The No. 22 Michigan Wolverines are 1-0 and star center Hunter Dickinson looked like an All-American against a mid-major last night. He had 22 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and could pretty much do whatever he wanted in the paint in the 75-56 win over Purdue Fort Wayne at Crisler Center.
We mostly expected last night’s dominance from Dickinson, being that Purdue Fort Wayne’s largest guy on the roster was 6-foot-9. But one of the biggest takeaways came after the game when Dickinson talked about how he led his teammates during the game.
During his postgame radio interview, head coach Juwan Howard said he let Dickinson speak to the team during one of the TV timeouts. This is far from the first time a coach has let a player step up like this but considering the team wanting Dickinson to become a more vocal leader, it seems like a wise decision.
“Biggest thing was us getting matched up in transition,” Dickinson said on what he was saying to his teammates. “I think that’s one thing that we’re probably the weakest at, is that transition defense. I think we’re buddy running a little too much with our man instead of getting back. Our philosophy in transition is you don’t have a man, kind of a get back and figure it out on the fly. So for us, we just got to do a better job communicating, sprinting back, find the closest guy to us and have that pack-line defense.”
Dickinson stressed how much the players are relied on to make those adjustments impromptu. As a leader, it’s something he’ll have to do a lot more of this year.
“It’s a lot, especially when the other team misses, it’s mostly on the fly, probably 80 percent of it is on the fly between me and the point guard, figuring out what we see out there and what we think is best,” Dickinson said. “Obviously coach (Howard) has a huge say in it, but he really leaves it up to us for that transition offense off misses.”
The Wolverines were able to cash in 31% of their threes in this game, and a lot of those attempts came from double teams on Dickinson in the post. Jett Howard and Joey Baker combined to score 18 of their 30 points off threes, making nine of their 18 combined attempts.
The Wolverines didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well last night, but it is the first game of the season and they were able to get the key makes when they needed it. This was a team in desperate need of more three-point shooting and Dickinson thinks they have more shooters compared to last season.
“I remember the first double team that I got, I kicked it, I think to Kobe (Bufkin) and then Kobe swung it to Joe (Baker), and my first reaction was ‘don’t do that this year’,” Dickinson said, regarding being doubled. “We definitely have a lot more shooting. It’s definitely a big difference from last year, you know. The guys who came back put a lot of work in and then we did a great job finding that guys that fit that mold for us, that will help our offense.”
When asked about how long he expects it to take for this team to gel, Dickinson stressed the importance of guys being able to slide at multiple spots on the floor. We’ve only seen one game, but based on all the options this team has on offense now, we may not see the lack of motion on offense that we saw last year.
“We got a good mix of guys that are able to be plugged in and out,” Dickinson said. “Lot of guys that are very versatile and able to play many positions, so I think it’s just a matter of guys knowing multiple spots, and I think that’s the biggest and most important thing for us.”