The Wolverine

January 2024

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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36 THE WOLVERINE ❱ JANUARY 2024 BY CLAYTON SAYFIE M i c h i ga n 's two c a p - tains, junior guard Jace Howard and graduate forward Olivier Nka- mhoua, pulled sophomore point guard Dug McDaniel aside before the season. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder is one of two returning starters on the team, joining senior forward Terrance Williams II, and easily the most important given his posi- tion. "They said, 'Bro, we're going to go as far as you go,'" McDaniel recalled. "I didn't realize it, because I'm still a sophomore and they're older guys, but that really hit m e h a rd . T h e s e g uys a re l o o k i n g up to a sophomore. So, I've just got to make sure I'm the best version of my- self every day. In their eyes, I'm not a sophomore, so I've just got to look at it the same as them. "It's really different when you hear it from the guys that you're out there battling with, so I took it to heart and I try to be the best version of myself — not only for me, but I'm the head of the snake for my team." McDaniel was thrown into the fire last season, stepping into the starting lineup for the final 26 games when graduate transfer Jaelin Llewellyn went down with an ACL injury. He was a freshman and looked like one at times, but he also showed great prom- ise at other points. He's much more comfortable this season, as a leader, scorer, distributor — you name it. Much of that comes from the work he put in this past offseason — the "silent grind," as he called it. No cameras, no phones, just good old-fashioned hard work. That's where his leadership de- veloped, too, frequently training with teammates and spending time together off the court. "Getting in the gym with other guys, not just working out by myself, building that camaraderie on the pick and roll," McDaniel said of how he's improved. "Me and T-Reed [sophomore forward Tarris Reed Jr.] have worked out, me and 'O' [Nkamhoua] have worked out a lot in the mornings. Working out with other guys, feeling their spots, where they want the ball. And just me studying the game." McDaniel watches film of himself, teammates and NBA stars like Kyrie Ir- ving of the Dallas Mavericks and Chris Paul of the Golden State Warriors. He flips on the tape whenever he gets the chance, even in line at the grocery store or during a timeout of a game he's watching at home. "I've taken pride in being a student of the game," McDaniel noted. "I take ev- erything I learn off the court and apply it on the court." The Washington, D.C., native isn't just one of Michigan's top leaders, but he's pacing the team in scoring (18.6 points per game) and assists (5.1) through 10 outings. It's early in the sea- son, but his scoring average is the high- est for any Wolverine in a season since Louis Bullock in 1998-99 (20.7) and most among U-M point guards since Jalen Rose in 1993-94 (19.9). If that pace holds, McDaniel will rank eighth in Michigan's record book for the most points per game in a single season, right behind No. 8 Rickey Green, another speedy point guard who put up 19.7 points per night in 1976-77. "We had point guards, with Darius Morris passing on to Trey Burke, who then passed it on to Derrick Walton [Jr.], who passed it on to Zavier Simpson. And it looks like Dug McDaniel is very much along that pass-first point guard who can shoot, he can score," former Michigan head coach John Beilein, now a Big Ten Network analyst, said on "The Huge Show." "It's amazing when you pass first, how many points you score, because the ball comes back to you." McDaniel has had some ups and downs, but he's increased his ef- ficiency tremendously this season. Through Dec. 10, he's connecting on 36.7 percent of his 60 three-point at- tempts and 53 per- cent of his 83 shots from inside the arc. Those marks are up from 35.5 and 39.9 percent last season, respectively. " I ' m s h o o t i n g the ball really well, and that's some- thing that I made a priority over the offseason," McDaniel explained. "Just coming into the sea- son, I wanted to let others know that I'm going to shoot, they're going to have to respect it and that's going to open it up for our teammates." DUG DROPS 33 Michigan traveled 2,000 miles west to Eugene for a Dec. 2 road matchup against Oregon. Apparently, the Wol- verines didn't pack their defense, al- lowing 86 overall points and 1.23 per possession in an 86-83 overtime loss. But they — or at least one guy — were able to score, led by Mc- Daniel's 33 with a ca- reer-high 7 made three- pointers. That was the highest point total by a Wolver- ine in a game since guard Jett Howard scored 34 points in an overtime loss at Iowa Jan. 12, 2023. It was also the most a Michigan point guard has scored in a game this century and the third time a Wolverine at that position has dropped 30 or more points in a game, joining Za- vier Simpson (32 vs. Wisconsin in 2019- 20) and Trey Burke (30 vs. Minnesota in 2011-12). "Dang, the kid's on fire," redshirt HEAD OF THE SNAKE Michigan Will Go As Far As Dug McDaniel Takes Them ❱ Redshirt sophomore Will Tschetter, on McDaniel "That dude's just a gamer. You know what to expect from him every single time he touches the floor for game day."

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