After ten days of monuments, gelato and a little bit of basketball, Michigan returned stateside with four wins under their belt and a tremendous amount of both practice and game experience. The timing could not have come better for the Wolverines, as the roster is littered with freshmen; 6 true freshmen, and Mark Donnal is an academic sophomore but has freshman eligibility after a redshirt year. Because of this, some freshmen are going to have to play important roles, and the Italy trip may have helped clear up who these freshmen are.
Kameron Chatman: The 6'8 lefty from Portland had a great trip, starting all four games while averaging 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds a game. Chatman has the ball handling skills to be a contributor on the offensive end, and when he is not scoring, it is rare to have a player with the ability to bring the ball up and keep the ball moving in the motion offense. Right now, he seems like a good bet to start at power forward, and he gives John Beilein a real "stretch 4" who can wreak havoc at both ends of the floor.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakham: Better known as simply MAAR, he was outstanding throughout the Italy trip and might be one the recruiting steals of the summer from Coach Beilein. At 6'4, MAAR has the size to play both the 1 and the 2, and will help off the bench for a loaded Wolverine backcourt. It seems more likely that he will backup Caris LeVert as Spike Albrecht will backup Derrick Walton, but his tenacity and ability to drive to the basket were on full display and should earn him some minutes this season.
Ricky Doyle: While Kam Chatman seems to have asserted himself as the starting power forward, Doyle has muddied the waters for the starting center job. Doyle was an absolute beast in Italy, running the floor extremely well and finishing at the rim with both hands. Doyle is a much more physical player compared to Mark Donnal, who prefers to play on the perimeter. Against teams with brute frontlines (see: Arizona in Tuscon), Doyle could be a huge piece to the Wolverines being competitive in those games.
Aubrey Dawkins: Like MAAR, Dawkins is another late recruiting steal for John Beilein, standing at 6'6 and being a prototypical Beilein "multiple position" player. Without playing in his first official game, Dawkins seems to be everything Michigan fans hoped Glenn Robinson III would put together: super athletic, great long-range shooter and stopper at multiple positions. Dawkins will be a perfect fit at both the 3 and the 4 to backup Zak Irvin and Chatman, and even if he only plays 10-15 minutes a game, his energy and athleticism could be a spark plug to ignite the Wolverines in sluggish games.
Overall, the Italy trip was a rousing success. Michigan was able to use this practice time to get all the players on the same page, and the trip was a great boost for team bonding and camaraderie overseas. While the level of competition in Italy will be substantially worse than what the Wolverines will face during the year, it seems that John Beilein has put together another great recruiting class that is poised to make some noise for Michigan this year.