The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2021 THE WOLVERINE 39 2021-22 BASKETBALL PREVIEW year under his belt. That put a smile on Howard's face, and one of the best per- formers in college basketball at the cen- ter of an imposing frontcourt. Michigan will feature plenty of fire- power at the guard spots this season, no doubt. But the Wolverines feature the sort of frontcourt scoring and rebounding to challenge for top honors in the Big Ten and beyond. Howard waves off rankings, but knows he's got firepower to burn. Not only does his team feature considerable veteran ex- perience and talent for what he describes as a "very young" team, it's supplemented by a consensus top-five recruiting class. Let's just say expectations aren't sag- ging. "I don't know where we were ranked last year, but I know it wasn't No. 1," Howard said. "That just goes to show, it doesn't really matter where you are before the season starts. You have to play your game." Michigan stands ready to play it well again, led by a giant bearing even bigger expectations. CENTER OF ATTENTION Dickinson certainly puts the Wolver- ines head and shoulders above most of the competition from the opening tip. He paced Michigan in scoring and rebound- ing as a freshman, averaging 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He shot 59.8 percent from the field, led U-M with 40 blocked shots and made 73.9 percent of his free throws during a team-best 111 trips to the line. Add in 28 games of college experience, and Dickin- son's good-humored swagger isn't sur- prising. "His love for the game, the level of in- telligence he has displayed in practice and game-like situations, I wasn't surprised that he had early success as a freshman," Howard assured. "In practice he is always one of those guys that comes every day, on time, he works out hard. There are times when he'll call or text me to get extra work in, before or after practice. We'll watch individual film together. "He's a joy to coach. I enjoy having him in my corner." Dickinson certainly isn't coming into his sophomore year overly satisfied. He'll allow the lack of a first-round NBA pro- jection to quietly motivate him, while he improves his off (right) hand and working out of the big-body double-teams. "I'm trusting it more," Dickinson said of his right hand. "I'm still not where I want to be with it, in terms of trusting it, but I've definitely gotten a lot better with it. By the time the season starts, it will be something that I use regularly. "Double teams are really not that fun, I'm not going to lie. But Coach Howard has been working with me on posting up deep, so they can't bring the double team. That's always the best option. Then just working on the face-up game, opening it up and seeing the floor." Without a word, Dickinson chal- lenges perhaps the second-most impos- ing player in Michigan's frontcourt, 6-11, 210-pound freshman forward Moussa Diabate. The lanky, athletic rookie is likely to see his greatest action at power forward this season, but can be called upon to fill in at center on occasion. He's already taken it upon himself to learn from and battle with the starter at that spot. "When you have somebody that has that many accolades, you want to chal- lenge yourself," he said. "By doing this, I'm making myself better, and I'm making him better. That's a conscious thing I'm doing to test my limits and see how far I can go." Johns also provides backup at the five spot. He sees an open opportunity to re- tain his starting power forward position from tournament time, but knows Dick- inson can't play 40 minutes a game. In four NCAA Tournament games, Brandon Johns Jr. — who is expected to start at power forward as a senior, but also provide backup at center — averaged 10 points a game, with 13 rebounds, five steals and four blocks. PHOTO BY BRETT WILHEIM

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