A Letter to My Michigan Family

Franz Wagner
·6 min read

A couple of years ago, I had a decision to make.

I had to choose between two things — and both were really appealing to me.

On the one hand, I had an offer to play pro basketball at home with Alba Berlin. I knew if I chose this option I would be happy. Playing professionally in the Bundesliga, that’s a great honor. And I had a nice life in Germany. It was the comfortable choice, for sure.

On the other hand, I had an offer to play college hoops in Ann Arbor. My brother, Moe, of course gave me helpful advice about this option. And I had good conversations with Coach Howard and his staff. But still … college in the States, that was basically a mystery. It meant flying halfway around the world, to live alone, in a whole different culture — the opposite of a comfortable choice. It meant I’d have to take a leap of faith.

And after months of going back and forth in my head about it (and against the advice and expectations of almost everybody at home), that’s what I did. Not because Moe did it — but because I wanted to do it my way. I took a leap of faith.

I decided to enroll at Michigan.

It’s the best decision I ever made.

And now, two years later, I’m making another decision.

I’ve decided to enter the 2021 NBA Draft.

I’ll be honest ... I’m definitely feeling a lot of emotions about it. I’m hopeful, more than anything — as playing in the NBA has been a big dream of mine. It’s something I’ve been working extremely hard for. And after talking with my coaches and my family, I know it’s something I’m ready for. From a basketball perspective, this is the move for me to make right now. (Plus, I mean, if Moe can play in the league — obviously they’ll take anyone.)

But it was still a tough decision.

And I think it was tough for me for pretty much one reason: I love Michigan.

Man ... I’ve just truly loved being a part of this Michigan thing with you all.

So that’s why I wanted to write this letter. I didn’t want to just do some quick “see ya later.” I wanted to say thanks, for the time of my life.

Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

One thing I’m really proud of from my college career is how we showed people that Michigan Basketball is here to stay. After Coach Beilein left, there were a lot of doubters. People were questioning whether Michigan was about to take a step back. And I feel like Coach Howard and our vets, like Zavier, they just got us locked into this mentality where we weren’t going to let that happen. It became like a mission: Not only were we refusing to take a step back — actually we were going to push things forward.

And I feel like we just kind of kept making these statements with our play. Like, beginning the Coach Howard era with a seven-game win streak, that was a statement. Winning the Big 10 in year two, that was a statement. Earning a #1 seed for the first time since the Fab Five, that was a statement. I know I only was around for two seasons, but I still hope you all will consider me a part of that legacy. Of telling the world that Michigan hoops isn’t going anywhere.

And on a personal level, I’m really proud of how much I’ve grown over these last two years. Off the court, I feel like I’ve become an adult — I’ve learned to take care of myself, you know what I mean?? (Also, I can mostly grow a beard now. Amazing perseverance.) And on the court, I think I’m just a more well-rounded player than I was when I first got to Michigan. I know the current NBA is all about versatility, guys who can show guard-like skills while having forward-like size. And I definitely think I’m developing that type of game.

At the same time, though, I’ll always be my own worst critic — and I know I’ve got lots of things I have to work on and improve if I’m going to achieve my goals. I know I have to keep pushing myself to my limits. But those types of challenges … I live for them. I never want to feel satisfied with where I’m at.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Before I wrap this up, I have to say a few thank you’s.

I have to thank Coach Howard, and everyone associated with Michigan Basketball. Coach is just a special dude — and from the moment he came to scout me (at this tournament in Greece), it’s been awesome to know him. He’s given me the best basketball education I could ask for … but at the same time, he’s never put coaching me as a player ahead of caring about me as a person. The program is in great hands.

Next I have to thank my teammates. Most of you probably already know this, but my season ended on a very sour note. And man, I won’t lie — it was a tough couple of weeks after that. It hurt a lot. Not just because it hurts to lose, and I’m such a competitor, but also because it felt like I let everybody down. Most of all our seniors. One missed shot by me … and their Michigan careers were over, just like that. I was pretty hard on myself about it. But the guys were so supportive of me — they had my back like true brothers. They’ll be my brothers for life.

And lastly I have to thank the entire Michigan family.

I’m sure a lot of people think “family” is just some word that gets over-used, especially around teams and schools and stuff like that. But it’s honestly how I feel about my time here. I feel like I’ve found a kind of second family — one that is filled with all these great people, and that I’ll be a part of even after I leave.

Sadly, now it’s that time. It’s time for me to say goodbye to Ann Arbor, and to take on this whole new challenge in the NBA.

I don’t know what the future will hold for me there ... but I’m excited to find out. And it’s like I said — I’ll always know one thing for sure: I’m proud to be able to call myself a Michigan Wolverine.

Appreciate you all.

Go Blue, forever.

–Franz