8 -- Tuesday, March 12, 2013
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
8 - Tuesday, March12, 2013 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
Josh Bartelstein's rise
from walk-on to captain
by Daniel Wasserman, Daily Sports Editor
Photo by Terra Mollengraff
M arch 10, Senior Day for the Michi-
gan men's basketball team, was Ann
Arbor's first taste of spring. As temperatures
climbed into the mid 60s, locals ditched their
winter coats in favor of short-sleeve shirts for
the first time this year.
But as the Crisler Center parking lot began
to fill, and the line of student-ticket holders
stretched past the Big House, a grey, cloud-cov-
ered sky served as a constant reminder that win-
ter hadn't yet departed. It was a nice day for the
beginning of spring, but not like the late-April
weekend four years ago, in 2009, when Josh
Bartelstein and his dad, Mark, made their first
and onlyrecruitingvisit to Michigan.
"It was one of those days - the nicest day of
the spring - a perfect day for recruiting," Mark
recalled in a phone interview.
It was on that visit that Bartelstein made
up his mind; he was prepared to accept a pre-
ferred-walk-on offer from Michigan coach John
Beilein. Not more than 24 hours after returning
home, he had formally accepted it.
Four years later, in his final home game as
a Wolverine, Bartelstein didn't score one last
basket. He didn't get to check in, as the crowd
cheered him on, for one final time. His name
wasn't even called over the PA system, except
for when he and the four other seniors - none
of whom received more than a handful of mean-
ingful minutes this season - were honored at
half court 10 minutes before tip-off in a game
Michigan would eventually lose to Indiana,
costing it the Big Ten Championship.
And since that warm April day in 2009, Bar-
telstein has scored just six points in 53-career
minutes - each of them in games that had
long since been decided. He missed 13 of his 15
field-goal attempts and registered more fouls
(eight) than assists (four) and rebounds (two)
combined. It wasn't the career Bartelstein envi-
sioned when he turned to his dad and said, "I
don't think there's anywhere else that I would
But then again, it's six more points than he
ever could've imagined he'd score at a Big Ten
school when he was in high school and felt a
sharp pain in his ankle, or when he had just a
few mid-major offers during his prep-school
season, or even when he traveled to Ann Arbor
for the first time on a trip to visit friends from
Playing basketball at Michigan was supposed
to be a pipe dream for Josh Bartelstein. Instead,
it's a dream he's lived, led and blogged for four
ong before Bartelstein shared a lock-
er room with NBA talents like former
Michigan guards Darius Morris and Manny
Harris, or future NBA players like Trey Burke,
Tim Hardaway Jr. or Glenn Robinson III, he
was sharing a court with some of the league's
Mark, a prominent basketball agent, rep-
resents NBA All-Stars like David Lee and Mo
Williams, and founded Priority Sports and
Entertainment - which also represents NFL
stars like Arian Foster and A.J. Hawk. It's
through these connections that Bartelstein
has gotten to shoot around with Michael Jor-
dan, or eat dinner with and rebound for Steve
Kerr - another one of Mark's clients - just days
before he hit a last-second, game-winning shot
in Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals to clinch the
Developing relationships with several NBA
players went a long way in Bartelstein's own
development as a basketball player.
"Any time you can be around people who
are successful, and you see how much work
goes into being successful, that's always a great
learning experience," Mark said. "I think to see
how hard these guys actually do work is so ben-
eficial to anyone in any walk of life."
Each winter, when Mark wasn't taking Bar-
telstein to NBA games, or watching games on
the couch with him, the pair found itself in
Highland Park High School's gym, where Bar-
telstein began to "idolize" the varsity players.
Despite being just a 5-foot-6 sophomore, he
was handed the reins to the varsity offense in
2005 as its starting point guard.
In a preseason Thanksgiving tournament
- his first varsity game - Bartelstein played
through a sore ankle and eeked out a two-
point victory. While turning a corner around a
pick-and-roll he had called for the next day in
practice, he felt an "excruciating" pain shoot
through his right ankle, the same one that had
been slightly bothering him the previous day.
when I knew, 'That's not normal. There's some-
thingvery wrong with it."'
Tests found a stress fracture. Initial diagnosis
tabbed the recovery period asa matter of weeks,
but further testing discovered the need for sur-
gery - two screws in his ankle - sidelining him
for six-to-eight months. He eventually returned
to the summer AAU circuit, but it wasn't until
midway through his junior year that he felt like
himself on the floor.
The injury, attributed to significant wear and
tear and the side effect of what would become
a substantial growth spurt - over the next two
years, he grew nine inches to his current 6-foot-
3 - was the first in a string of injuries to his
ankle, which has been operated on an additional
two times during his Michigan career.
Seriously injured for the first time in his life,
Bartelstein was forced to find alternative meth-
ods to contribute to the team, including a role as
an informal player-coach.
"I think for my ability to lead, it was a bless-
ing," he said. "That was the first year that I got
to sit back ... and understand the leadership role.
"There's no doubt that that year, seeing the
bigger picture, I would've been too caught up in
By his senior year, a taller, more polished
Bartelstein had grown into an all-area player,
averaging 13.5 points, six rebounds and five
assists per game - good enough to get recruited
by Division III schools, including Emory, New
York University and Washington University in
But everything changed after his high school
played a prep school, and its coach approached
the Bartelsteins about the possibility ofhim tak-
ing a post-grad year.
Bartelstein's junior year was hampered by
the recovering ankle, a hamstring injury and
because the growth spurt changed the physi-
cal makeup of his body, he was going through
what Mark called an "awkward phase" on the
court. The prep-school route wasn't something
that Midwesterners, like the Bartelsteins, were
Spending a year at a prep school - a more
common route for East Coast athletes - would
give Bartelstein the chance to improve upon his
senior year and get more recruiting attention,
especially from the Ivy League.
Bartelstein eventually settled on Phillips
Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. Known for its
prestigious academics, it also plays in an athletic
conference littered with Division I talent. Mich-
igan coach John Beilein, a native Northeast-
erner, has dipped into this conference several
times to snag freshman forward Mitch McGary,
senior forward Blake McLimans and former
Wolverine Evan Smotrycz.
At Exeter, Bartelstein was named captain
of the basketball team for the 2008-09 season.
While maturing off the court, he shined on it
- averaging 15.5 points and seven assists per
game. He set the school record with 52 3-point-
ers in a season, while shooting close to 50 per-
cent from beyond the arc.
Several Division-I schools jumped in with
offers, including San Diego, Detroit, Valparaiso,
Harvard and a host of otherIvy League schools.
Penn recruited him the hardest, and for a
while, that's where it looked like he'd end up.
An email, from Exeter coach Jay Tilton
See BARTELSTEIN, Page 6