With the season a few weeks away, Juwan Howard and company met with the media Friday to discuss expectations heading into the season.
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s media day in Ann Arbor.
The freshman class is already making a splash
The 2021-22 men’s basketball team has a lot of scoring from last season to replace, as five of the team’s top seven scorers from last year (Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Mike Smith, Chaundee Brown Jr. and Austin Davis) are not on this year’s squad.
Michigan is hoping to replace some of that scoring with this talented freshman class, as Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabate, Frankie Collins, Kobe Bufkin, Isaiah Barnes and Will Tschetter will soon play their first games in Ann Arbor.
Senior forward Brandon Johns Jr. was complementary of this freshman class, saying they are more talented than most young groups.
“Honestly, they all have the same type of aspects about them,” Johns said. “They’re all so athletic. They’re super skilled. I think they’re ahead of where I feel like freshmen are supposed to be.”
Senior guard DeVante’ Jones was especially complementary of Diabate, who he loves seeing competing with Hunter Dickinson every day.
“Moussa is the only person I know who comes into practice looking for Hunter,” Jones said. “He comes in and just looks for that competition. That’s crazy coming from a freshman like Moussa knowing what Hunter did last year and all the accolades he got. Moussa has been doing a great job just competing on both sides of the floor.”
Fans shouldn’t be surprised if Dickinson and Diabate spend some time together on the floor, as Dickinson said he loves to play with another big man to reap benefits in the high post and the low post.
“I feel like I’m able to complement another big man. I’m a really good passer, so in high-low situations, that’s really good for me. I feel like I’m able to give them space to operate if I’m not down low.”
Caleb Houstan has a chance to be the best shooter on the team
Caleb Houstan is one of the most highly-regarded recruits to come to Michigan in a long time, and a big reason why is his unique combination of size and a smooth shooting stroke.
It was revealed Friday Frankie Collins jokingly refers to Houstan as Klay Thompson due to his consistent deep ball and scoring prowess in practice, and Houstan said Thompson is one of the players he looks up to.
“I look at a lot of guys, Klay Thompson being one of them,” Houstan said. “Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum — those are the three. I just try to take little things from each of their games and try to watch a lot of film on them and see what I can add to my game to make it better.”
Houstan could end up being the best three-point shooter on this year’s squad, and it wouldn’t be the first time he’s going against talented competition in college, since he was a high school teammate with Cade Cunningham and Scottie Barnes, two top five picks from the 2021 NBA Draft.
“Being on a team like that, with that many good people in practice, that’s one of the things that helped me the most in terms of knowing what I need to do to get better,” Houstan said. “Learning from those guys, going against them every day, made me better.”
We got a glimpse into Juwan Howard’s recruiting talents
Every coach is going to have nice things to say about their roster on media day, and Howard is no different.
“Every guy on our team enjoys playing with one another,” Howard said. “I’m living the dream ... we have a great group.
Howard did a give a glimpse into his recruiting strategy on Friday, showing how much he cares about personal connections with players and their families.
“With the evaluation period, it’s important you get to know [how] recruits you feel fit your culture, and getting to know them doesn’t take one phone call,” Howard said during Friday’s Michigan basketball Media Day. “Spending time watching them play, high school and AAU , getting to know the parents, the background, what makes them tick in a lot of ways ... we’re really good at identifying what fits our culture
Making those personal connections and building a culture within the program seems to be a big reason why more and more talented basketball players want to come to Michigan the longer Howard is manning the ship.