The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 31 returners such as 6-9, 220-pound sophomore guard Franz Wagner; 6-8, 240-pound junior forward Brandon Johns Jr.; 6-10, 250-pound fifth-year senior forward Austin Davis; and 6-1, 185-pound senior guard Eli Brooks to form a playing rotation that could potentially go 10 deep. PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER Howard appreciates the experience on this crew, even if some garnered on-court savvy away from Michigan basketball. Smith, from Columbia, and Brown, out of Wake Forest, took much different paths on their way to Ann Arbor. "The strength of our team is that we have experience, on all levels, at all positions," Howard said. "A guy like Mike, who is a graduate senior, Austin Davis, another one, and you talk about guys like Chaundee, Isa- iah, Eli — all three are seniors. "You add Franz to the mix, and he doesn't play like a typical sopho- more. He's like a seasoned vet. It's great to have that experience. Some of them are new guys. Some of them haven't played together, like it was last year … but we have a team that is familiar with one another." They're getting more and more familiar every day. Smith, the lead- ing candidate to handle much of the point guard duties, delivered some serious respect after seeing his new teammates perform. "I am playing with NBA players, for sure, or players that will play at the next level, who will make a lot of money playing this game," Smith said. "It's amazing to see so many young people that can play the game of basketball, and the talents that they have are tremendous. "I think we can do something spe- cial this year. A lot of people don't notice that. At the end of the day, we're going to come out and fight. That's all part of what Coach [John] Beilein left and Coach Howard is in- stilling now." Howard stood on the verge of guid- ing his first Michigan squad into the NCAA Tournament. He's now craft- ing a new crew with humor — he pranked Brown into thinking he couldn't play, before revealing the waiver approval, setting off a wild team celebration — emotional invest- ment, and his NBA aura and teaching. Howard appears wholly undaunted by the task of putting all the parts to- gether. In explaining why, he offers a proud, time-honored declaration. "We're Michigan," he stressed. "You come to a very unique, special place, an amazing institution that provides an awesome education and a great athletic program. You have guys that buy in because they want to be here. "When you have a group that wants to be in a place that they call home, you embrace it that way. It 2020-21 BASKETBALL PREVIEW Despite being limited by injuries to 21 of the team's 31 games last year, senior forward Isaiah Livers tied for the U-M lead with 12.9 points per game. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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