Beyond NCAA Tournament, Michigan Basketball Alums Shining In D-League
After a whirlwind of two weeks for the University of Michigan basketball program that has seen a plane crash, a Big Ten Tournament Championship and an upset victory over Louisville, Ann Arbor is riding high.
Despite the Wolverines’ loss in the Sweet 16 to Oregon, a few Michigan alums have been making their presence felt in the D-League throughout this season.
Manny Harris – Texas Legends (Now Dallas Mavericks)
The leading scorer as a freshman on John Beilein’s first Michigan team after coming over from West Virginia, Manny Harris was a key cog of the Wolverines offense during his three years with the program. Scoring nearly 17 points per game as a sophomore, Harris led the team to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years.
Following a junior season in which he scored 18 points per game, Harris chosen to forego his senior season and enter the NBA Draft. A hamstring injury impacted his ability to workout for teams and he went undrafted and since that point he has bounced around the basketball world.
After a string of stops in and out of the NBA and NBA D-League, Harris entered this season with the Texas Legends. It wasn’t long before the former Mr. Basketball in Michigan was able to showcase his scoring prowess, as he dropped 26 points per game on 45% shooting during 39 games for the Legends and for his efforts was awarded a pair of ten-day contracts with the Dallas Mavericks.
Though he has only received 25 minutes of playing time in the NBA this year, Harris has unquestionably been one of the top performers in the D-League and has proven himself to be deserving of a longer look at the next level.
Darius Morris – Rio Grande Valley Vipers
A freshman during Harris’ final year at Michigan, Darius Morris took the rains of the Michigan offense during his sophomore year and the team benefited in a big way. Paired in the backcourt with freshman Tim Hardaway Jr., the Wolverines once again made their presence felt in the NCAA Tournament with a first round victory over Tennessee before taking Duke to the wire in the second round.
Unlike Harris, Morris chose to make the jump to the NBA right after his sophomore season. Seen as one of the better true point guards in the draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Morris with the 43rd pick in the second round. Throughout his two years with the Lakers playing time was tough to come by, though he did start 17 games during his sophomore campaign.
Leading up to his arrival with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers this season, Morris had made appearances for four other NBA teams but had struggled to stick in one place. Throughout this season in the D-League, Morris has shown that he still has room for improvement.
After hitting just 22% of his jump shots during a 2014-2015 stint with the Brooklyn Nets, Morris is knocking down 33% of those shots this season which has propelled him to hitting the 20 points per game plateau. He is the engine behind the high-powered Vipers offense and another chance in the NBA is certainly not out of the question.
Jon Horford – Canton Charge
Joining the team during Morris’ final year of the program, Michigan’s final current connection to the league didn’t play nearly as prominent of a role as the previous two, but still was able to make an impact during his four years in Ann Arbor.
Used mostly to give fellow big men Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan breathers, Horford was a reliable option for Beilein off of the bench and was well above-average free throw shooter. Rather than moving right to the professional circuit, Horford chose to graduate transfer to Florida for one final year of collegiate play.
After playing parts of last year in the Dominican Republic and with the Canton Charge, Horford came back to the D-League to fill a similar role to that of which he played at Michigan.
He’s only appeared in six games to this point in the season, but he has shown improvement on the glass. He may not have the professional upside of his Michigan counterparts, but Horford’s size and consistent free throw ability should be able keep him around the D-League or a number of international leagues.