Michigan Wolverines Football: Five Things We Learned From Michigan's Juwan Howard At Big Ten Media Day
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Five Things We Learned From Michigan's Juwan Howard At Big Ten Media Day

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. — Michigan Wolverines basketball head coach Juwan Howard met with reporters at Big Ten Media Day Thursday afternoon, touching on a plethora of topics and providing significant insight on his program and college basketball as a whole.

Here are the five most significant things we learned from Howard's session with the media.

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Michigan Wolverines basketball Juwan Howard
Michigan Wolverines basketball head coach Juwan Howard led his team to the Elite Eight in his second season. (AP Images)

Sights Set High

Coming into last season, Michigan was picked to finish sixth in the Big Ten and ranked No. 25 in the preseason rankings. The Wolverines played with a chip on their shoulder and embraced the underdog mentality.

This year, the Maize and Blue are at the top and will get every team's best shot as other squads try to dethrone the defending league champions and only program to have made the NCAA Tournament's second weekend.

Howard said the expectations and goals never change at Michigan. He's aiming to win the Big Ten regular-season title, conference tournament championship and be crowned as the nation's top team on the first Monday in April.

The Returns Of Hunter Dickinson And Eli Brooks

A key storyline for the Maize and Blue this season is the return of fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks, who is utilizing the NCAA's extra year of eligibility, and sophomore center Hunter Dickinson, who explored the NBA Draft process but decided to return to school.

Howard said the process with Brooks was quick and painless. Brooks met with Howard, simply telling him he wanted to return to the team, and the head coach was ecstatic, welcoming him back with open arms.

Dickinson's path was much different, of course. He declared for the draft just before the deadline, competed at the G League Elite Camp but did not earn an invite to the combine and was not projected to be drafted in the first round or early second, before announcing his return.

Currently, he's not appearing in the first round of early 2022 mock drafts, but he has made his intentions of going pro after this season very clear.

Dickinson has stated that one of the reasons why he decided to return is to work on some of the skills the NBA is looking for out of him. Howard was asked about what Dickinson needs to hone in on, but he didn't go into detail on that, saying that it's a game-by-game process. As expected, he seemed much more focused on talking about Dickinson as a member of the team rather than an individual auditioning for the NBA.

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Moussa Diabate's Role

Working on his perimeter game has been a focus of Dickinson's this offseason, he said at media day, and it's clear that he has two feet back into being a team player and enjoying his college experience while he's in Ann Arbor. That's also apparent in the way that he's worked with freshman forward Moussa Diabate, bringing him along like Austin Davis did for Dickinson.

Howard was extremely excited to talk about Diabate, the only freshman he named, despite being asked what he's seen from each of them — he said they've all been impressive and continue to grow in the early going, and noted the same about fifth-year senior guard DeVante' Jones, a Coastal Carolina transfer.

Howard said Diabate will play "multiple positions," meaning the power forward and center spots, and spoke about the special person he is off the floor. A product of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy and native of France, Diabate was not able to go home and see his family during the COVID-19 pandemic, but trained twice per day at his high school and remained engaged.

Name, Image And Likeness

Howard was asked multiple times — and in different ways — about the NCAA's new legislation that allows players to profit off their name, image and likeness, including on to what extent the Fab Five "got the ball rolling," on name, image and likeness. He laughed it off and said they didn't start the initiative, but it's well known that the group would've made quite the profit due to their popularity.

Like head coach Jim Harbaugh on the football side of things, Howard said he fully supports the new rules and is embracing the change that comes with it, but he still has some concerns. Education for the players is at the top of his mind, saying he's intent on helping to provide resources for them to learn about FICA, paying taxes and reading every detail on a contract before signing it.

Does Michigan Have A Rivalry With Illinois?

On the other end of Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Dickinson had some fun with Illinois, saying he finds their fans "annoying," after they lobbied to have the conference award their team with a co-Big Ten championship last season, despite the Illini finishing with a lower winning percentage than the Wolverines, who were named outright champions.

Howard was asked about the "rivalry" with Illinois, and he said he wasn't aware of it, noting that they're rivals with all 13 teams in "a very competitive conference." The reporter followed up, saying there was some hostility last season, with Illinois' athletic director issuing a letter trying to convince the Big Ten to hand them a championship, but Howard just replied by saying, "Michigan didn't print anything."

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