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‘Duggy will make you play him’: Coaches praise freshman point guard Dug McDaniel

The true freshman could earn himself some minutes early on this year.

This year’s Michigan Wolverines basketball squad will look a lot different than last year’s thanks to all the players that left the program for the NBA or the portal. One of those transfers that left a pretty big hole is Frankie Collins, a guy who many Michigan fans penciled in as the starting point guard this season after going off in the NCAA Tournament against Colorado State.

With Collins now at Arizona State and DeVante’ Jones pursuing his hoop dreams, Michigan will have some new faces at the point guard spot in transfer Jaelin Llewellyn and freshman Dug McDaniel.

We’ve heard a lot about the headliners of Michigan’s 2022 class in Jett Howard and Tarris Reed Jr., but at Big Ten Media Days last week head coach Juwan Howard said, while there might be some growing pains, McDaniel is someone who might surprise in terms of how much of an impact he’ll provide this season.

“Duggy McDaniel is going to be special,” Howard said when asked about under-the-radar players on his roster. “With having that chip on his shoulder, being competitive smart, (he) just knows how to play, great basketball instincts. He’s going to do some things on the floor that you’re going to be like ‘Wow,’ but like all freshman, he’s going to make some mistakes, that’s part of it. That kid is going to find his way to be a winner, and it’s good to have a Duggy McDaniel in our corner.”

Howard also implied we shouldn’t be surprised when McDaniel and Llewellyn share the floor at the same time.

“There are going to be some minutes, Duggy will make you play him,” Howard said. “There are going to be some times where you see them both in the backcourt. I’m not afraid to say it to the public or our opposing teams, it’s going to happen.”

Howard isn’t the only Michigan coach whose been praising the young point guard, as associate head coach Phil Martelli and assistant coach Howard Eisley said McDaniel will make an impact on both ends of the floor this year.

“He can move. He can really move,” Martelli said. “He is a pest defensively. He’s very good at picking up full court, bothering the ball. His ball has gone in the basket. He’s a guy that thrives in competition.”

“You will know he’s on the floor,” Eisley said. “He has the ability to push the ball, cause havoc on the defensive end. Expect us to play at a much faster rate, higher tempo with him. Very competitive. We’re very excited that he’s here and we’re looking forward to him doing a lot of great things this year.”

We see it all the time in college basketball — a lot of freshmen have to work their way into the rotation while adjusting to the pace of play. Michigan fans saw that last year with Collins and Kobe Bufkin.

Howard said McDaniel will have a role as soon as the season starts and despite his small 5-foot-11 stature, he’s going to play up to his competition. He got the chance to play grown men on the overseas trip, but Howard is confident McDaniel has the heart and toughness to compete with guys bigger than him.

“Oh yes, right away, he’s earned it,” Howard said on McDaniel’s contributions. “Dug is from the DMV area. He’s from that basketball city, town, whatever you want to call it, that basketball is one of those sports that everyone has embraced. If you’re not tough, you’re not competitive, you will not survive in the DMV area.”

McDaniel piggybacked off that, saying he plays with his heart on his sleeve. Michigan fans should expect a certain intensity out of him.

“Coming from where I’m coming from, I have a huge chip on my shoulder,” McDaniel said. “Playing with that emotion, playing with that chip on my shoulder keeps me going every day. I feel like I can contribute to the team very well. I bring a spark off the bench, defense driven, just providing the energy the team needs when we struggle.”

McDaniel is expected to be one of Michigan’s best on-ball defenders. Much like Jose Alvarado of the New Orleans Pelicans, McDaniel embraces making opposing guards squirm and work for every possession.

“Just seeing him uncomfortable makes me know I’m doing something right,” McDaniel said on guarding his man full court. “Making it harder for him is going to make things easier for us. I might be my size, but I feel like I’m 6’6. I look at everybody else like they’re the same size as me, I’ll just have to wait and see I guess.”

There have been a lot of talented point guards in recent history for the Wolverines, with guys like Derrick Walton Jr., Zavier Simpson and Mike Smith being key pieces to success for Michigan. McDaniel is clearly excited to the next man up as the quarterback of the court.

“(Howard) said I got big shoes to fill,” McDaniel said. “Lot of great point guards come before me, but he said he wouldn’t recruit me if he didn’t think I was up for the challenge. Him having that trust and that confidence in me makes me ready for the season. I’m ready to fill those shoes.”