Michigan basketball has been defined by continual success for well over a decade. A streak of NCAA tournament appearances accompanied by Sweet Sixteen runs is all they have known, but last year the Wolverines didn’t meet the mark. There were moments of tenacity, a feverish fight to get over the proverbial hump to make the tournament, but it fell short.
The offseason for the Wolverines came sooner than normal and perhaps that fed into the notion that Michigan was a write-off. Add the exit of some firepower of both players and emotional leaders and it looked as if the Wolverines were on dire straits. Though it appeared dim, it also ignited something and Jace Howard joined Brian Boesch on Defend the Block to share the story.
Howard, now entering his third year of eligibility, has seen the wide spectrum of Michigan’s successes and defeats. The more relevant lessons came this past year and it has inspired a different aura surrounding the Wolverines.
“To tell you the truth, it made us pissed off. We think that we are being written off, but I think it’s been great for us this offseason,” Howard shared. “Our practices have been a lot more intense. As a team we don’t think less of ourselves or more of ourselves, we are here to work.”
Then there was the exit of Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard to the NBA and Hunter Dickinson to the transfer portal to make things a little more grim. But it forced Michigan as a whole to grow and step up.
“Honestly, I think it’s been a good thing, since then, our guys have embraced that there was a void and roles need to be made up because of that void. I think for everybody, it gave us a sense of urgency and it made guys step up,” Howard said.
According to Howard, it made for a different intensity in practice this summer.
“We have been so sharp, we come in with a purpose, we execute during practice. I think it’s been beneficial,” he explained. “I think that void of losing Jett, Kobe, Joey, and Hunter, it made the guys here rise to the occasion. The maturity showed. It gives us a lot to build off of and we are in a good spot for fall.”
Even the incoming transfers and freshmen took notice and that altered the mindset of the Wolverines entering this season.
“They have a sense of urgency. I have never seen it to this capacity at this type of level,” Howard said, “I know there is a lot of stuff that’s been said, but this is the most intense it has been since I have been here. I’m not saying that it’s because some people are gone, some people are here, that’s just how it’s been. Everybody wants to play.
“You could tell who was here last year, who has been through it. We aren’t moving too loosely, we are strictly business. The new guys come in and feel the vibe, they can tell we aren’t here to play around.”
Urgency and intensity have defined the summer for the Wolverines. From that has blossomed growth and potential. While the season is still some time away, they are continuing to build towards success and make their way back to where they have been.
“The potential is definitely there. You see it in everything we do on the court, we all think, no, we know that we can win, but we can’t just say that. The game favors the hardest working team,” Howard said. “There’s no begging anyone to do anything, everybody knows there is a job to be done. We have to put last season behind us. We are at a healthy point now. It comes from both winning and losing experiences, but it’s a grind we are fully embracing.”