The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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42 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2021 2021-22 BASKETBALL PREVIEW BY CLAYTON SAYFIE W hile several key pieces re- main from Michigan's 2020- 21 Big Ten championship- winning squad, the 2021-22 team will have a new look and fresh flair to it, with seven out of the 14 scholarship players being new to the program. Head coach Juwan Howard and Co. reeled in the nation's No. 3-ranked re- cruiting class, according to, which included two five-stars in Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate, three four- stars in Kobe Bufkin, Frankie Collins and Isaiah Barnes, plus one three-star in Will Tschetter. Houstan, Diabate and Bufkin were all named to the McDonald's All- American Game roster. The head man has been impressed to this point, especially with the way they've checked their egos at the door. "What I've been able to see is young guys really embrace wanting to grow and learn," Howard said of the highly touted freshmen. "No one has come in with an attitude or a type of cockiness that they [think they] know everything. "They've also accepted coaching from their teammates, upperclassmen who have been with the program for years. I've always looked at whichever guy that's go- ing to be a part of our team, character has to be the No. 1 quality that really matters to the culture." The Maize and Blue also plucked former Coastal Carolina point guard DeVante' Jones, the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year, from the transfer portal. "Each and every one of these young guys — including DeVante' Jones — are all high-character guys that each and every guy who walks in that locker room enjoys being around," Howard explained. Jones is expected to be the team's pri- mary lead guard, after averaging 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game during the 2020-21 campaign, lead- ing the Chanticleers to an 18-8 record. He shot 48.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range. While his assist numbers were down last season, it's important to note he played mostly off the ball. In 2019-20, he started at point guard, dishing out a Sun Belt-best 5.7 assists per outing. He should be able to plug and play, af- ter the Wolverines lost former Columbia transfer Mike Smith to the pros — and could even potentially be an upgrade at the position, with the ability to ex- cel in a couple areas Smith didn't. The 6-1, 200-pounder averaged 1.15 points per possession in transition last season, which ranked in the 72nd percentile na- tionally according to Synergy, and he's known as a plus defender. "DeVante' is a veteran," fifth-year se- nior guard Eli Brooks said. "He under- stands the game and has a high basketball IQ and motor. When we play in an open gym, he's everywhere. He could be the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year with his activity. He brings it every single day, so that's just something I can appreciate." Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson played with Jones at the NBA G League Elite Camp over the summer, and left ex- tremely impressed with his overall game. "He has a really good chance of winning Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten," Dickinson said. "It was good he was able to come back with me, because we're going to need him this year." The Wolverines lost two starting wings in Franz Wagner, the No. 8 overall pick to the Orlando Magic, and Isaiah Livers, a second-round selection by the Detroit Pistons, leaving the door wide open for Houstan to nab a starting spot at the '3' position, where Wagner resided. Livers was the team's go-to shooter from deep, nailing 43.1 percent of his three-point attempts, while Wagner was the ball handler for 14.1 percent of the Wolverines' pick-and-rolls. Houstan should be able to help in both areas, while his defense continues to improve. A product of the elite Montverde (Fla.) Academy,'s No. 8 player in the 2021 class helped lead Team Canada to the bronze medal in the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup in Latvia over the summer, averaging 17 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game, with six double-figure scoring outings in seven appearances. Many believe Houstan will play just one collegiate season, with rank- ing the sharpshooter as the No. 5 overall prospect for the 2022 NBA Draft in late August. During his time in Ann Arbor, Former Coastal Carolina point guard DeVante' Jones, the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year, came to Michigan via the transfer por- tal after averaging 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game during the 2020-21 campaign. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY MIXING IN SOME NEW WITH THE OLD Michigan's Newcomers Are Expected To Make Big Impacts

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