Michigan basketball: Juwan Howard's Wolverines are built for speed
In terms of establishing an immediate identity, Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard must have taken a page from the playbook of football coach Jim Harbaugh. Like Harbaugh’s on-field product, Howard’s on-court product showed off its speed on the first day of the season.
As expected, the No. 22-ranked Wolverines blew past the Purdue-Fort Wayne Mastodons, 75-56, during their opener at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor. And yeah, most people probably had a decent idea of how UM would look this year — and that’s fast.
The Wolverines are quick and will likely be one of the most entertaining offenses in the Big Ten.
One game doesn’t say everything. It can’t say everything. But based on observations from the preseason and the season-opener, it’s clear that Michigan has some speed on its roster.
Jett is the name
If your name is Jett, and you’re not fast … well, that kind of defeats the entire purpose, right? At 6-8 and 215 pounds, Howard is long and lean, built for speed, and incredibly agile. His 21-point debut was better than his dad’s (13 points vs. Detroit Mercy, Dec. 2, 1991) and served as an example of what’s to come for the lanky scorer.
He was able to keep composure during his collegiate regular-season debut and take advantage of opportunities at each turn.
“Believe it or not, I didn’t hit any shots in warmups, so I was a little nervous going into the game.,” Howard said, smiling, per Josh Henschke of Rivals Maize & Blue Review. “Once I hit my second 3, I think I was in a rhythm. I felt pretty confident. These guys kept feeding me the ball. … They kept telling me to keep going, keep going. It worked out for me. I appreciate them.”
Despite some scouting reports citing Howard’s lack of “blow by” speed, he is quicker than given credit. His length allows him to quickly cover space and he understands tempo. In a fast offense — and defense, for that matter — Howard has the potential be one of those players who dictates game flow.
Howard should be Michigan’s top 2-way player this season, making for fast transitions on both ends and high-scoring games. If Monday night’s 21-point debut was of any indication, he’ll be a solid mid-teens scorer once the Wolverines enter their Big Ten schedule.
Dug McDaniel, a freshman, looked like one of the quicker point guards in recent UM memory. The 5-11 McDaniel has great dribble-penetration skills and has the knack of getting the attention of opposing defenses. His fast feet and dribble can help facilitate a lot of binge-scoring for the Wolverines, who had the No. 7-ranked scoring offense in the Big Ten in 2021-22 (72.6 PPG).
Of course, Monday was just the 1st game of the season, and it was against an inferior opponent. But McDaniel, despite having just 2 points, certainly flashed enough speed vs. the Mastodons to forecast him as a floor-burner for the Wolverines this season.
Don’t sleep on Jaelin
Jaelin Llewellyn isn’t a guy who’s going to fill up the net every night, but he’s a guy who will quickly get into the paint and create. At 6-2 and roughly 175 pounds, the Princeton transfer — Michigan’s third Ivy League transfer in as many years — is a slim scorer who put up nearly 16 points per game with the Tigers last season.
Once he’s fully acclimated with Michigan’s style, he should help provide some energy to an offense that looks capable of easily running up and down the court with anyone this season.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Llewellyn said during UM’s media day, per UM Hoops. “There’s another level of comfort, being here for a couple of months. I just can’t wait to get started.”
It was only the season-opener for Michigan, so it’s impossible to draw any concrete conclusions. Yes, the Wolverines appear fast. Yes, they look like they have an athletic roster that can score.
There is the potential combo, too.
Couple Michigan’s budding speed with the power and quick-strike ability from 7-1 center Hunter Dickinson, and the Wolverines might have something going as they look to compete for a Big Ten championship. The jabs from the speed side of things, paired with Dickinson’s knock-out power, could end up being the Wolverines’ trademark this year.
Juwan Howard is a realist. He knows one game doesn’t tell an entire story.
“You’re not where you want to be so early in the season,” Juwan Howard said, per Chris Balas of The Wolverine (On3). “This is only our first game, and there is room for growth. We’re going to continue to keep getting better, and there are areas that we’re going to try to clean up.
“But … I love where our mindset is. Our guys are really dialed in and in tune to being an elite-level group, and I love how they are so connected. I just hope that continues throughout the year. It was the first game, and I’m sure we’re going to hit a rough patch. Pretty much the vast majority of college basketball teams do. But it’s how we’re going to react when we have those uncomfortable moments.”