Dec. 27, 2013
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
Sudden change is never easy. That was especially true for the University of Michigan men's basketball team following head coach John Beilein's announcement (Dec. 27) that Mitch McGary will undergo surgery for a lower-back condition and will be out indefinitely.
"It took a long time to make this decision, because of the fact that he's worked and rehabbed, all the way back from August," said Beilein. "But when the issue came up again with the condition in the last couple weeks, we met with a lot of people and Mitch decided that his best interest, for his long-term health, is to go ahead and have surgery. I don't know how long it takes. Right now he's out indefinitely. That may mean the end of the season. We do not know. It depends a lot on the surgery and the rehab."
McGary's back problems began in August, when the sophomore forward was unable to participate in preseason activities. The result: McGary was unable to lift weights, condition or practice. He finally made his return when Michigan played at Iowa State on Nov. 17.
"It was a difficult time," said McGary. "I was just trying to rehab the whole time. I wanted to play with my teammates, but it became too much."
McGary continued to play, averaging 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in eight games. However, his practice time was limited and he didn't feel as though he was fully in shape.
"In some of the movements, I couldn't really get out and run the floor like I wanted to," McGary said. "I really wasn't in great shape. For me to help my team, I really feel like I need to be in tremendous shape. And this limited me, somewhat."
For a while, McGary felt as though his condition was improving. Yet, in the past two weeks, the condition once again took a turn for the worse. Against Stanford, McGary was once again sidelined due to his injury.
"He really ran into the basket one time really hard and went down and got back up and played," Beilein said. "I don't know if that jiggled it enough. But that could have been a factor."
"We feel really bad for him. He's really disappointed," Beilein said. "At the same time, as you could see, especially in the last game, it was starting to hit him hard. The week before the Arizona game he couldn't practice very well. He couldn't practice at all in the week before the Stanford game. And he didn't feel that would change unless he had this surgery."
"I could have (continued to play), but I would be in a lot of pain," McGary said. "I felt this was too much stress on my body for me and could maybe harm it even more."
"I definitely don't want to injure my body more than it needs to be," he added. "That was definitely something going into [this decision], because I rehabbed for such a long time and tried to play through it. But, overall, I just wanted to get it over with and get it in the past and work on my health and get a hundred percent again."
When it came to telling his teammates about his decision, McGary said it was "difficult for me, because I really want to go out there. I love these guys on my team. We're all brothers, and I want to go out there and play with them on the court. It's difficult just to sit there and watch. But I'm going to get back, hopefully, and cheer my team on."
With McGary out, the team will have to adjust its strategies and turn to new players.
"Next man up -- that's just got to be the attitude," said Beilein.
"One of the options we wanted this year was to play through him (McGary) more. So we were preparing for that in the summer and the spring," Beilein added. "And, all of a sudden, the injury comes and now you can't do that. We are taking our offensive and defensive plans and changing them to better suit a team without Mitch McGary."
While the Wolverines will have to greatly adjust to this unexpected change in the lineup, one of Michigan's alternative options in the post, co-captain Jordan Morgan, is the most experienced player on the Wolverine squad.
"Jordan Morgan has won a Big Ten championship, he's led a team picked 11th or 12th to an NCAA Tournament. He's played a lot of games and a lot of minutes," said Beilein. "I think with him, he needs minutes to get back to where he was. And he could never get that last year. I'm excited for him and Jon Horford, and Max (Bielfeldt) as well."