A Letter to My Michigan Family

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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.

Franz Wagner | Michigan Wolverines | The Players' Tribune
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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.

Franz Wagner | Michigan Wolverines | The Players' Tribune
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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 Wagner | Michigan Wolverines | The Players' Tribune