There are many questions surrounding the 2022-23 Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team. Considering they lost seven of their top 10 scorers from last year, one of the biggest ones is who is going to step up and score more for the team.
One of the obvious candidates is Kobe Bufkin, a sophomore guard who played well in short spurts and showed great potential, but never really put it all together last season.
In an interview with The Michigan Insider back in May, junior center Hunter Dickinson predicted Bufkin would make the sophomore leap and be one of Michigan’s most improved players.
“I think one guy that I think everybody on the team and the coaching staff is definitely expecting to make a big leap, is Kobe,” Dickinson said to Sam Webb and Tim McCormick. “Obviously, you can see the potential that he has, the skill set, everything like that. He’s got it all. I think it’s just a matter of him putting it together, and I think another year in the Big Ten, I think you’ll see him get a lot more comfortable in his own game. I think the game will really slow down for him, like it did for me. Even as a freshman going into my sophomore year, I could just tell the game was a little bit different with speed. It just all slowed down and made it a lot easier for me. And so, I think the same thing will happen for him and I’m expecting a big sophomore campaign for him.”
A lot of that improvement has come on the defensive end. Bufkin has added weight (on the official team rosters, he’s up 20 pounds from last year) and he said at Michigan’s media day he can use that strength to respond better to getting bumped in the lane. On top of that, he feels more confident.
“I would say defensively, I spent a lot of time in the offseason studying film, seeing what I did wrong, seeing what I did right,” Bufkin said. “The things that I did wrong I feel like I cleaned up very well, and I’m confident going into this season.”
The coaching staff has taken notice of those improvements, as assistant coach Howard Eisley is clearly excited in Bufkin’s transformation.
“It’s night and day,” Eisley said on the difference between Bufkin last year and now. “He’s playing with a lot more confidence, he’s being more vocal. The thing with Kobe is that he has good self-awareness of the things he needed to work on from last year, and he really applied it this summer. He put a lot of time in the gym and in the film room. I think he has definitely made a jump.”
In an effort to improve his offensive game, associate head coach Phil Martelli said in an interview with Brian Boesch earlier this fall that Bufkin has been studying one of Michigan’s top scorers last season.
“I would ask at the end of last year with him, ‘Who did you sit and watch in the Big Ten, who would you want to be like?’ He would come back and say ‘I want to be like Eli, because Eli was counted on by the team on both ends of the floor. I want to be counted on both ends of the floor’,” Martelli said. “When he does his individual workouts, it’s the different parts of the floor. He doesn’t just shoot threes, it’s balance in wanting to be able to score.”
A lot of the time last season, you could see Bufkin struggled to get into a rhythm based on his body language. This season, he seems to have a lot more faith in his abilities because of his offseason improvements.
“I feel like I’ve gotten significantly better,” Bufkin said. “A lot of it is confidence, but I stayed in the gym this offseason. You got to get some shots up before you can get it to go in, so I’ve been working on that.”
You can tell Bufkin is excited to start the season and show off his new body and newfound confidence. Michigan will need him to step up on both ends of the floor, and the coaching staff is clearly thrilled to see him flourish after making these improvements.