Michigan Wolverines Basketball Coach Juwan Howard Says Experience Is Team’s Strength
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Michigan Wolverines Basketball: Howard Says Experience Is Team’s Strength

Michigan lost some key players on last year’s team, one that experienced a number of highs and lows. Head coach Juwan Howard likes what he’s seen from his second group in the early going, one aspect in particular.

This team has a lot of players who have logged plenty of minutes, some at other schools in Mike Smith (Columbia) and Chaundee Brown (Wake Forest). Seniors Isaiah Livers and Eli Brooks have played in huge games and won championships.

“I would say the strength of our team is we have experience on all levels, at all positions ... guys like Mike [Smith] who’s a grad senior, Austin Davis another one, then talk about a guy like Chaundee, Isaiah, Eli … all three are seniors,” Howard said. “Then add Franz [Wagner] to the mix … he doesn’t play like a typical sophomore. He's like a seasoned vet as I would say.

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Michigan Wolverines Basketball coach Juwan Howard went 10-10 in Big Ten play his first year.
Michigan Wolverines Basketball coach Juwan Howard went 10-10 in Big Ten play his first year. (AP Images)

“It’s great to have that experience on a team, even though some of them are new guys and some haven’t played together like it was last year when we had X [Xavier Simpson] and Jon Teske. But it’s pretty much a team that is familiar with one another, so that’s good.”

They’ve bonded quickly, starting with zoom calls this summer, and gotten closer and closer. It came to a head when Brown got his waiver approved.

“I wanted to give him the news in a way to keep him on his toes. I played a little prank on him,” Howard said with a laugh. “The response when he heard he had his waiver approved … he was extremely excited. I’m sure you saw how his teammates were so excited for him. It just shows the excitement from each and every guy on the team, how they have all developed the relationship and welcomed him to the family.

“It speaks a lot about Chaundee personally and who he is as an individual.”

He has a chance to be “pretty special,” Howard said. Shooting has become a strength, and his level of competitiveness his biggest asset.

"He competes both ends of the floor,” Howard said.

Wagner, meanwhile, has upped his game dramatically and is poised for a huge, breakout season.

“Franz is a gym rat. One of the things I see he’s improved on is shooting,” Howard said. “He already shot the ball well last year, but just watching him in the gym working hard, he is always here before practice, after practice, getting up shots. Also, I’m seeing a lot of the work he’s doing on film from watching and seeing how he can get better. It shows a lot about a guy who has that growth mindset to do whatever he can to help the group.”

Brooks is currently the No. 2 point guard behind Smith, and frosh Zeb Jackson will get some run too, Howard said. The coach has seen no egos and loves the chemistry in the early going.

“We have guys that buy in because they want to be here,” Howard said. “When you have a guy at a place they want to call home, they embrace it that way. It hasn’t been hard for me as a coach to get guys to buy in as a culture.

“We have a unique culture everyone has embraced, and it’s great to see our guys despite some of them [being] new. They see our culture is real. That’s why the transition has been smooth for our new guys.”

And why he can’t wait to see what they can do this winter.

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