When DeVante’ Jones first entered the transfer portal, there was a long line of suitors for the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year.
After averaging 19.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists at Coastal Carolina last season, that was expected. As a graduate transfer, Jones fit the bill of a plug-and-play starting guard for most Power Five contenders with a backcourt hole. He entered the NBA Draft as well, but went through the transfer recruitment process knowing he’d be able to retain his NCAA eligibility if his pro feedback suggested another year of college.
The sweepstakes for Jones’ services began immediately. Within five minutes of submitting his name to the portal, Jones received about 20 calls from college coaches, he estimates.
“It was crazy. I had to put my phone on do not disturb a lot of times, just have everybody go through my parents,” Jones said Friday. “But it was also an amazing experience knowing all those college coaches were interested in me, they love my game, it made me feel good about how far I’ve come and how far I’ve got to go.”
More than a week went by without finding the right fit. Then Michigan called.
The Wolverines immediately stood out thanks to their whole-staff approach. At first, assistants Howard Eisley and Saddi Washington were in touch. Then associate head coach Phil Martelli began making an impression. Ultimately, Jones got on a Zoom call with headman Juwan Howard. Even director of player personnel and development Jay Smith was involved during the process.
“That’s why (Michigan) stood out because every other school, it’d be one person or two people you’d talk to,” Jones said. “But with Michigan, it was the whole coaching staff. I felt like they really wanted me. They said they studied my game, they understood my game, so they showed they really cared and they told me I’d really help this team. Everything about them stood out to me.”
Now, Jones is in Ann Arbor. He arrived earlier this week after withdrawing from the NBA Draft, as did All-American center Hunter Dickinson. The two of them played together at the G League Elite Camp in Chicago and then worked out for the Sacramento Kings as part of the same 3-on-3 team.
Most assumed Jones’ withdrawal from the draft was an inevitability. That wasn’t always the case, however. Jones was happy with the feedback he was receiving from NBA scouts and front offices, which nearly pushed him to remain in the draft. But ultimately, the timing offered a window to return to Michigan and chase a bigger goal.
“A lot of scouts told me I would be an NBA guy this year or next year,” Jones said. “There wasn’t any need to rush. If I went to Michigan, the only thing I can do is help my stock. Coming back, playing with a great group of guys, just trying to win a national championship, man, that sounded like a no-brainer to me. I couldn’t pass up on that opportunity because I couldn’t go into me staying in the draft and saying, ‘Oh, I should’ve done this. Oh, I should’ve done that,’ instead of going to Michigan and just trying these guys to a national championship.”
With Jones in the fold, the Wolverines are set to enter this upcoming season in the thick of the national title conversation. And on an individual level, that’ll give Jones plenty of opportunities to pursue a dream while showcasing his game ahead of next year’s draft.