The Wolverine

June-July 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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34 THE WOLVERINE JUNE/JULY 2021   2021 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY CHRIS BALAS C ollege basketball's trans- fer portal can be the gift that gives, a program killer or somewhere in between. Michigan has lost a few in the past couple years, most notably guard Da- vid DeJulius to Cincinnati, but head coach Juwan Howard has more than made up for it with his diligence in finding the right fits for his program. Columbia point guard Mike Smith and Wake Forest wing Chaundee Brown were instrumental pieces to a Big Ten championship and Elite Eight team this year, identified cor- rectly as two who could provide sig- nificant help. Next season, Howard is banking on Coastal Carolina transfer DeVante' Jones as a player who might push the Wolverines over the hump. The guard room already appears to be in good shape with veteran Eli Brooks returning for a fifth year, second-year freshman Zeb Jackson emerging and four-star frosh Frankie Collins arriv- ing, but U-M now has an experienced piece for depth and to push for the starting job. Jones, who some coaches have lik- ened to a "poor man's Chauncey B i l l u p s " ( f o r - m e r C o l o r a d o a n d l o n g - t i m e NBA guard), an- nounced his decision on Fieldof68. com May 1. "It was just the relationship we built early," Jones said. "As soon as I put my name in the portal, [Howard] reached out to me. He is a genuine guy, picking apart film on my game. … He was showing love throughout the whole process. Also, talking to some of the players, Mike Smith was giving me great pointers about what to expect going into Michigan. "They're family-oriented. … I al- ready felt part of the program before I came in. It's a family environment." That's what most recruits, transfers or otherwise, have said of Howard's program, and it's exactly what they find when they arrive. "What you see is what you get" is how Brown described it after leaving a Big Ten champion, an emotional year for a guy who hadn't come close to a title in three years at Wake Forest. Though many have described him as a score-first point guard, similar to Smith at Columbia, Jones begs to differ. He moved off the ball last year out of necessity so he could add to his scoring total (which he did, putting up 19.3 points per game, which ranked 32nd nationally), but he's always had a well-rounded game. He averaged 5.7 assists as a redshirt sophomore and was adept at getting to the rim. "At Coastal, I was put in positions where I had to score for my team to win," he said. "I'm gritty; I love play- ing both sides of the ball, defense, of- fense. … I just have that effort about myself. Rebounding. I do whatever I've got to do for my team to win. "I do know that at Michigan, Ju- wan Howard believes in me. I can score from all three levels, guard on defense one through three." And he just wants to play and win at the highest level. Coastal Carolina fans understood that, Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun-News reporter Alan Blon- din said, and it's hard to begrudge a kid for chasing his dreams. The transfer portal has yielded some gems and helped kids reach their goals — Smith and Brown are perfect examples. Blondin believes Jones can have a great impact at Michigan. "He was far and away the Player of the Year in the Sun Belt Conference," Blondin said. "He was third in the nation in steals, so that was one of the areas his game really developed in the past year. "He really worked on his defense, becoming quicker with his footwork. He was always a really good offen- sive threat, but that's where he really made a step up. Being No. 3 in the nation in steals is a pretty big deal." Offensively, Blondin continued, Jones is a smooth ball handler who easily gets into the lane, is a good finisher at the rim and can pull up from mid- or long-range. The team moved him to shooting guard for a specific reason. "That freed him up to be more of a scorer and less a facilitator, but he's also a skilled passer when given that opportunity," Blondin added. "He's got an all-around game. There's not an area he's really weak in at this mo- ment; he even shoots 90 percent from the free throw line. "There's not much to not like about his game. He's gotten bigger, 20 pounds heavier than he was as a fresh- man … still not big, but a lot more du- rable that he was a couple years ago." He's also a great kid and leader, Blondin added, honest in his inter- views and a great teammate — "a delight to cover" per the scribe. There's still one hurdle to clear be- fore he arrives on campus, however. Jones has put his name in for NBA D r a f t c o n s i d e r- ation and plans to see it through. "After talking to Coach Howard, he and I both decided me testing the waters would be the best thing for me," Jones said. "I'm definitely going to stay in the draft, go through that process, enjoy that process and then go from there." Given he's not yet among the top 100 prospects on anyone's board, the path appears as though it will go through Ann Arbor. That will give him a chance to hone his skills and, if all goes as planned, be the next transfer to help lead the Wolverines to a special season. ❏ IMPACT TRANSFER Coastal Carolina's DeVante' Jones Is Juwan Howard's Latest Portal Prize Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun-News reporter Alan Blondin on Jones "He's got an all-around game. There's not an area he's really weak in at this moment." Jones averaged 19.3 points per game last sea- son and ranked third nationally in steals, with 2.81 per game (73 total). PHOTO COURTESY COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY

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