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Michigan basketball walk-on leads off the court

Michigan's Josh Bartelste(20 center) watches from bench during first period United Center Chicago Ill. Thursday March 14 2013. | Andrew

Michigan's Josh Bartelstein (20, center) watches from the bench during the first period at United Center in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, March 14, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Chances are you won’t see him on the floor this weekend. He’s made only four cameo appearances all season for a total of 13 minutes and has gone 2-for-15 in 53 minutes during his four-year career.

But Josh Bartelstein is very much a part of Michigan’s success this season. A 6-3 walk-on guard from Highland Park, Bartelstein is Michigan’s lone seasonlong captain.

“He just embodies selflessness,’’ redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan, one of Bartelstein’s roommates, said after Michigan knocked off Penn State on Thursday. “He’s kind of a behind-the-scenes leader. He’s not a get-up-in-your-face guy, but he watches and observes. He’ll find a chance to talk to you. He’s always positive. He’s always thinking up ways to make the team better.’’

Bartelstein doesn’t deny having thoughts about how he might have played more if he had made different choices. But he’s very comfortable with his situation.

“There’s nothing like playing the game,’’ he said. “But to win a Big Ten championship and be ranked No. 1 in the country, those are special things to be a part of. This Michigan program is so much bigger than anything I’ll be a part of.’’

In his four years, the Wolverines have gone from being a 15-17 afterthought to a national-championship contender. And Bartelstein has had a front-row seat, as well as a hand in the revival John Beilein has engineered.

“When I look back on it,’’ he said. “to have a team that really struggled my freshman year to my senior year, being the captain of a 26-6 team that could win a national championship, to see how much goes into it, all the small things, all the sacrifices that are made, that’s one of the coolest things.’’

His father, Mark, a sports agent, and mother, Sheri, are Illinois graduates. His father has represented former Illini such as Dee Brown, James Augustine and Robert Archibald.

“Why not Illinois?’’ he said. “It’s a good question. It really came down to coach Beilein. It was a tough decision, but I’m very happy with where I ended up.’’

Unlike many college players, Bartelstein, who will graduate this spring with a degree in sports management, has no plans to try to keep playing basketball overseas. He’d like to coach someday but might look into a career in business or real estate first.

“This is it for me,’’ Bartelstein said. “It’s been an incredible year. This is the last month and I’m going to enjoy it. We have a great group of guys. And winning like we have, with the fan excitement and coming to Chicago for the Big Ten tournament. It’s been really special.’’



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