Juwan Howard took to the podium at the Crisler Center media room just hours after his Michigan Wolverines were ranked No. 4 in the AP poll after being unranked to this point in the season. His squad has a shot on Tuesday once again to show how it stacks up with the nation’s elite as they travel to take on newly-minted No. 1 Louisville.
“They’re a very good team, obviously, the rankings show that,” Howard told the media on Monday afternoon. “They play extremely hard defensively and play with a lot of energy at home. Very good team in transition, they generate 15 points in transition so we must get back. Also, we must guard the three-point line. Their attackers do an excellent job of getting out in transition for a layup to finish or make plays for others. This is going to be a big game where we have to take on the challenge guarding one-on-one and getting back in transition. Last but not least, boxing out on rebounds because they hit the offensive glass really hard.”
Here’s the rest of what Howard had to say about tomorrow’s game and more:
On playing in a road game for the first time
“We plan on being in a tough environment, we’re going into the lion’s den, I would say. They play extremely well at home and this is going to be our first time being road-tested in non-conference play. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I know our players are, too.”
On Jon Teske’s development
“He’s a talented big. Has a high IQ. He can shoot very well from outside. I first labeled him as a stretch-five but I knew that, with his size, one area that he can improve on is his inside presence. I think he’s continued working on it, not only in practice, but he’s put a lot of work in this summer. He’s going to continue to keep working on it and we’re going to rely on him to score inside and out. I looked at Jon as one of the foundational pieces to this team. He’s a senior. He’s a guy who has had the experience. Battle-tested. Played in a lot of big games and won a lot of big games. As a senior, he’s been around. With that, I just knew I had to tap into his skillset and see what other areas he can improve on. He’s been a great trooper accepting to learning and getting better.”
On the AP ranking
“I saw it. My son called me and told me about it. He was excited as well as surprised but he also felt that we earned it. I agree with him. At the end of the day, it’s early. Championships are not won now. Yes, we won a championship during Thanksgiving play but the NCAA championship in April, you can’t get there yet until you start playing the Big Ten tournament. We have many goals to try and go out there and achieve. It’s just one that we accomplished.”
His team’s focus
“I have a very hard-working, humble, driven and focused team that understands what we are set out to do. We’ve always been very sacred and kept everything in house and private on how we approach things as a family. We feel that we have team goals that we’re trying to achieve and we’re going to keep driving and forging ahead.”
On what needs to improve
“Defense, rebounding (and) sharing the basketball. I think our offense can improve on making each other better by adding more assists, making plays for one another. As a coach, you’re always looking for areas on how to improve as a group. You’re never satisfied. I wake up early in the morning bringing work in on how we can get better. I’m sure my players do the same thing. They care about where we are as a group and all areas we need to improve on. They see a lot of film on teaching areas on how we can improve. We have a growth mindset and we will continue to have that throughout the year.”
On Franz Wagner’s debut games
“He’s played great to me, just not maybe in his own eyes. He probably felt the fact that the ball is not going in all the time for him. It takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight where you just come in for three-straight games you’re gonna play the way you normally play in the past where the ball falls every time for you or your rhythm is playing and you’re feeling so comfortable out there on the floor. Right now, he’s not really in basketball shape and it takes time for him to adjust that schedule of changing direction, your body with those different types of movement. You can run on the court as long as you want. Without practice, you can go out on the treadmill and prepare yourself for the conditioning. You can score a lot versus the cones. When you have that arm in your face or somebody is beating on your body, that’s a different level of play right there.”
On how his team has picked up the new system
“Our guys, for them being so young, our guys are able to handle things very maturely as a professional in the way they approach the way they work, the way they go out there and compete and how what areas they need to improve on. They have the voice to speak up and add, or something they’re not comfortable with or they feel they need to improve on, they have the platform to speak on it. We’re a solutions-based group that’s not only coach-driven but player-driven. It’s good to have a guy like Isaiah, Zavier, Jon and Eli who have the experience who played in big games. Two of them being seniors, the other two guys were rotational players that got a lot of minutes, understands what it’s like playing on the road. With their experience, it would be great, in which I know they will, teach our guys who haven’t been in those big games before in what to look for.”
Odds and ends
- Howard praised the conditioning of Isaiah Livers and his physical transformation. He said that he is “wired the right way” and that when your body is in the right shape and so is your mind, good things will happen.
- Eli Brooks is “another coach” out on the floor. He said that Brooks is not afraid to be vocal and add his opinion or ask a question.
- Howard called it “great” to line up with the likes of Roy Williams and Mark Few in the Bahamas last week. “here is always something you can learn from each and every coach, whether it’s on the collegiate level, NBA level or high school coach.”
Tuesday night’s game from KFC Yum! Center in Louisville tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be nationally televised via ESPN.