The Wolverine

June-July 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 65 F or the second straight offseason, Michigan and head coach Juwan How- ard convinced a coveted guard in the transfer portal to come to Ann Arbor. Last year, it was Columbia's Mike Smith. This year, it was Coastal Carolina's DeVante' Jones, who commit- ted to U-M on May 1. Like Smith did, Jones in- stantly brings much-needed experience to Michigan's backcourt. Before Jones' an- nouncement, the three Wol- verines most likely to win the starting guard position opposite of super senior Eli Brooks were second-year freshman Zeb Jackson (83 total minutes in 2020-21), and true freshmen Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin. Now, Jones, who has 75 career games under his belt and started the last 50 he played as a Chanticleer, can step right into the starting lineup or, at a minimum, be a sixth man that reduces the weight on Jackson, Col- lins and Bufkin. Jones was coveted for reasons different than Smith, though. Jones packages a different style of play than Smith and Brooks. Whereas Smith and Brooks make the occa- sional foray into the paint, Jones will make his living in the lane by going to the bucket and earning points down low. Listed at 6-1, Jones is not afraid to mix it up amongst the trees. In fact, he prefers it. Jones takes a higher share of his shots at the rim than at any other location on the court. Last season, 42.0 percent of his shots were at the rim, whereas 39.3 per- cent were threes and 18.6 percent were two-point jumpers. The year before, he made even more of an effort to maneuver into the paint — 45.1 percent of his attempts were at the basket. Those numbers starkly contrast with Smith and Brooks, who hoisted only 22.7 and 26.3 per- cent of their respective shots at the rim last year. Jones has shown that he can find his way to the basket in a variety of different forms. He can do it on his own off the dribble, whether it is attacking a closeout or via a pick- and-roll or pick-and-pop. He can also do it away from the ball with smart cuts to the hoop and getting in transition. Jones has prioritized this element of his game because he is proficient at it. It is one thing to get to the rim often. It is another to finish with critical consistency, especially with his smaller size. In each of his last two seasons, Jones converted at least 60.0 percent of his looks at the tin (62.1 in 2020-21 and 60.8 in 2019- 20). Last season, Jones was one of 27 players nationally listed at 6-1 or shorter with at least 100 tries at the rim. Among them, he was fourth at making them. To be this successful around the hoop at Jones' height, one has to be creative and he does not lack in that department. Jones is not scoring at the rim with only simple layups off the backboard. He has learned how to find difficult, unique angles through the waving arms of longer defenders by utilizing floaters and hanging longer in the air as he flies through the paint. Jones is also not afraid to use his body. Jones was listed at 200 pounds by Coastal Carolina last season. For com- parison's sake, both Smith and Brooks were listed 15 pounds lighter at 185. Jones certainly understands how to use those extra 15 pounds to muscle his way to the rim. He knows how to absorb the contact from big- ger defenders in the paint and finish his shot attempt. Regardless of whether Jones finishes through contact, his ability to generate that contact with defenders also leads to trips to the charity stripe. He lined up for 150 free throws in 2020-21 and 119 in 2019-20. This resulted in a free throw rate, which is the number of free throws attempted divided by the number of field goals attempted, of 38.7 percent in 2020-21 and 45.5 percent in 2019-20. This would have been among the best on Michigan's roster, especially among the Wolverines' guards. In fact, Jones shot more free throws than Smith (58) and Brooks (44) combined (102). Jones does not waste those oppor- tunities either. He, like Smith and Brooks, has a dead eye from the free throw line. He has knocked down at least 85.0 percent of his freebies the past two years. So Michigan's offense will have a different look with Jones on the court. He will not space the floor as much as Smith did. But that does not mean Jones will be ineffective. Instead, Jones will complement Brooks' spot-up shooting by being the guard that penetrates and posts points in the paint or at the line, particularly when an offensive set breaks down at the end of at the shot clock. That is what makes Jones so cov- eted and Michigan so happy he will be in the Maize and Blue. ❏ INSIDE THE NUMBERS   DREW HALLETT Jonesing For Points At The Rim Staff writer Drew Hallett has covered Michigan athletics since 2013. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @DrewCHallett. Though just 6-1, DeVante' Jones — who announced his transfer from Coastal Carolina to U-M May 1 — is proficient at going to the bucket and earning points down low. PHOTO BY BOB McCOOL/COURTESY COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY

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