By Brad Rudner, U-M Athletic Media Relations
Matt Vogrich won't admit it, but a Big Ten rival used to be his dream school.
The sharpshooting freshman guard contends the University of Illinois was where he wanted to go to college growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan in Lake Forest, Ill. Raised by two parents with similar Big Ten backgrounds (his mother, Mary, graduated from Wisconsin; his father, Bob, from Illinois), Vogrich's dream was to play basketball in the Big Ten.
Growing up 45 minutes north from downtown Chicago, Vogrich was barely a year old when Michael Jordan won his first championship in 1991 with his hometown Bulls. He watched Jordan win five more titles with the Bulls before age 10, idolizing him as much as every other young basketball fan.
Playing basketball was always Vogrich's hobby, but shooting was his love. Vogrich's shot, which he says people liken to the one of NBA veteran Kyle Korver, was engineered by both his father and his AAU coach, Steve Pratt.
Pratt would start Vogrich in close to the basket and slowly move him back with every drill. Pratt's focus was mainly on Vogrich's upper body form, and he would have Vogrich take one-legged shots and come off screens from all angles.
The lessons, Vogrich says, molded him into the shooter he is today.
"I love shooting, so that's what I do," Vogrich said. "Steve critiqued it and got it to where it is today."
While shooting is his strength, Vogrich also is a scorer, evident by the 1,494 career points he scored in high school, breaking the old mark held by Rob Pelinka (1,327), a former Wolverine. For his career, Vogrich averaged 16.7 points per game, but he really exploded onto the national scene as a senior.
It seemed that Vogrich's name appeared on every All-State ballot throughout the State of Illinois, and for good reason. He led Lake Forest to a 23-5 record -- first conference title in 20 years -- averaging 22.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. For his efforts, he was named the 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year for Illinois and The Sporting News tabbed Vogrich as the Class of 2009's Best Shooter.
But in the four weeks he has been in Ann Arbor, Vogrich is learning to expand his game by taking tips from current Wolverine sophomores Stu Douglass and Zack Novak, two incumbent sophomores that likely stand in Vogrich's way of being in the starting lineup.
"They have been great in helping me out," Vogrich said. "Coach Beilein's offense is pretty tough to grasp for a freshman, but they've been showing me how he wants things done. "
While he's shown he can put the ball in the basket, Vogrich, who stands at a slender 6-4, admits he needs to get stronger. Currently, he weighs around 180 pounds, but recruiting pundits point to physical strength as his one area of improvement. His coach knows that, too.
"Coach Beilein texted me, 'work hard in the weight room'," Vogrich recants. "I know I need to get a lot stronger, and I know I need to put on more muscle. I'm trying to live in the weight room right now."
Off the court, Vogrich is actively involved in his community. In Lake Forest, Vogrich and his teammates were part of three community service projects: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, Public Action to Deliver Shelter and the ONE Campaign -- the Fight Against Extreme Poverty and Disease.
He hopes to continue that trend as a member of the Wolverines.
"Everybody liked to give back," Vogrich said. "[Lake Forest] Coach (Paul) LaScala really stressed it on us. It hit home when you got see how great they are and how they needed help."
Every Wednesday after Lake Forest's practice concluded, he would spend time with Dante, a close friend in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters campaign. The two would spend their time doing what they love-- shooting.
"It was great to help them," Vogrich said. "It makes you feel good about yourself and it's a good thing to do. When I go back home, I'm going to do it again."
Even at the peak of summer, Vogrich is counting down the days until he runs up and down the Crisler Arena floor with the Maize and Blue jersey on his back. But for him, the season has already started and he knows he is in the right place.
"For me, there isn't a better fit anywhere in the world," Vogrich said.
Behind the Lines Series
Part 6: The Journey Back ... Freshman Jordan Morgan
Part 5: The Interesting Choice ... Freshman Blake McLimans
Part 4: The Locker Room Conversation ... Freshman Josh Bartelstein
Part 3: Right In His Backyard ... Freshman Eso Akunne
Part 2: Embracing the Cross-Country Move ... Freshman Darius Morris
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