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The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2020 S uppose you're on a survival hike through a mountainous western region heavily populated by grizzly bears. You've got three friends along for the journey. Two of them are regarded as experts, at the top of their game in wilderness naviga- tion and bear-attack blunt- ing. The other is solid, loyal, skilled, but no Bear Grylls in terms of hype. The four of you set off down the trail, and spend the better part of a year head- ing for the same destination. Then, suddenly, the road gets a little rougher. One of your expert bud- dies spies a cute young lass heading down the trail in another direction. She winks, he wheels around and says, while doing his 180, "Thanks, guys, it's been fun." The other expert remains faith- ful a few more days. But then the producer of the television show "Survivor" happens down the trail, offering the remaining expert a crack at a big cash prize for coming on the show. The second expert peels off as well, saying it's always been his dream to stab fish with a makeshift spear and get paid for it. You're left with the loyal one, his can of bear spray and his walking stick. Who's your best friend, regardless of survivalist rankings? That one's obvious. It should have been the same for Michigan basket- ball fans, on April 16, when the late signees for the class of 2020 rolled in. The loyal friend, in this case, ac- tually consists of three, or five, de- pending on how liberally you num- ber them. Juwan Howard picked up 7-2 center Hunter Dickinson out of DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md.; 6-7 forward Terrance Williams from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.; and 6-7 swing- man Jace Howard from University School in Miami. That trio joins 6-4 guard Zeb Jack- son from Toledo and 5-11 graduate transfer guard Mike Smith, a Chi- cago native by way of Columbia University, as Michigan newcomers. "With these signings, and the ad- dition of Zeb in the fall, we are truly excited for the direction we are head- ing," Howard said. "Talent is one thing; however, we always want to make sure we bring the right players into this program — Michigan Men. We are confident we have done that." Further confidence ought to spring from the fact that in his first year battling other Big Ten coaches, Howard brought in what's gener- ally regarded as the No. 1 recruiting class in the conference. It's consid- ered a top-10 class nationally by some sources, on the cusp by others. So why the signing week disap- pointment for many? That's easy. When you think you can have it all, that's precisely what you want. Michigan basketball fans thought they were going to get the aforemen- tioned riches plus a pair of five-star performers who would have jumped this crew to or near the nation's best. It didn't happen. One got his head turned in another direction at the last possible moment, following strong indications that he planned to be a Wolverine. The other went from po- tential one-and-done to none- and-done, deciding to cash in professionally. There is a natural deflation that accompanies any such sce- nario of buildup followed by a quick yank of the rug. But it shouldn't come at the expense of what is still a very strong contingent of newcomers. Dickinson appears to be the most college-ready big man the Wolverines have reeled in since Mitch McGary came along. Williams is both versatile and tough, his con- tact readiness making him a candidate for early action in Howard's eyes. Jace Howard is the feel- good-plus story of the crew, Juwan Howard's son going from preferred walk-on to scholarship player when the defections arose. "Words cannot express how proud I am of him for all the work he has put in over the years to get to where he is now," Howard said. "He will bring a passion like no other to this program. He wants to get better, and with his skills we know he will be a valuable asset." Toss in the guards at a position of great need, along with the return of rising sophomore Franz Wagner and other veterans, and Howard will again put forward an NCAA Tournament-viable squad. In other words, don't miss what is, moping about what might have been. And a final word on Howard him- self. He's going to take more swings at top prep players than his prede- cessor. That means more misses, more disappointments. It also means some hits along the way. He is off to one strong start. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Those Who Come Are U-M's Champions Terrance Williams was one of three Michigan signees listed as a consensus four-star recruit by ESPN (No. 79 prospect nationally), Rivals (No. 100) and 247Sports (No. 105). PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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