The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JANUARY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 49 Howard comes across initially re- sistant to the idea of lavishing praise on a big man six games into his col- lege career. But that's directly re- lated to what he knows Dickinson can become. "Hunter is still growing at this point," Howard said. "There are still a lot of areas that he — as well as his teammates — can improve on. The beauty of coaching Hunter is that he embraces the opportunity of being coached and wanting to get better. "Early on, he's just scratching the surface. I put more pressure on Hunter than he may put on himself — or he may disagree with me. I just feel he's one of the best bigs in col- lege basketball. That's the goal — he's going to try to develop into one of the best bigs in college basketball. "He knows he has a lot of work to do. We're not there yet, but it's great to see, game-by-game, he's improving." Breaking it down, the Michigan head coach acknowledges there are plenty of attributes to appreciate. "I love everything about him," Howard said. "Like any player, there's always room to grow. But I love the fact that, A, he's a competi- tor; B, he has a high IQ; C, he plays well with his back to the basket; D, he's a great passing big, whether it's on the high post or the low post. "Hunter is a very skilled big that can play inside and outside. He's de- veloping, getting better practice by practice. Freshmen have those mo- ments in practice where they do great things, and those practices where you feel like hey, there's more work we have to do." When there was more work to do on finishing in the paint, Dickinson got after it — with Howard's help. The rookie feels infinitely more com- fortable doing so now, especially off the pick-and-roll, because of drilling it with someone who has been there at the highest level. PREPPED FOR MASSIVE SUCCESS It's safe to say he won't be intimi- dated by any opponent this season, no matter how rugged. Iowa's 6-11, 265-pound senior center Luka Garza embodies the present Big Ten stan- dard for man-mountain bulldozing around the paint. Been there. Done that. Garza and Dickinson have crossed paths before, plenty. As an eighth grader, Dickinson began practicing with the 17U squad for the AAU's Team Takeover, which featured Garza. "I went against Luka probably two to three times a week," Dickinson recalled. "That's how we started to know each other. We've talked to each other ever since." Garza isn't the only high-level op- ponent or teammate Dickinson has come across. "Myles Dread [of Penn State] is a good example of somebody I've played against that I've known for a while," he said. "I grew up with him and played with him my freshman year with Team Takeover. I'm used to playing against friends." As a freshman at DeMatha, he per- formed in the Peach Jam with stand- outs such as the NBA's Jalen Smith, formerly at Maryland; Dread; Xavier Johnson from Pitt; and Butler's Bryce Golden. "I was the youngest on the team," Dickinson remembered. "Playing be- hind those guys, and in there holding my own against other competition — that's when I started to break out and get national attention." Hence Brooks' comment about backing down from nobody. "I'm pretty confident in myself," Dickinson admitted. "I'm confident in my teammates, and my coaches' game plan. I get a little nervous out there on the court before the game. That's every game. If you're not ner- vous, you're not ready. "But I'm out there and I'm confident in my ability and my team's ability. I wouldn't say I'm scared of anybody." Or any challenge, at this point. Just like Howard insists Dickinson can be one of the best big men in the nation, the freshman sees great heights in store for his band of brothers. "This team can be one of the best in the country, for sure," he said. "We have so much talent, and we're so deep, we're able to do a lot of things, offensively and defensively. We've got a pretty good coach [laughs] and that always helps. "I think everybody on the team has national championship aspirations. I don't think they're fools to have those." ❑ Though Dickinson started just two of the season's first seven games, he led U-M in rebound- ing (8.4 per contest) and blocks (12), and was second in scoring (15.3 points per game). PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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