Growing up, DeVante’ Jones prayed and dreamed of appearing in the NCAA Tournament.
And so Sunday evening, when Michigan’s name flashed across the TV screen that the Wolverines huddled around, watching with churning stomachs and anxious faces, Jones tried his best to hold back tears.
Michigan had secured an at-large bid. The moment Jones had dreamt of was about to become a reality.
“I was telling Frankie (Collins) a minute ago, I’m trying not to cry,” Jones said, a smile plastered to his face. “But I feel like when I get home, I might cry.”
Emotions were certainly amplified for Jones. He had never waited out the long hours of a Selection Sunday before; across four seasons at Coastal Carolina, the NCAA Tournament merely functioned as a pipedream, something too good to possibly be true. His last season at Coastal Carolina ended with him playing through injuries in the CBI title game.
Jones’s story-arc is well recited at this juncture in the season. He transferred to Michigan in the offseason — one of the more-coveted transfers in the portal — with the primary intention of winning, even ending a flirtation with the NBA Draft to come to Ann Arbor. He had his sights set on reaching heights he had not once come close to achieving.
It was, of course, no guarantee that Michigan would crack this year’s field. After a disastrous collapse against Indiana in its opening game in the Big Ten Tournament, the Wolverines were left to bear an anxious, 72-hour wait. For Jones, it proved even more stressful.
“The last few years at Coastal Carolina, I gave everything I had and I always fell short,” Jones said. “Being able to come here… having the ability to play in March Madness, that’s something everybody can’t do. Me, personally, I’m gonna take this very seriously and take advantage of it.”