Juwan Howard has helped helm his Michigan Wolverines to a 4-0 record in the early going of the 2020-21 basketball season with a balance of poise, a steady hand and a set of rotations that has mostly paid divdends.
One of the most common threads of each game this season has been the strong play of true freshman center Hunter Dickinson off the bench, who has scored double-digits in all four contests and appears to be the best center on the roster. Whether or not he should replace Austin Davis in the starting lineup is something that will continue to be debated, but also looked into by Howard himself.
Everything on our team is being evaluated,” Howard said in his session with the media after the game. “What (Dickinson has) been doing in his role has been spectacular. Would love to see it stay consistent, whichever role it is. Whether he’s coming off the bench or starting, he’s a giver. One thing about it, he’s not one of those guys where he feels like he has to be ‘me, me, me, I, I, I.’ He’s a total team guy. He trusts the process. That’s a coach’s dream, to have a guy that’s all in and trusts what we’re bringing to the table to help him be successful.”
Part of the reason that a move may not come anytime soon is because of how early in the season it still is. There is a process to earning your keep and staying in the lineup. Howard still wants to see his young big man push forward in his development.
“I was a freshman before and I hate to bring myself into this story and make it about me, but every freshman goes through it,” Howard said. “At times, you’re going to have your moments. He hasn’t quite had his yet. What is that? That moment I’m speaking of. You’re going to have some ups and downs, that’s part of the growth of learning the game. Right now, we’re just in the beginning of the season. We haven’t scratched the schedule yet. We’ll see how everything goes. I love the way he’s trending.”
So far through four games, Howard has deployed a number of different lineup combinations that have seen 10 players consistently in and out of action. In a year where your roster could be thrown out of whack due to the coronavirus, depth is as critical as it ever has been. And Michigan has quality depth.
“We have a very deep team,” Howard said. “Our thing is always all hands on deck. Game-by-game it’s always been evaluated on what’s the best chance (to win). We’re going to need everyone this season. It’s that simple. I’m making sure everyone gets a chance to play.”
It seems that Michigan has a roster that is made up of players who understand their value and what they are expected to do whenever they are on the floor. An example of this is transfer Chaundee Brown, who was a starter last season at Wake Forest but has been installed as the sixth-man in Ann Arbor. The willingness to do that speaks to Howard’s vision for the players he is bringing in.
“I just keep it simple like this. I’m always honest with each and every guy on the team. I have an open-door policy, I’m always going to be transparent because I don’t want them to feel like they’ve been told something that has not happened,” Howard said. “I’m a straight shooter and that’s the only way I know how to be. That’s the part of developing the trust. I have to earn their trust. I’m never gonna promise anything to anyone, that’s recruits too.
“All I can do is let each and every person know that the Michigan experience is going to be a great one. It just takes time. If you’re an all-in kind of individual, you’re going to enjoy your experience here at Michigan.”