The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JANUARY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 47 BY JOHN BORTON J uwan Howard's team un- wrapped its biggest Christmas gift of 2020 well before the ac- tual holiday. It's the gift that figures to keep on giving. Freshman center Hunter Dickinson — all 7-1, 255 pounds of him — already raked in three Big Ten Freshmen of the Week awards during the Wolverines' 7-0 start. At this rate, the class designation will soon disap- pear from those plaudits. The dominating presence out of powerhouse DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., asserted himself as winning in every way over the open- ing five weeks of the college basket- ball season. Dickinson ranked second on the team in scoring (15.3 points per game) and led the way in rebounding (8.4) through seven games. He also paced the squad with 12 blocks. He convincingly impressed one team- mate who deferred his NBA dream to rejoin the Wolverines this winter. "Oh yeah," assured senior forward and team captain Isaiah Livers. "I think he's the most ready freshmen. If we're looking at all the freshmen I've watched this year, Hunter seems like the most ready. "You've got to credit the coaching staff. Coach Howard got him ready." Howard points out the other as- pect of Dickinson's winning ways. Not only is the rookie extremely coachable, he's likable. Teammates describe him as fun to be around, funny, and someone who naturally attracts friends and allies. "Hunter is like [U-M classmate and former AAU teammate] Terrence [Williams II]," Howard said. "Their personalities are different, but they're similar in a lot of ways. "Every guy enjoys being around the those two guys. That makes peo- ple want to play with them." Dickinson flashes a little of his playfulness in discussing his head coach, who wasn't exactly a slouch as a freshman in a Michigan uniform. "Juwan wasn't too bad himself," Dickinson deadpanned. "It's really fun, because it's nothing like I've had before. You're being coached by a big who is so into what he does. "He really loves coaching and get- ting people better. It's a joy for me to be out there getting coached by him." Asked if the head coach readily jumps into the post in practice to take him on, Dickinson tweaked the for- mer NBA All-Star with his response. "Man, I really don't think he wants any part of me now," Dickinson said, laughing. "He's getting too old for me." It's good to be Hunter Dickinson right now. It might be even better to be the second-year college head coach who brought him to Ann Arbor. GROWING UP FAST Dickinson's upward mobility in his chosen sport literally derived from his upward mobility in frame. He stood five feet tall when he turned 8 years old. By fifth grade, he towered over classmates at 5-11. Two years later, he stood 6-3, and by eighth grade, he surveyed the school hallways at 6-10. Reaching his sophomore season at DeMatha, Dick- inson achieved a towering 7-1 (and a half, he added). By eighth grade, he'd cast aside his other main sport of baseball. Terri- fied hitters likely rejoiced, since the lefty first baseman-pitcher would no longer be firing fastballs from on high. "I felt like I was pretty good," Dick- inson offered. "I threw a good ball." But the orange ball called to him like a mythological siren. Dickinson's parents compelled Hunter to go to older brother Ben's basketball tour- naments, and "little" brother quickly discovered a path forward. "I always wanted to be like him, so I started playing," Dickinson re- called. "In eighth grade, I stopped everything else and just focused on basketball." He possessed the tools well before that, Dickinson admitted. But he went through a stretch after reach- ing 10 years of age where he fancied himself as more of a "gamer" than a student of the sport. "I didn't really focus on basket- ball," Dickinson said. "My parents would get mad at me for playing the video games so much. I kind of took a step back. I feel like I was kind of a bum. "When I was first playing with Ter- rence, he was way better than me. I would really not play that much. Once I reclassified, I started taking it much more seriously and started to become a little bit better." Better, in Dickinson's case, meant getting recruited by high school coaches while in the seventh grade. By the time he became a freshman, colleges began lining up. It's little wonder. A year later, he averaged 16.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in helping DeMatha to a 31-5 record and a na- tional No. 6 prep ranking. Sixty-three more victories at DeMatha followed, with Dickinson averaging 18.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a senior on a 30-3 squad ranked No. 3 nationally. He'd been prepped in the tradi- tional location of the brotherhood of hard knocks — the family driveway. There, 6-9 brother Ben, 6-10 brother Grant and 6-5 half-brother Jason made sure the youngest wasn't tak- ing anything for granted. "We'd play very regularly, and it usually ended up in some type of fight," Dickinson recalled. "That made me who I am, playing against them. "I'm not going to lie, they got a lot of buckets against me. That shaped my competitive nature, and some toughness, going against them." They also let him know about it — especially the eldest. "He was always really good, so it was always a challenge for me," Dickinson said. HUGE ADDITION Hunter Dickinson Stands Long On Potential, Longer On Delivery Dickinson was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week three of the first five times this season while helping U-M start 7-0. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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