How Ignas Brazdeikis Continues to Emerge for Michigan Basketball

How Ignas Brazdeikis Continues to Emerge for Michigan Basketball

Basketball

How Ignas Brazdeikis Continues to Emerge for Michigan Basketball

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Sometimes, when the bright lights come on, they aren’t too bright, even for first year players.

Such seems to be the case with Michigan freshman small forward Ignas Brazdeikis.

The Mono, Ontario (Canada) native has played in just six games at the intercollegiate level, but as a starter (forward Isaiah Livers is now coming off the bench as Duncan Robinson did a year ago), he’s averaging 26.2 minutes, a 51% field goal completion percentage, and an average of 15.7 points-per-game to go along with just shy of 6 rebounds-per-game.

His head coach, John Beilein, is pleased with his progress, but recognizes that there’s still a long way to go for the true freshman. However, as Beilein says, Brazdeikis is far ahead of the playing curve already.

“He’s only a freshman,” Beilein said. “Every game that we think we made growth in an area – every game, he has to adjust and say, ‘we’re not playing it that way anymore, because North Carolina does this, which is the exact counter.’ He looks at it like, ‘There’s more to this?’ That’s where I think he’s really accepting it, too, because he wants to be a really good player. It’s not like a, ‘Hey, I already did that.’ He wants to grow. But when you have a freshman playing this many minutes, it does stand out, especially defensively. There’s a lot of area to grow there – and he will. There’s no question about it. He’s gonna keep getting better. Because he seems to have a capacity to grow more quickly than many freshmen usually do.”

And that’s how Brazdeikis sees it as well.

He may have only been on campus for a few short months, but each and every game, he continues to grow and get better. He had 12 points in the season opener vs. Norfolk State, but since, save for an aberration vs. George Washington where he scored only 5 points, Brazdeikis has put up 18 points or more in every other game, including a career high 20 points in each of the last two contests.

To boot, he’s feeling more comfortable on the court in all areas, including behind the three-point arc.

“I feel like I’ve learned so much,” Brazdeikis said. “I feel like I’m a completely different player since coming here. Even from Spain, I evolved my game a lot. In Spain, I didn’t hit a three, and now I’m starting to get more comfortable with that. I’m learning the offense more, defense. Everything’s just evolving in my game right now. I’m just loving it.”

Having anticipated a rematch between the two teams in last April’s national championship game, despite having not played in it, Brazdeikis was eager to show that this Michigan team was a better one than Villanova, on a nationally televised game. Well — mission accomplished, as the Wolverines blew out the Wildcats this time around.

With No. 11 North Carolina coming to town on Wednesday night, it’s another big, nationally broadcast matchup, and another rematch against a team that the Wolverines faltered against a year ago.

Having had that experience against Villanova earlier this month, however, has Brazdeikis feeling more ready for the spotlight than he did weeks ago in Philadelphia.

The Tar Heels will be coming to Crisler Center, and for Brazdeikis, it’s just another chance for him to go out and show what kind of player he is, and what his team is capable of.

“It helps a lot,” Brazdeikis said of having played Villanova early in the season. “I guess it kind of relieves some of the pressure – not that there’s too much to start with. Every time there’s a big game, I look at it as an opportunity to make noise and win the game with the team. It’s just exciting to get an opportunity like this. The nation’s going to be watching, so I’m just excited to perform.”

Michigan and North Carolina are set to tip-off at 9PM EST at Crisler Center on Wednesday night. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Follow @WolverinesWire / @IsaiahHole

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