The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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30 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2020 BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan players trudged off the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — uncer- tain, bewildered, feeling the most electric time of the year spin out of their control. It was March 12, 2020, the last time a Michigan team took the court to play a basketball game. That contest didn't happen. The Rutgers-Michigan showdown in the Big Ten Basketball Tournament never took place. Neither did the rest of March Madness. Coronavirus claimed victory. For some Wolverines, the end ar- rived more ingloriously than if they'd gone down swinging at some far-flung NCAA Tournament venue. Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske — the two seniors on the squad — never got that chance. Since then, there's been retention, massive overhaul and a slow meld- ing of talent and personalities. What emerged reveals what should be a very competitive crew for Juwan Howard, about to enter a season still under COVID's shadow. "During the football Big Ten sea- son, there have been postponements, because of a stoppage of play," How- ard mused. "COVID is winning. How can we learn on the fly? It's fluid every day. How can we keep our guys safe in the process?" Keeping them safe, and winning, dominates Howard's planning for the 2020-21 campaign. He's already achieved substantial progress on the winning side. Elements therein include: • Keeping senior forward Isaiah Livers on board, when he opted not to pursue an early exit to the NBA. Liv- ers decided to finish out his Michigan career — hopefully healthier than in an injury-jostled junior season — be- fore pursuing the professional level. • Adding key transfers in 5-11, 185-pound point guard Mike Smith, a grad student, and 6-5, 215-pound swingman Chaundee Brown Jr., a se- nior recently receiving a waiver to compete immediately. • Welcoming a host of talented fresh- men — 7-1, 255-pound center Hunter Dickinson; 6-5, 180-pound guard Zeb Jackson; 6-7, 210-pound guard Jace Howard; and 6-7, 240-pound forward Terrance Williams II. They'll all team with key 2019-20 COMING TOGETHER Juwan Howard's Team Seeks A Tight Bond In his first year as a head coach, Howard guided the Wolverines to a 19-12 overall record, including a 10-10 showing in the Big Ten, which based on projections at the time was enough to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN 2020-21 BASKETBALL PREVIEW

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