The Wolverine

February 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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60 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2021   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? in the [NCAA] Tournament. We thought we had a good enough ré- sumé. For whatever reason, others didn't, and that's fine. So once we won, we were able to say, we did be- long. We used that as motivation for the next year." Given the graduation of veteran talent, Munger became a starter her junior season. The promotion didn't arrive without some reluctance on her part. "I told Coach I hated starting," she said. "I got really comfortable my freshman and sophomore year, being able to watch the first five to seven minutes of the game. You go in, and everyone else is a little more tired, and I got to turn up the energy. "I loved that. It's a different men- tality, even through warmups, when you're starting. It's okay, I've got to be ready to go from the tip. Once I got used to it and comfortable, it was fine." Munger adjusted well enough to average 9.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in 32 minutes a game. She shot 40.4 percent beyond the arc, helping lead the Wolverines to their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2013. The Wolverines handled Northern Colorado in the tournament's first round, but fell hard against No. 2 Baylor in the second round. The week in Waco, Texas, still proved priceless. "It's just different," she said. "It's a different feel. There's really no way to describe it, other than it's the big stage. It's what you play for. Being able to experience that, being with all the Texans in Waco, experiencing the culture of what the NCAA Tourna- ment is about, that was incredible." As a senior, Munger set her sights on another prize, unprecedented in Michigan women's basketball — a Big Ten championship. The Wolver- ines didn't get there, but again made the NCAA Tournament. Munger stepped up as a leader, vocally and in her overall maturity. "It's not what you see at the end of the year," she said. "It's all the days that add up to that last day, that you have to work for." She averaged 10.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. She topped 1,000 career points in Michigan's blowout win over Kansas State in the first round of the tournament. Yet that's not what she talked about in recalling the game. "It was really, really cool, because every single person got into the game," Munger stressed. "We had a senior, my classmate, whose name is Sam [Trammel]. She never played as much, but she was always helping me off the court. On the court, she was on top of fouls and telling me things in the game. "Just to see her be able to get in the game — that wasn't normal at all — was really, really special. In an NCAA Tournament game, that doesn't happen." Such a combination of competitive- ness and compassion doesn't happen often either. Munger poured both into her next step up the ladder. She knew Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley, who recruited her out of high school. The city wasn't calling Munger 's name at the time, but that soon changed. Gaitley planted a seed at the Gulf Coast Showcase — where Michigan and Fordham both competed — dur- ing Munger 's senior season. The Fordham coach quickly followed up after graduation. "We ran into each other in the el- evator [at the Gulf Coast Showcase]," Munger said. "I was like, 'Coach, how are you doing? Great to see you.' She told me to stay in contact. "When I walked into my house after graduation — literally the mo- ment I walked into my house, after I'd flown home from Michigan — I got a text. The rest is history." Munger loves serving as a "jack-of- all-trades" now, working in recruit- ing, scouting, video, etc. "The people here are just amaz- ing, starting at the top with Coach Gaitley," Munger said. "She always walks in every day with a smile on her face, and she's one of the kindest people I've ever met in my life. "When it starts with the head coach, it trickles down to everyone. Everyone is willing to help out with everything, and teaching me more things about the game of basketball. "Obviously, I have Coach Arico's method in my head, because I've learned it for so long. Now I'm learn- ing different things, and I'm really diving deep into different things." ❑ The Nicole Munger File Michigan Accomplishments: Appeared in 136 of 139 games played over her four years at Michigan … Became a three-time Academic All-Big Ten performer … Notched her 1,000th career point in the NCAA Tournament as a senior, be- coming the 28th Wolverine to reach that level … Helped their Wolverines to their first NCAA Tournament appearances since 2013. Professional Accomplishments: Hired right out of Michigan to serve as the co- ordinator of recruiting and player development for Fordham University women's basketball. Michigan Memory: "The impact Michigan had on my life is something I'm forever thankful for, and thankful to Coach [Kim Barnes Arico] for. It's rare to see how many people Michigan has, competing at the highest level, whether that be in academics or athletics. "Everyone is an expert in their field. My astronomy professors were writing theses, and one of my communications professors was a CNN reporter, and he traveled the world. Every single person there is the best at what they do. "That's what's driving me now: how can I be the best at what I do?" Education: Earned a bachelor's degree in communications, with a minor in business, in the spring of 2019. After graduating from Michigan in 2019, Munger was immediately hired as Fordham University 's coordinator of recruiting and player development. PHOTO COURTESY FORDHAM ATHLETICS

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