The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2021 THE WOLVERINE 35 2021-22 BASKETBALL PREVIEW ines basketball has had outstanding guards, all of whom improved while playing in maize and blue. Howard took it in a new and success- ful direction last year when he added a transfer, Columbia's Mike Smith, to the mix. All Smith did was continue the outstanding culture, finish with 5.3 as- sists per game and help lead U-M to a Big Ten title and the Elite Eight. It worked so well that Howard and Co. went out and got another transfer in Coastal Carolina's DeVante' Jones, a point guard who averaged 19.6 points and took 26.2 percent of his team's shots last year out of necessity. Two years ago, Jones was asked to be the set-up man, and he responded by leading the Sun Belt Conference with 183 assists (5.7 per game) — nearly five times the number posted by his next- closest teammate (40). In short, he can do it all and pretty much anything his coaches request of him. Now, he'll be asked to do it at the highest level of college basketball, and he is one of the keys to the favored Wol- verines' 2021-22 season. "You can just tell that he's an experi- enced college guard," sophomore cen- ter Hunter Dickinson said. "He's really crafty, really skilled. "… I think his biggest impact will be defensively. I swear he's everywhere, in the lanes. I love it when he's on my team because I know if I'm in help or in ball- screen coverage trying to get back to my man, I see him come out of nowhere and just take [the ball]. He makes me look really good out there if I mess up." Equally important, if not greater, is his 'fit' on the team. Howard constantly speaks of culture, giving Beilein credit for establishing it long before he ar- rived. At the same time, the head coach has more than done his part to ensure it continues, speaking all the time about how "we're not for everyone," noting it takes the right kind of player in all facets to excel in his program. The most obvious trait, he said, is "can you play?" Beyond that, though, there's an extensive checklist. "Not only can you play, but your passion and love for growth. Are you a growth-mindset individual or 'I, I, I, me, me, me [guy]?' " the coach contin- ued. "So far, we haven't found that yet … we haven't seen it. What we have, it's interesting in that locker room. You have guys that are built the right way … the right way is the winning way. "[But] keep the main thing the main thing — the Michigan education. You have to qualify there, too. Look at the transcripts, see if it fits the school, al- lows you to be accepted here. The ad- ministration here does not play with admissions. So it's not just being able to play basketball … they go hand in hand." They need to be great teammates, too, and Jones has fit the bill. He came in with humility and the understanding that they might need the set-up man version of him rather than the scorer, and he's embraced it. "I knew what I was getting myself into when I committed to Michigan. I have no problem with deferring to other guys," he said. "I've got an All-Ameri- can in Hunter. I've got a great guy like [fifth-year senior guard] Eli [Brooks], one of the best freshmen in the country in [wing] Caleb [Houstan], I've got [se- nior forward] Brandon Johns. "So, it's really an easy transition for me, knowing I can pass the ball to guys I trust, knowing I can score the ball at a high level. I love it. I'm able to show my I.Q. and my passing ability— that's a good thing for me, actually." Admittedly "not a great athlete," Jones is strong with his body and can get into the lane. His floater has proven to be one of his best weapons, his shot has improved dramatically according to assistant Phil Martelli, and he's a plus defender, finishing fourth nationally with 2.8 steals per game last season. "I feel like, with my body size, it During his career at Coastal Carolina, guard DeVante' Jones racked up 1,381 points (17.0 average), 460 rebounds (5.7), 341 assists (4.2) and 158 steals (2.0) in 81 appearances. PHOTO BY BOB MCCOOL / CCU MEDIA RELATIONS

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