ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It’s the start of the 2022-23 college basketball season, and just like years past, the Michigan Wolverines are entering the season ranked in the AP Top 25 at No. 22.
The Wolverines came into last season ranked No. 6 as they had one of the top-ranked classes in the nation. But, inconsistencies and lack of shooting led to a tumultuous season that ended in the Sweet 16 as they fell to the Villanova Wildcats 63-55 in San Antonio.
The Wolverines turned over their roster as players like Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan left for the NBA Draft. Other players that left have either transferred or graduated, like DeVante Jones, Brandon Johns Jr., Frankie Collins, Zeb Jackson, Brandon Wade, Adrien Nunez, Jaron Faulds, and Eli Brooks.
It’s safe to say that the men in maize have turned over a new roster ahead of the 2022-23 season. They have one of the favorites for conference player of the year and newly crowned team captain Hunter Dickinson, returning for his junior season on a mission.
Other returning players are fellow team captains Terrance Williams II and Jace Howard, budding star Kobe Bufkin, transfers Jaelin Llewellyn and Joey Baker, and freshmen Jett Howard, Gregg Glenn III, Youssef Khayat, and Dug McDaniel.
Howard spoke highly of 5′11′, 160-pound four-star guard McDaniel, describing him as a special, unique player who knows how to play the game of basketball.
“Dug is a special unique player that knows how to play the game of basketball,” Howard said. “He’s been playing the game a long time, and you can just see by his growth and knowledge for the game and his feel for the game and also to provide leadership out there on the floor.”
“We are very proud of watching his growth since the time he’s taken his first steps on campus back in July, and each day he’s been a joy to coach. You can ask his teammates how he’s been competing out there on the floor and how they really enjoy playing with him and against him. From my eyes, what I witnessed is that this young man will have a huge impact on our program.”
Man...I cant wait to touch that UM floor and get actice😤— Dug McDaniel (@AyooFlyy) June 16, 2022
Llewellyn will be a monster when facing Big Ten competition, as he put on a show while dominating in the Ivy League and averaged almost 16 points per game last season.
He has the potential to be a primetime player. His talents were hidden, but now, placing him under the bright lights in Michigan basketball, he’ll put on a show.
Imagine him in the high pick-and-roll with Dickinson, or dump downs, ball screens, and pick-and-pops will cause nightmares for opponents. As the starting point guard, his scoring may take a hit, but his assists will spike as he makes plays for his teammates.
Khayat joined the team in Paris during the Wolverines played in a three-game exhibition to work on their craft while also taking in some sightseeing back in August.
“It was great meeting Youssef (Khayat),” Howard said. “I’ve had a lot of conversations with him on the phone, and I couldn’t wait to get the opportunity to see him in person. I recall being in Paris and knowing what time he was going to arrive. I was waiting downstairs in the lobby. It wasn’t planned, and it happened so organically as the guys were coming downstairs, and it was just beautiful to see how they all wanted to be there to welcome him on the hotel lobby floor.”
Khayat is a 6′8′, 190-pound, 19-year-old small forward from Lebanon with immense talent. He moved to France to play professional basketball, where he honed his craft, and the players welcomed him with open arms.
“I’m happy for our team accepting him, and I’m also excited for how he adjusted so far to Ann Arbor, Michigan,” Howard said.
Howard and the 2021-22 team always spoke about going to and winning a national championship. Although last season’s team fell short of the mark, the thought process hasn’t changed.
“We’re always thinking about winning, growing, and working hard to go after our biggest challenge and one of our biggest goals, and that’s winning championships, not just one,” Howard said. “We look at and identify that we are playing in one of the toughest conference in college basketball, and that’s the Big Ten. From that level, from all of the great coaches and players that play in the Big Ten that that’s always going to be a challenge because teams always do a great job of scouting you and vice versa.”
“You play each other not once but twice sometimes, and then in the Big Ten Tournament, which is another one of our goals of winning that championship, and then it’s the ultimate NCAA championship, and that’s something I’ve been peeking at and scratching the surface since I played here at the University of Michigan. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m always fired up about it.”
The new addition of the highly touted Jett Howard brings another son to the team. And although all of the players are his sons in some form or fashion, they don’t have his last name.
“They are special and uniquely different even though they’re from the same mom and dad,” Howard said. “Watching them grow and develop throughout the years and seeing who they are and what they’ve become, I’m so proud of them, and I’m going to coach them. At times it’s going to be some hard, tough love. Am I coaching them harder than their teammates? Maybe, maybe not, but they’re going to get coached. I expect a lot from all of the players.”
Jett Howard had himself a coming out party Friday (Nov. 4) during an exhibition game against Ferris State as he dropped a 30 piece nugget.
The Wolverines have one returning starter, three juniors, two grad transfers, five new freshmen, and Bufkin, who Howard has great expectations for ahead of the season.
“Kobe (Bufkin) has been great, and he has a chance to really impact this team in a lot of ways,” Howard said. “He can really shoot the basketball and can score as he’s a really good finisher at the rim. He’s been on a mission, and he’s going to have a big year, and that’s what I expect from Kobe, a big year.”
The season tips off Monday (Nov. 7) as the Wolverines will host the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons at 6:30 at Crisler Center. What are your expectations for the season?