Big Ten

Wagner, Wilson make NBA Draft decisions: One Michigan forward returning to Ann Arbor, another turning pro

wilson-wagner-0320.jpg
USA TODAY

Wagner, Wilson make NBA Draft decisions: One Michigan forward returning to Ann Arbor, another turning pro

Michigan will get one of its star forwards back for next season, while another is turning pro.

Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson announced their decisions Wednesday: Wagner will return to Ann Arbor for his junior season, while Wilson will keep his name in the NBA Draft.

Both players took advantage of rules allowing underclassmen to test out the NBA Draft process, receive feedback and then decide whether to return to school with their NCAA eligibility intact.

While both are seen as future pros, Wilson has received a lot more NBA hype and is being forecasted as a potential first-round pick in next month's draft. Draft Express' latest mock draft has Wilson going late in the first round.

Wagner and Wilson both factored big in Michigan's exciting late-season run that included a Big Ten Tournament championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament's Sweet Sixteen. The Wolverines won 12 of their final 15 games including six straight after a harrowing experience on the team plane that included an aborted takeoff and a skid off the runway en route to the Big Ten Tournament in Washington, D.C.

Wagner scored 17 points in a win over Minnesota in the semifinal round of the conference tournament and dropped a whopping 26 points in a win over Louisville in the NCAA tournament's Round of 32. Wilson was sensational in the Big Ten Tournament, averaging better than 15 points in those four wins, including a 26-point effort in the overtime win over Purdue. He averaged 16 points a game in the team's three NCAA tournament contests, scoring 19 against Oklahoma State and 17 against Louisville.

On the 2016-17 season, Wagner averaged 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds a game, while Wilson averaged 11 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

"This was not an easy decision," Wilson said in his Wednesday announcement, "however, I have thought long about the next step in my career over the last few months. After many prayers and discussions with my mom, coach (John) Beilein and the staff, it is the right time for me to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA.

"I am confident I have the drive, work ethic and maturity for this next step. It's never going to be easy, but if I have learned anything at Michigan, perseverance pays off. It has truly been a blessing to have had the opportunity to attend Michigan, and I will forever be grateful to coach Beilein and his staff for taking the chance on me. There are so many memories over the past three years that I will always cherish. I will be a Wolverine at heart forever."

"The mission is to lead this team and to win," Wagner told the Michigan athletics website. "I want to win the Big Ten again. Winning the Big Ten Tournament whetted my appetite. I wanted more. It's a little early to talk about a national championship, but we go into every game with the mentality of being able to win it. We have so many players who can step up this year, and I want to step up my game and be more consistent and lead by example the way Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin did for me.

"You've got to shoot for the moon if you want to be successful."

Wagner will return as a leader on this fall's Michigan team. Seniors Walton and Irvin departed after exhausting their NCAA eligibility, and Wilson is leaving, as well.

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.