2020-21 Season

‘We had to start over’: Michigan hopes to avoid rust after shutdown

Friday morning, in his first media session in more than two weeks, Juwan Howard sat in front of his Zoom camera and said, “I never experienced anything like this.” Out of context, it’s unremarkable. Seven billion people have uttered that phrase over the past year. But for Howard, in the context of basketball, new experiences don’t come along too often. That’s what happens when you’ve been around the game for 40-odd years.

Taking two weeks off in the middle of a season, though? There’s no blueprint for how to handle that. So to best guide Michigan through its health department-instructed shutdown, Howard called Baylor’s Scott Drew and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, both of whom have dealt with COVID-related shutdowns this season.

Together with his strength and conditioning staff, Howard formulated a plan to maintain a sense of community during remote workouts. In the program-wide group chat, players, coaches and administrators alike had to send a picture or video of their workout for the day, whether it be bodyweight exercises in their living rooms or neighborhood jogs.

“We got a lot out of it,” senior forward Isaiah Livers said. “It’s not like we were just sitting there dwelling on it in the dark room.”

Still, there’s a difference between a full, in-season practice schedule and sporadic at-home workouts. In Howard’s playing days, he remembers it would take four or five days to get out of shape. Michigan tripled that timeframe between its win over Purdue on Jan. 22 and its return to practice Monday.

In the Wolverines’ first few practices back, that rust showed.

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