The Wolverine

Sept 2023

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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44 THE WOLVERINE ❱ SEPTEMBER 2023 BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan head coach Ju- wan Howard and his staff won't have a lot of depth in the frontcourt this year, but there is a lot of potential, especially among the two projected starters. Soph- omore Tarris Reed Jr. will carry the load at center after Hunter Dickinson's departure (to Kan- sas), and he's improved dramati- cally. Seton Hall transfer Tray Jackson has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his frame, and he'll also have a role. But many eyes are on Tennes- see forward transfer Olivier Nka- mhoua, who has hit the ground running since arriving in Ann Arbor. Folks in the building say he's been exactly what the pro- gram needed — a great culture guy with athleticism and great upside — and ex- pect him to have his best year of college basketball in 2023-24. "He's a man," Michigan associate head coach Phil Martelli said on the "Defend the Block" podcast with U-M play-by-play man Brian Boesch. "He's a man on the floor, off the floor, in the locker room. He has a seriousness of purpose that maybe he didn't have when he was 17, or maybe that any 17-year-old would have. He knows what he wants to do. He knows the joy of winning and he understands the preparation. It's not just wanting to win — it's preparing to win. "He has not been afraid to speak up, and he's not going to sit on the side. If he sees a guy going left when we need him to go straight, he'll grab that guy. [It's only been] two and a half weeks, but he has one of those work ethics that is legendary for the Michigan program. He's going to get in the gym twice a day. He's going to work; he wants to be coached. Even in a short period of time, he has created a real comfortable rela- tionship with Juwan." Nkamhoua carries himself like a win- ner and an old soul, Martelli added, and he's been great for the locker room. So, too, has Jackson, who comes in with a chip on his shoulder. The coach said Jackson doesn't look 6-foot-10 — maybe a little smaller — but he's im- pressed in the early going. "He's got that lefty gait, that lefty jumper. He's a terrific young guy to talk to one-on-one," Martelli said. "We're still trying to find out the right way to coach him. He's had different coaches — Missouri, and at Seton Hall he had two different coaches. This is his fourth dif- ferent coaching staff. You have to find out what's the right way to connect. "I think the biggest thing with him that fans will appreciate is his versatil- ity. He can come in and somebody will say, 'Today, he's the small forward.' But tomorrow, he could be the power for- ward. There were times at Seton Hall where he guarded the '5' man. So, is he another candidate for small ball along with Olivier, along with [redshirt soph- omore] Will Tschetter? I would say yes." Alabama transfer guard Nimari Bur- nett (6-4, 200), meanwhile, will be asked to make major strides after av- eraging 5.6 points per game a year ago for the Crimson Tide. He's at his third school, too, and looking to maximize his potential at Michigan. "Nimari is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful young guy. He's dif- ferent than most young players in that he's built defensively to of- fensively," Martelli said. "You can see the physique. His shooting is improving, but needs to improve [more], and I think he's accepting the trust that he will be given to play with the ball. " I 'm n o t say i n g a ny t h i n g about his earlier time in college, but I'm sure in this program he has the ball more than he has in other settings." His eyes are wide open, Mar- telli said, meaning his heart is open. He wants to be coached and to please, and he's working hard knowing he likely has a huge role on this team. Finally, freshman shooting guard George Washington III (6-2, 170) could provide something the Wolver- ines desperately need in the shooting department. There's an "excitement and joy" every time he interacts with him, Martelli said, and in everything the frosh does. He'll likely have to play a role in 2023. "Man, he can really shoot the ball. If there's one thing that they'll all tell you around here, I like when the ball goes in the basket," Martelli said. "He's got a beautiful stroke. His ball skills are a work in progress, but his attention to detail is extraordinary for a young player. He really wants to be coached. He wants you to explain; he wants to get it right. "He's a pleaser. I would pay him the ultimate compliment. I wasn't here, but I can't believe that [former Michigan guard] Eli Brooks would have been fur- ther along than George was now as a freshman. When I say Eli 2.0 — I don't even know what that means — but that's what I hope for him. I hope that his ca- reer mimics Eli's." U-M VETERANS SHOWING SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT Sophomore center Tarris Reed Jr. (6- 10, 265) has been "very strong" in the ❱  MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Associate Head Coach Phil Martelli Dishes On Newcomers Detroit native and Seton Hall transfer Tray Jackson has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-10 frame this summer. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY

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