Michigan Wolverines Basketball: Mike Smith Considered One Of The Country's Best Transfers
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Michigan's Mike Smith Considered One Of The Country's Best Transfers

Michigan Wolverines basketball is 13-1 overall and 8-1 in the Big Ten, and much of that has to do with the team's returning stars in senior guard Eli Brooks, senior forward Isaiah Livers and sophomore wing Franz Wagner, with freshman center Hunter Dickinson also in the mix as one of the squad's top players.

Another key piece is at the point guard spot, where the Wolverines had to replace Zavier Simpson, who led Michigan in scoring last season, had the most assists in college basketball and was an elite defender. Fifth-year senior Mike Smith, a Columbia graduate transfer, has stepped in and mixed his own style of play with what the Maize and Blue, under second-year head coach Juwan Howard, like to run.

Smith is averaging 8.4 points and a Big Ten leading 5.6 assists per contest, while shooting 63.6 percent from three-point range in nine conference games. For his stellar play so far this season, Smith has been tabbed by ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello as one of the nation's top eight transfers. Minnesota junior center Liam Robbins was the only other Big Ten player to make the list.

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Michigan Wolverines basketball fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith is leading the Big Ten in assists per game.
Michigan Wolverines basketball fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith is leading the Big Ten in assists per game. (AP Images)
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"Smith's numbers aren't as good as those of some other names in this first category, but he is the starting point guard for the Big Ten favorites and a potential Final Four team," Borzello wrote.

"And he has adapted his game from being the focal point of the offense at Columbia to being a distributor first, a transition that previous Ivy League graduate transfers have found difficult. Smith is averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 assists, while shooting 47.1 percent from 3-point range, after putting up 22.8 points and 4.5 assists last season."

Adapting his game has been the most important part of Smith's acclimation into the Big Ten. He averaged an Ivy League high in scoring last season, posting 22.8 points per game.

Smith took 19.3 shot attempts per game a year ago, and was clearly the team's go-to guy on offense. In a different role, he's averaging just 6.3 looks per outing as a Wolverine.

While he had the ball in his hands more often last year at Columbia, Smith is actually averaging more assists per game this season. It's important to note that Smith has more shooters around him now, but leading the Big Ten, widely considered the country's top conference, in assists is nothing to scoff at.

In a press conference with reporters recently, Smith admitted how much fun he has been having playing for the No. 4 team in the nation, after winning just 36 games in his four seasons at Columbia.

“I don't think I've ever been over .500 over my college career,” Smith said. “I think that's a testimony of being at Michigan, my teammates, the coaching staff and the plan. It's just fun.”

While he didn't make Borzello's list, Michigan senior guard Chaundee Brown is in a similar spot as Smith. Brown's teams at Wake Forest amassed a 35-48 record in his three seasons before transferring to Michigan. The two share moments after wins that others on the team simply wouldn't understand.

"I tell him after every game, I say, ‘We’re winning now,'" Brown said. "I feel like both of us work extremely hard, coming before practice and after practice, working on our game. And even in practice, we’re really hard competitors.

"We were in the same boat, and actually winning now, it just feels great. I can’t ask for nothing better. Helping contribute to the team is even better."

Brown is averaging 8.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game off the bench.

Michigan is currently on a pause due to COVID-19 concerns that could last up until Feb. 7. The Wolverines' next scheduled game is Feb. 11 against Illinois.

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