournament All-Region

9. Glenn Robinson III

Glenn Robinson is the second Glenn Robinson to play basketball in the Big Ten but first at Michigan. He played just two seasons, which is why he is so low, but started every game he played. He was a part of the great 2013 NCAA tournament run that I have mentioned plenty of times throughout this article and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team that year. There was tons of hype surrounding GR3 coming into Michigan, and he lived up to it. Instantly, Michigan saw success in the tournament and in years to come. In his final season in 2014, Michigan made it to the Elite Eight as the #2 seed which cemented GR3’s success at Michigan, never failing to make it to the Elite Eight. If he would have stayed longer, he would have easily climbed up even higher on this list, but he opted for the draft in which he was selected in the 2nd round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. In 2017, he went on to win the NBA slam dunk championship. Now, he plays behind Tobias Harris on the Philadelphia 76ers.

2013-14 Key Stats
RPG: 4.4
FG%: 48.8

Accolades
-2012-13 Big Ten All-Freshman
-40th Overall Draft Pick

10. Ignas Brazdeikis

Ignas “Iggy” Brazdeikis is the type of player you hate or you love. He brought the swagger back into Michigan which had left with Moe Wagner. Michigan fans were all over Iggy showing off his strength with the ball down low with his ability to shoot from the perimeter outside. Iggy became Coach John Beilein’s first and only one-and-done player. After every three-pointer, Iggy would make the money sign with his fingers which caught on quickly for the fans. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year while leading the Wolverines in scoring and finishing 2nd in rebounds. While he was only a Wolverine for one year, he created excitement around Michigan basketball and helped lead them to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in the 2019 NCAA tournament, losing to runner-up Texas Tech. Many eyes have shifted to Michigan basketball since Iggy’s presence, creating an environment of excitement around what is to come.

2018-19 Key Stats
PPG: 14.8
3PT%: 39.2

Accolades
-2018-19 2nd-Team All-Big Ten
-2018-19 Big Ten All-Freshman
-2018-19 Big Ten Rookie of the Year
-2019 1st-Team All-Big Ten Tournament
-47th Overall Draft Pick

  
I am a student at the University of Michigan studying Sport Management. I have been involved in sports as long as I can remember, playing football, baseball, and basketball. I also love learning how to play songs on the piano and ukulele.

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