The 2020-21 college basketball season was in limbo for a bit as the country continues to adjust to a rapidly-changing pandemic, but everything continues to move forward for the new campaign to take place. The Michigan Wolverines and head coach Juwan Howard have been slowly putting in the work ahead of the season with official preparation just around the corner.
Howard told the media on a Wednesday afternoon Zoom call that Michigan will begin its official practices on Oct. 14 with the anticipation of the previously-reported Nov. 25 start date. Players had previously been taking part in workouts since returning to campus in June.
“It’s been great to get guys back into the gym,” Howard said. :They’re looking forward to the opportunity of getting better. When the pandemic first broke, we always had Zoom calls, just staying connected, talking about different issues, talking abut the team and hopefully what our upcoming season will look like if we do have a season. We have a team that’s well-connected. Upperclassmen helping our freshmen out, helping them with the new terminology, the new way of how we do things here (and) how we do things as a team. It’s been great.”
Among the biggest storylines heading into the season is the integration of Howard’s first full recruiting class, which ranked No. 15 in the country and was the top haul in the Big Ten in the 2020 cycle. One of those major pieces is four-star center Hunter Dickinson, who should be in the mix for a big role early on in the paint.
“What I’ve learned from Hunter is that he has an amazing, bubbly personality,” Howard said on Wednesday. “And his sense of humor is very unique and is infectious on the group and we all enjoy being around Hunter. And he never gives you a day where you don’t find any type of laughter in what he says, because he has that type of way of interacting and communicating with people. I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to coach him. He knows how to play the game and he has a high IQ and I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to work with him.”
Despite the initial reactions, Howard still maintains that without practice, it is premature to make statements or set expectations for any of the members of the 2020 class.
“That’s why I said earlier, we haven’t had a practice, we’ve had more workouts and making sure that (we are) keeping our guys safe and healthy with what the state of Michigan has mandated as well as the University fo Michigan,” Howard said. “So, we’ve pivoted and making sure that we are doing the right thing (and) keeping everyone safe. The amount of time that we’ve used, we try to make sure we utilize that time and being useful. Everything’s done with a purpose.”
Here’s what we said about Dickinson in our scouting report after he committed:
I really like his game around the rim. Some guys have size but not the skill to match. In a lot of ways, Dickinson is a throwback center that is capable of hitting a mid-range jumper. He has soft hands and a soft touch inside and looks very at ease with himself and how he plays. There can often times be an awkwardness that has to be worked out of a young big, but that does not seem to be a problem with him. He also is not soft inside and shows a good competitive nature. He just looks the part of a college basketball big man and someone who is ready to contribute right away.
“Even though he appears to be a quiet and gentle giant, Hunter is going to make some noise for us down low,” Howard said when the class officially signed last spring. “He is patient in the post and allows for plays to develop before he attacks — especially with his left-handed hook shot. He is a space eater and really takes pride in defense. The successes he had at DeMatha allow him to bring a winning mentality to Ann Arbor.”
We will have more from Howard’s availability in the coming days.