The Wolverine

March 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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78 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2018 BY JOHN BORTON J ordan Poole just might be the most confident Michigan fresh- man basketball player since Jalen Rose ambled onto the court in the fall of 1991. There's not a shot he doesn't like. When he lights up a three-pointer, he might raise his hands, look to Mich- igan's Maize Rage student section and draw the leaping, thunderous response of a full-gospel preacher exhorting an on-go audience. Brimming with athletic talent, he'll poke a ball away, then set sail for a crowd-igniting dunk. He'll elec- trify onlookers via moves with "star" stamped on them. So why does the rookie guard pro- duce more EJBLs (Exasperated John Beilein Looks) and accompanying teaching moments than perhaps any- one on the roster? That's easy. He's a freshman, awash in both spectacular successes and failures. With the Wolverines trying to close out a rare win at Wisconsin's Kohl Center, Poole fouled a three-point shooter. Beilein appeared torn be- tween appealing to the heavens for help and unleashing some hellish commentary regarding the late-game gaffe. Twenty-nine games into his rookie season, Poole sported a mod- est 13 assists paired with 17 turn- overs — an unfortunate combination in Beilein's basketball protecting/ sharing system. Through the ups and downs, the freshman remains irrepressible, uber- confident even to the most self-as- sured of the Wolverines. Poole opened his Big Ten career by nailing five three-pointers en route to a career-high 19 points against In- diana. He brought down the house versus Maryland, sparking a Michi- gan comeback from a 10-point deficit with a trio of threes and some crowd- detonating gesticulations along the way. Afterward, junior forward Moritz Wagner — no wallflower, by any means — smiled and shook his head over the never-fearful frosh. "Jordan gave us a lot of swag," Wagner said. "That's what he does. Sometimes he's too swaggy, but he's out there just confident, knocking it down. He lives for that type of stuff, and he doesn't even know it. It's incredible." "I don't know what he's talking about," Poole countered, breaking into a broad grin. "I feel like you can never have too much swag. Whether I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, putting the ball in the bucket or bringing energy to the team, having swag is just a part of my game. "It's been a part of my game since I was in high school. Moe constantly reminds me that I am the version he was, when he was a freshman. I'm like, nah — I'm a little bit more swag- gier than he is. We talk about that." Wherever Poole falls on the Swag- meter, there's one inarguable fact relating to his growth as a player — Beilein and Michigan's coaches enjoy a genuine weapon at their disposal, but one requiring refinement to make it more effective. In other words, Beilein gets to teach, which offsets most of the angst he might experience when diving into this particular Poole. A BEILEIN BUFFING The head coach hasn't hidden his teaching points with Poole inside the locker room. Perhaps because of the rookie's extreme confidence, Beilein puts out publicly at least some of what he's drilling into him privately. Beilein has commented on … • The three-point foul at Wiscon- sin: "Jordan grabbed the guy's hip, but Jordan did it a second or two before the shot. You just can't have anything to do with that shooter, other than hands straight up, make him make a tough one. "You can't over-challenge at that time. It stops the clock, gives them three [free throws]. I almost killed him. Almost killed him. I think I said, 'Is that dumb or is that stupid? I don't know which one it was.'" • A turnover when a simple move to the basket would have sufficed: "He's a dynamic player that we love having, but scoring the ball is hard in this league. When you have that opportunity to score, and you give it away … it's a simple play, something he's going to learn from." • Polishing Poole: "Jordan is an interesting guy for me to coach … there are some extra-curriculars that go on in the game that we're trying to embrace and work through, but we really have gotten along very well. "If he plays defense, and he really tries to make the next right play, he's got a chance to be really good one day. He's got to understand what winning plays look like. I'm trying to understand better ways to get him there. That's where we've connected. "We were probably on opposite ends of the spectrum about what winning basketball looks like when he first started." For his part, Poole recognizes the process. He averaged 11.5 minutes and 6.3 points per game while see- ing action in 27 of Michigan's first 29 contests, and proved to be a capable shooter (44.0 percent from the floor and 38.3 percent from three-point range). He knows some numbers have to improve, along with the processes that lead to them. "Turnovers and shot selection were a huge thing when I came in," Poole admitted. "I came in as any other hungry freshman, trying to make an impact right away. As I started to slow down and ask questions, really understand what is winning basket- ball, it's started to pay off. "I was watching video of when I was playing in high school, and I was taking some wild shots. Now I know how to play, what are the right shots, playing with the shot clock." Defensively, Poole takes cues from senior guard Muhammad-Ali Ab- dur-Rahkman, who has seen it all through four years in the Michigan program. THE SWAG MASTER Jordan Poole Makes A Stylish Impact While Learning In Michigan's first 29 contests, Poole posted averages of 11.5 minutes and 6.3 points per outing while seeing action in 27 games. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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