Evan Smotrycz. Unless you’re a diehard Michigan basketball fan, that name means nothing to you. Or maybe you have heard of him. Maybe you remember his two years in the maize and blue. Or maybe you remember his two years playing in Crisler, but with the Maryland flag on his chest. Either way, you’ll see a more aggressive version Smotrycz in a Michigan jersey next year when the number 44 (247sports) rated high school senior moves to Ann Arbor. His name is Ignas Brazdeikis and he hails from the great white north. His 6-8, 220 pound frame is very similar to Smotrycz, albeit a bit shorter. But what is eerily similar is the style of play between the two. Both are elite three point shooters who will always look to either knock down 3’s at high percentage or initiate offense from the high post. This is where Beilein should be really excited to utilize Brazdeikis. His passing ability is slightly worse that Smotrycz’s, but he still has above average court vision. With that he’ll be able to control the offense from the post and have it run through him. He will be so effective there because he is such a threat to score from every level.
That said, there is a difference between the two. Throughout Smotrycz’s career both in Ann Arbor and College Park, he was content being a solid starter, but a backup option. Brazdeikis is an alpha dog. He hunts for his shot every time down the court and he’s one of the most skilled scorers in the entire country. The two both struggle with defense, which is what kept Smotrycz on the bench early in his freshman year. Smotrycz was never a good post defender and Ignas doesn’t have the footspeed to be one either. So his offense will always be his calling card, but with enough time his defense should come along for him to be at least competent. However, like many of Beilein’s teams, his elite offense will always be better than his defense. So when he steps foot on the court for the first time, just know Michigan will have a player who is a smaller, more aggressive Evan Smotrycz. Let’s just hope he stays all four years.