Friday, May 23, 2008

Ekpe Udoh Is Transferring

With news slowing down in the soccer world in this lull period between the Champions League final and the start of Euro 2008, I wanted to bring a piece of news that I saw a little while ago to the forefront. This story, of course, concerns me a little bit as a Michigan Wolverines basketball fan and should concern those of you who are expecting John Beilein's team to have a better season next year as well.

In a statement released on May 6, sophomore center Ekpe Udoh announced that he would leave Michigan and seek a transfer to, presumably, another Division I school. Udoh was Michigan's best defensive player by far last season and led the Big Ten Conference in blocked shots, and his offensive game was also picking up. While it's true that his jumpshot was nowhere near what Beilein wants to see from his big man, it was definitely improving and I think he would've had a breakout year on that end of the floor, similar to that of DeShawn Sims in '07-'08.

Another offseason in the gym bulking up a little bit and a summer at Michigan and Udoh would've been a star for the Maize and Blue this year. I definitely could've seen him as a first team all-conference performer this year with the development that one would expect between sophomore and junior year. He already ranked fifth on Michigan's all-time blocks list with 159 in his two years, which is a huge accomplishment given the abundance of talent the Wolverines have had in their big men positions over the years.

"This was a very difficult decision for me," Udoh said in a released statement. "I just feel I need to explore other options right now. I had a wonderful experience at Michigan and I want to thank everyone for helping me the last two years. I wish them nothing but success in the future."

The same sentiment is echoed from me towards Udoh, who gave Michigan everything he had in last year's disappointing campaign. He is a guy with the natural ability and tools to play professionally, and because John Beilein's system is not known for producing NBA-level players, I understand why Udoh wanted to leave. I think he may very well regret this decision in the short term, though, because Michigan will be a much-improved basketball team this year led again by Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims.

The Wolverines lost only one scholarship senior from last year's team, Ron Coleman, who had been relegated to a sixth man-type role anyway, and have brought in what looks like a solid recruiting class. This is a team with postseason aspirations and Udoh would've been a big part of that. He's gone, and even though he would've been hugely important this season, I believe Michigan will be able to overcome his transfer.

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