Michigan harvests AAU power
Same team that supplied Hummel, Moore to Purdue sends group to U-M
They sat in a Milwaukee hotel room, another weekend playing basketball in the blur of the grassroots basketball circuit -- the commit, the recruit and the new guy.
"[Glenn] was just like 'Man, when are you going to get on board with Michigan,' " McGary said. "I'm like 'Eh, when Spike comes with me.' "
"Spike" was point guard Spike Albrecht. When McGary said it, he didn't think it would actually happen. He didn't even know if he was going to Michigan yet.
A year later, Robinson III, McGary, Albrecht and redshirt freshman Max Bielfeldt comprise almost one-third of the Wolverines' scholarship players this season, and they all come from one AAU team, SYF Players, and one man -- Wayne Brumm.
As intertwined as the foursome is, reaching Michigan involved four individual choices.
"When you ask was it a coincidence, it really was," Brumm said. "There's a unique story that goes behind every one of these guys."
Bielfeldt entered his junior year playing with close-to-home Peoria Irish in Illinois, receiving mid-major recruiting attention. One high school game against Gary (Ind.) Lew Wallace on Martin Luther King Day in 2010 changed everything.
His team lost. A man approached him after.
"I'm like, 'Who the hell is this dude?'" Bielfeldt said. "He's talking to me like, 'I want you on my AAU team.' I'm like this nutcase is in Gary, Indiana, probably some podunk team that was nothing big.
"But I looked into it and kept in contact with him. Then I'm like, 'He's actually a pretty legit guy and knows what he's doing.'"
Weeks later, Bielfeldt started playing for SYF, teaming with another player Brumm discovered a few years earlier.
Brumm's teams practiced in the heart of the Northwest Indiana area known as "The Region" at a place known as "The Courts" in Merrillville, Ind. While a gaggle of high school players, including Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore, worked with Brumm, an eighth-grader played with his friends nearby.
As the eighth-grader played, he thought the SYF team Brumm coached was a semi-professional squad.
"He asked me if I would try out for his younger team and I guess that's how I got in."
Three years later, McGary became an SYF cornerstone. The second big piece popped up a couple of years later.
Brumm contacted Robinson III as he finished his freshman year at Lake Central (Ind.) High. He liked what he saw from Robinson and asked him to try out.
Three practices in, Robinson III made the team.
"Coach Brumm had me doing some shooting drills and that's when he pulled me to the side and said if I really want it and I work hard, I can be one of the best players he has had," Robinson III said. "He told me he's seen it in me since that moment. I put my trust in him and tried as hard as I could since that moment."
Pieces assembled, Brumm kept scouring for new talent. The last man came in late, after his senior season at Crown Point (Ind.) High, the younger brother of two of Brumm's former players. The player lasted three tournaments before suffering a broken foot, but Albrecht made an impression on his coach and his teammates.
Michigan coach John Beilein and his assistants discovered the son of former NBA All-Star Glenn Robinson early.
Intrigued, Robinson III ignored that Michigan showed little signs of progress after a team with high expectations floundered to an under-.500 record in 2009-10. He committed in September, 2010. He was the first of the SYF Four to do so.
"To be quite honest, I told him not to commit early," Brumm said. "I told him, 'Hey, if they are your favorite school, fine, but things happen.'"
Brumm reached out to an old friend, Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer, in the midst of that season. He had a high major player who wasn't receiving attention. Meyer said the Wolverines had one scholarship remaining and described what they wanted.
"The next thing out of his mouth is, 'Is he tough? We need some toughness,'" Brumm said. "I said ,'Now that, I have.' That began a conversation about Max. Within a week, week-and-a-half, Jeff was on a plane and looked at Max."
Michigan's interest led to offers from both the Wolverines and Illinois, where the athletic administration building is named after Bielfeldt's family. Bielfeldt went to Illini games his whole life. He still chose Michigan, in March 2011.
Those two commitments were a factor connecting the third -- and most sought-after -- SYF commit to Michigan.
McGary played with Bielfeldt and became best friends with Robinson. Those connections helped keep the Wolverines in contention as McGary rose as high as the No. 2 player in the nation -- Beilein's highest-rated commit ever. Both Brumm and Robinson III said they didn't push McGary to Michigan, something McGary confirmed when he discussed his decision in November 2011.
"I could just consult with Mitch on what I saw," Brumm said. "Moreover, Mitch had to feel it and I will flat out tell you, when he took his official visit, he felt it. Bottom line is, if Mitch didn't feel it, Mitch wouldn't be going to Michigan."
Pictures surfaced of McGary partying like a fan in the rain during Michigan's season-opening football win over Western Michigan. Two months later, he committed.
The three commits led to interest in a fourth when McGary received text messages from Meyer and Beilein asking about a former teammate.
The trust between Meyer and Brumm led to Meyer watching Albrecht. Meyer liked what he saw in Albrecht and heard from McGary and told Beilein to see him play.
"I only played for [Brumm] for three tournaments and he could have just written me off, like he didn't help me much," Albrecht said. "But he stayed very involved in my recruitment. He kept contacting schools and he got Michigan to call me and start looking at me."
Michigan had three transfers after last season, leaving open scholarships. Point guard Trey Burke almost bolted for the NBA. When the Wolverines offered Albrecht, he committed immediately.
Robbie Hummel's SYF team stepped off the plane in Texas after a four-hour delay, rushed to their hotel to change into their uniforms for the first game of an AAU tournament. Their opponent? A team that hadn't lost all year.
SYF lost. Despite the travel issues, Brumm wasn't happy.
"He held us to an incredibly high standard," Hummel said.
The structure had purpose, the same reason Brumm hates playing cards or competitive sports. He abhors losing. Purpose is a big word for Brumm.
This manifested over time, as Brumm transitioned from a high school coach for six years to leading SYF's top team. He believes it made him a better coach.
Basketball became one of Brumm's purposes, traveling from gym to gym scouting, meeting parents, working players out while juggling family, coaching and his actual job as an accountant and financial advisor specializing in retirement planning.
"You must play the game with a purpose, get up every day with a purpose. You must know the purpose of the identity you are currently involved in," Brumm said. "If you're playing basketball or a competitive sport, the purpose is to win, to beat your opponent. I don't care if five nuns were playing. We're going to beat them.
"We're going to beat them with respect, but we're going to beat them. If they paid the entry fee, this is the environment."
He hates nothing more than shaking an opponent's hand after a game, admitting defeat and being outplayed.
Discipline is key. Practices are fast-paced, similar to what Bielfeldt encountered when he reached Michigan. Brumm is sometimes meaner than he'd like, more critical than he wants. But his purpose is clear -- turn the players he spotted with potential into college basketball players with a free education and in some cases hoops success beyond college.
It is where the passionate speeches after losses came from and why he occasionally took cell phones from Hummel's team at night. For his teams to win, they had to be tougher and more disciplined.
"Without him and my high school coach, Dave Milausnic, I don't think I'd be in this position right now," Robinson III said. "Coach Brumm pushed us all the time. I remember him calling timeouts a couple of times just to cuss me and Mitch out because we were goofing around when we were up 20, things he knew we wouldn't get away with next year when we were in college.
"He stayed on us for the best of us, and we respected him for that."
Brumm has sent a trio of players to the same school at the same time before. In 2007, Hummel, Moore and Scott Martin went to Purdue, and although Martin transferred, Hummel and Moore helped reinvigorate a struggling Boilermakers program.
Michigan is thriving, but this group could have a similar impact on the Wolverines.
"The synergy is going to be tremendous," Brumm said. "With what they've already got and who is coming back, the University of Michigan, their fans, the school, everybody involved is going to be so proud of these kids by the time they leave school or graduate.
"It's going to be special times."