After arriving in Ann Arbor on Monday, Michigan guard DeVante’ Jones has spent much of his first week acclimating to his new teammates. The reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year recently withdrew from the NBA Draft and promptly moved to campus, where he is now practicing with the Wolverines.
With most of the roster already on campus, Jones has gotten a chance to hit the ground running. The exceptions are Hunter Dickinson, who reported Tuesday after withdrawing from the NBA Draft, and Caleb Houstan, who is representing Team Canada at the FIBA U19 World Cup.
When Jones got a chance to scrimmage with his new teammates Thursday, one freshman in particular stood out.
“A lot of people caught my eye, but a guy that stood out is Moussa (Diabate),” Jones said Friday. “Just his versatility, him being able to run the floor, defend, finish around the basket at a high level, also can be a real great defender, getting to block a lot of shots.”
Diabate, a five-star recruit out of IMG Academy, is one of three McDonald’s All-Americans in Juwan Howard’s top-ranked incoming recruiting class. The 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward figures to play big minutes as a freshman, even if he’s coming off the bench. With Dickinson and Brandon Johns Jr. projected to be Michigan’s frontcourt starters, Diabate could serve as the primary backup to both. His length and quickness allow him to defend ball screens and perimeter players well, which should give the Wolverines a boost at that end of the floor.
Jones also offered a ringing endorsement of his Michigan backcourt peers.
“Obviously, Eli (Brooks) stood out. Eli is a great leader,” Jones said. “Kobe (Bufkin), a freshman, stood out as well. He can score the ball at a high level. And Frankie (Collins), still learning, but a very explosive freshman. He’ll be very good for this team.”
Brooks’ return was one of the biggest offseason storylines for the Wolverines. The fifth-year guard is one of the Big Ten’s elite perimeter defenders, and he’s proven his catch-and-shoot prowess at the offensive end.
Bufkin and Collins, meanwhile, have the opportunity to push this team over the top if they can step in and contribute as freshmen. Bufkin arrives in Ann Arbor after showing the ability to score at will in high school, while Collins’ impressive athleticism offers big-time upside. The fact they’re making an impression during their first week of summer practices is a good indicator of where they might be when tip-off rolls around in November.
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