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The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MAY 2020 THE WOLVERINE 53   BASKETBALL RECRUITING and play," Howard added. "Hunter and Terrance have had many battles in the Catholic league (WCAC) the last four years; however, the friendship and respect that they have for each other on and off the court gives them an unbelievable chemistry." Howard, meanwhile, comes to Ann Arbor after averaging 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists as a senior at University School, help- ing the Sharks to a 27-5 record and the regional semifinal of the Class 5A playoffs. Despite missing eight weeks with a fractured tibia in his ju- nior season, he returned for the post- season and helped University claim the 2019 FHSAA Class 5A state title. "Without question, this a special day for my family and I that I will be able to coach my son," Howard said. "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. 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. "Originally, we had some discus- sions about Jace walking on. Af- ter some attrition this offseason it opened up opportunities for us to explore different scenarios. After dis- cussing several options with the staff, we were excited to extend a scholar- ship to him. We know, and myself first hand, his work ethic and grow- ing ability will only help us." MORE HELP ON THE WAY Those weren't the only additions Howard brought to the program. The Wolverines needed a guard after Za- vier Simpson's graduation and David DeJulius' transfer to Cincinnati, so the coach found Columbia graduate transfer point guard Mike Smith to help fill a void with the expectation that he could provide immediate help. A two-time All-Ivy League second- team selection (2018, 2020), the 5-10 Smith started 91 of 92 career games for the Lions and closed with 1,653 career points, fourth all time at the school, while his 393 assists rank second all time. He finished sixth nationally in scoring at 22.8 points per game at the conclusion of this season, including a career-best 38 points in a double- overtime game at Harvard Feb. 28. "When we looked at our roster, we wanted to make sure we had some depth, as well as experience, at the guard position," Howard said. "Mike had a sensational career at Columbia, and we are thrilled to have him join us. He will be an extension of the coaching staff to our young guards and, having been through the battles on the floor, his experiences will be invaluable." On film, albeit against weaker competition, Smith shows the abil- ity to score off the dribble and use the ball screen. He is the antithesis of former U-M point guard Zavier Simpson in that he's got an outstand- ing midrange game and floater in the paint — on the flip side, he was not good at the rim at just better than 50 percent. He still averaged 24.4 points per game in conference play, by far the best in the Ivy League, and was second in assists per game (4.3) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) despite his heavy usage. The biggest question is how his game will translate in the Big Ten. Many of his pull-ups were barely over outstretched fingertips, and he'll face much more length and ath- leticism in the Big Ten. It's highly unlikely he'll reach 50 percent at the rim, if he can get there against the better athletes he'll face. He's good in the ball screen game, though, and at finding teammates out of it. Smith tore his meniscus in 2018-19, allowing him to graduate with one year of eligibility remaining. He chose the Wolverines over Arizona and Gonzaga. As for those who got away — Ri-'s national recruiting analyst Corey Evans might have summed it up best. "The long-awaited commitment of five-star Josh Christopher turned into a horror story, while the much- celebrated commitment of five- star Isaiah Todd turned ill-fated," Ev- ans noted. "The [Michigan staff] was told all winter long to just relax by the Christopher camp despite there being a general sense that he was a heavy Michigan lean since Janu- ary. Why, then, would he wait three months to just commit to the Wolver- ines if something wasn't up? "Then came Todd, someone who a number of coaching staffs never even broached the idea of recruit- ing, knowing that the pro route was always the likeliest route for the fall. That turned out to be true, as Todd will not play college basketball. … Maybe I am sipping the Kool-Aid but, taking a step back, I actually like how Michigan's roster stands com- pared to if Christopher and/or Todd would have enrolled. Sure, its ceiling for success would have been higher, but cohesion and role allocation will be much more seamless." Especially if the Wolverines find a shot-making guard in the transfer portal, he noted. U-M has kicked the tires on a few, but George Mason's Justin Kier seemed to be the most likely. He eliminated Michigan from contention April 23, leaving the Wol- verines with a need. Without another guard, the Wol- verines will have Williams, senior Eli Brooks, junior Adrien Nunez and sophomore Cole Bajema contend- ing for time — three unprovens with Brooks — and a couple of roles to fill. "If [a good shooting two guard] is found, maybe Michigan's awful 24 hours could be an entirely forgotten account by March for a team that could be waist deep in the race for a Big Ten title," Evans said. Especially if some of the newcom- ers make an immediate impact. ❑ On The Web For regular reports on Michigan basketball recruiting plus videos of U-M commitments and targets visit Graduate transfer guard Mike Smith started 91 of the 92 games he played at Columbia, where he finished in the program's all-time top five for points (1,653, fourth) and assists (393, second). PHOTO COURTESY COLUMBIA

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