Big Ten Tales: Zack Novak & his Denard Robinson story

Have you heard the story about the time former Michigan basketball player Zack Novak convinced everyone at a party that he was Denard Robinson? I recently spoke with Novak by phone to hear this story and others as the Michigan graduate now plays professional basketball in the Netherlands.

After a standout collegiate career as a four-year Wolverines starter from 2008-12, Novak finished first all-time in minutes played at Michigan and third all-time in both career games (134) and starts (122). He also became the 28th Michigan player to ever score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a career.

After school, Novak signed to play for Landstede basketball, an organization from Zwolle which plays in the Dutch First Division. Novak still keeps in touch with his former teammates, and I asked him to tell us about his new job as well as a few school stories in my latest Big Ten Tales.

BTN.com: Take me through your decision to play basketball overseas and how you have adjusted to the lifestyle over there thus far?
Novak: It has been a bit of a transition for me, but I feel like I’ve settled in pretty nicely by now. The game itself is very different because I have to play much more aggressive on offense than I did in college.

BTN.com: Is that because the style of game your team plays or just because they ask you to shoot more than you did at Michigan?
Novak: Well, I played with so many great players at Michigan that I really didn’t have to do a lot. I was never much of a creator in college, just more of a role player. Here, my team looks for me to score a lot more, which is different, but kind of fun at the same time.

BTN.com: Watching you throughout your playing career at Michigan, it seemed like you were always very passionate about your team and about winning. You had a lot of personality out on the basketball court, and you seemed to really enjoy playing the game with your teammates. Has that carried over now that you are playing overseas?
Novak: I’ve always loved the game. I’ve been playing basketball since I was four or five years old, that’s what I do. At Michigan, we had a really close team and that’s why we were able to have that type of success and accomplish some of the things we did during my time there. Playing over here is awesome as well, I love the experience. I’ve gotten the chance to play with and meet some great people over here.

BTN.com: Speaking of your teammates, do you have any stories that might stand out during your college playing days, maybe one that the average U-M fan doesn’t already know?
Novak: I have a lot of them, but I think there is one that really stands out and still makes me laugh whenever I think about it. It involves Denard Robinson – sort of.

BTN.com: Please share
Novak: Well, my freshman year, I lived on the same floor at Patrick Omameh, who was a starting offensive lineman on the football team. We became really good friends and would hang out all the time. One Saturday afternoon, we were just driving around campus and looking for something to do. We stop at this fraternity house and it looks like they are having this huge party, so we stop in to see what’s going on.

BTN.com: You guys were probably treated like rock stars, going to a mid-day frat party on a Saturday afternoon.
Novak: It’s funny because people were staring at us like maybe they knew we were athletes, but they didn’t know exactly who we were. So we go into the party and we start telling everyone that I’m Denard Robinson, the new big-shot recruit that U-M just signed and I am on my official visit before I enroll here in the fall.

BTN.com: And people actually believed that? I can’t say I see the resemblance.
Novak: Perhaps some of these people were a little more gullible at the time since they had been partying all day. But still, we went through this entire party, convincing everyone that I was Denard, and yes, they all believed it. I told them that I was coming to U-M next year and I was going to be the next great starting quarterback at Michigan.

BTN.com: What time of year was this? Had basketball season not started yet?
Novak: That might be the best part of the whole story. This was in the spring time, so basketball season was already over. I had started 20 or more games that season and averaged 34 minutes-per-game, yet these people still believed that I was Denard Robinson.

BTN.com: That’s phenomenal. Did you ever tell Denard about this story?
Novak: I actually told him about it the first time I ever met him. He couldn’t believe it either, but we just laughed about it.

BTN.com: Did you basketball guys hang out with a lot of players from the football team while at Michigan?
Novak: Yeah, some of my best friends in college were on the football team and other sports teams as well. You have people who you can relate to, but it’s nice to have friends outside of your sport. It’s cool now, knowing that I have friends playing in the NHL, NFL and NBA right now.

BTN.com: Have you been able to keep up with this year’s team?
Novak: Yeah, I watch as many games as I can. Sometimes it’s on recording because of the time difference here, but I make sure to keep up with them.

BTN.com: When you left last year, did you have an idea that this year’s team could be this good, considering the talent they had coming back and the impressive freshman class they had coming in?
Novak: Yes, absolutely. Once Trey (Burke) announced he was coming back, I knew that this team could contend for both a Big Ten Championship and National Championship. If you watch them play, you can see that this team plays exceptionally well together as a unit. It’s not easy to win in the Big Ten, especially with how good the league is this year. But I knew this team would be special and I have been very impressed with the way they have handled themselves thus far.

BIG TEN TALES: Antwaan Randle-El | Brian Butch | Tony Banks | Scoonie Penn | Rosevelt Colvin | Derek Rackley | Chuck Long ]

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About Sean Merriman BTN.com contributor Sean Merriman interviews Big Ten names and asks them for a great story about their days in the Big Ten for our Big Ten Tales section.

Originally from Farmington Hills, MI, I have worked at the Big Ten Network since 2012 and took over my role as web editor and blogger in August, 2013. Follow me on twitter for constant Big Ten updates @srmerriman. Thanks and enjoy!!

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Doug on 2/7/2013 @ 11:11am EDT Said:

you guys must be bored