Michigan Wolverines men’s head basketball coach Juwan Howard took some time to speak with the media Thursday ahead of the team’s trip overseas.
One of the hottest topics of late has been with Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) and it’s impact on recruiting. Howard took some time to talk about that and shared his thoughts on where Michigan is at with NIL at this juncture.
“NIL is one of these things where it has helped some programs, with what they’ve done in the transfer portal,” Howard said. “For us, NIL hasn’t hurt the team when it comes to recruiting from the transfer portal. Have conversations of NIL been brought up in recruiting? Yes it has. Would I like to see more done for the program, in the sense of things that have happened with other basketball programs? Yes.”
Howard did mention he has had conversations with the athletic department about how the university can better use NIL to help make the roster as talented as possible.
“Do we have a collective here? No. Do other programs have collectives? Yes,” Howard said. “Could we be more proactive with the NIL and use more forward thinking? Yes. And I say we, I’m including myself, but our athletic department, as well as Michigan as a whole, we can do better.”
The team is set to take a trip overseas in the near future. It’s not clear exactly where, but the team will play three exhibition games while overseas, with the first game being against a French team with four guys with NBA experience. Howard would not disclose details surrounding the games, either.
Howard did, however, stress a playing rotation has not been set yet. He said they will test out all types of lineups well before the season starts.
“Everyone will get a chance to play, and that’s the beauty of it, Howard said. “This summer, we’ve been working hard...together it’s being in the weight room, getting stronger and faster, being in the gym doing work on their own...when they’re with us, developing what is asked of them, it’s nice to see them this summer...I could see how this team could look like as we come back from the trip.”
Howard kept mentioning this will be a younger team. They’ve got five incoming freshman, and he’s hoping they get acclimated to the pace of college basketball as soon as possible.
“This summer is a very critical time for us to add to our culture, and what our culture is is with family being first.” Howard said. “When you’re away from your family members that you’ve spent your lives with and you get a chance to be with guys that you call your extended family for 10 days, I think this is the best bonding you could ever get.”
In terms of returnees improving this offseason, there were a few guys Howard mentioned as standouts. He seems thrilled with the improvements he’s seen out of center Hunter Dickinson, and when I asked him who has stepped up from a leadership standpoint, he spoke very highly of “Mr. Hunter.”
“(Hunter Dickinson) has stepped up and has taken more of a leadership role, and that’s leadership as far as being vocal and leadership as far as how he goes about his work,” Howard said. “He comes in and he works hard, he wants to add more to his game and improve his game. This year he’s getting stronger, leaner, adding more lateral quickness, jumping, higher motor. Those are the things you have to admire and respect as a teammate. When you see a guy like that who’s getting himself uncomfortable but is doing it for the level to help this team, to be a winning team, everyone else can follow suit.”
Howard also spoke on the improvements he’s seen out of junior forward Terrance Williams II and sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin, noting Williams II will have a “bigger role.”
“If you look at Terrance his freshman year compared to now you’d be like, ‘whoa this kid has reinvented himself,’” Howard said. “He’s gotten leaner, faster, he’s another guy that’s going to have a bigger role.
When it comes to Bufkin, Howard has seen growth out of the second-year guard, and that a ton of second-year players have exceled in the Big Ten. Working out this summer with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson will certainly help, as will working out with former players Zavier Simpson and Franz Wagner, who took big leaps their second year in Ann Arbor as well.
“Kobe looks at this as an opportunity for him, that we’re going to need him, he’ll have more of an opportunity to get more minutes,” Howard said. “We’re going to need not only his offensive production, but his defensive production.”
Finally, Howard spoke about a couple guys in the 2022 recruiting class who didn’t get to see the floor last year who have also improved their games heading into year two: Will Tschetter and Isaiah Barnes.
“Will Tschetter and Isaiah Barnes are two guys like Kobe, who have stayed here,” Howard said. “They have made drastic jumps in their game. The game has slowed down to them. They know what’s asked, the offensive identity in terms of how we play, they have done very well in the practices we’ve been allowed to have.”