Juwan Howard, Jace Howard and Terrance Williams met with the media on Friday to preview Michigan’s second round game against Tennessee.
Q. Terrance talk about yesterday and what you saw from the team and responding the way they did with DeVanté out.
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: I think in the second half we played more connected than we did in the first half. I think we got down 15 and we played with resilience in the second half without DeVanté because we were like lets do it for our brothers so we can get here and maybe play tomorrow so we bonded in the second half and made a run and came out with the win.
Q. Can you describe the emotion of getting DeVanté back in practice today?
JACE HOWARD: It was great obviously to see a familiar face, somebody we have been in the trenches with all season. Just to see that he was healthy again because he was in concussion protocol and it’s not easy for a lot of guys, so it was great to see him back. Felt like we were a full team again and made us ready for tomorrow even more.
Q. (Away from mic.) –SEC they average about nine steals a game. How important is point guard play and overall ball control with them when they’re so great at creating turnovers in this game?
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: They definitely create a lot of turnovers but we can’t give them extra possessions and we can’t come out in the situation without getting a shot up. We’re going to make my takes and turnovers are going to happen and when mistakes add up on and on that’s when problems occur so we can’t have that and having another ball handler with DJ would definitely help that.
JACE HOWARD: DeVanté and most of our guards, the stability on offense comes with guards. Just to have him back we know we’re going to be a sound team offensively and it adds to what I feel like our momentum going into the game is, so it’s good for that yeah.
Q. (Away from mic.) — get that point guard back with veteran experience as opposed to as good of a job we did yesterday Frankie did than just throwing out a freshman like that without that defense?
JACE HOWARD: I think it adds more to our arsenal. Obviously yesterday Frankie had a good game, stepped us for us big and I know that’s going to continue not just tomorrow but the rest of the season and I think having more options as a team is going to make us more dangerous in this month.
Q. Jace, about your brother and his recruitment. I know Tennessee was very much involved there. Is there anything you can share, if you helped him out or anything? Just your connection with Tennessee and Rick Barnes, if there is one?
JACE HOWARD: I don’t personally have a connection with him. I know he is excited about this game. I talked to him yesterday and he congratulated us on the win. I know he was very close to choosing them over us so this is a revenge game for me personally, us, too, and, yeah, I think it makes days like tomorrow even more exciting.
But, yeah, it’s definitely something we’re all looking forward to, I would say.
Q. Eli Brooks in the second half seemed like he had a lot of hustle plays. What has he been like this week? Obviously this is his last tournament run with Michigan?
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: He’s been locked in, he’s been here for five years, this is not his first March Madness, he knows what it takes to get further and further. He’s been in the championship game and he’s been in the Final Four so he knows what it takes and we’re gonna follow his lead.
JACE HOWARD: He’s definitely the head of our snake I would say. I know the coach says this, he’s like an extended coach on the floor. So him being somebody that’s been through this and he’s been where we want to go as a team, it makes it easiest for us to lean on him because he’s like a blueprint. We use him in practice, we use him in the games and he’s always somebody you can talk to when you have a question or you just want to better your basketball mind. So it’s great to have him and it’s going to be fun for sure.
Q. (Away from mic.)
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: Personally for me, taking it one game at a time. That’s the biggest thing at this point of the year.
JACE HOWARD: Staying in the moment. You can’t be anywhere else instead of the moment that you’re in. So he’s very keen on that for sure.
Q. What does Tennessee look like? I know you guys play in the Big Ten a lot, do they look like those teams?
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: They definitely do, with their playing style their guards get out quick, they run it like two guards and they like to split the forward transition that remind us more of MSU, they run two bigs sometimes that reminds us of Arizona even though they’re not in the Big Ten that we played against in Las Vegas so we have seen that style of play many times. We have to stick to our habits and defend and do what we are told and I think we can win.
JACE HOWARD: Especially number 25 we relate him a lot to Sasha Stefanovic on Purdue being somebody that doesn’t stop moving without the ball like Steph Curry-like him and make it a priority to stop him and stop them in transition, because like T said they’re like MSU in that way, how they get the ball and go, catch it at the three-point line extended and it’s important for us to locate everybody in transition and locate their shooters because that’s a big part of their game plan and their DNA. So it’s going to be key for us tomorrow.
Q. I know from a game-to-game basis consistency has been an issue with this team. In your opinion how close are you guys to figuring out how to play a full game and how to play a run of good games in a row?
JACE HOWARD: To answer your question, I feel like our consistency is very odd because we have had games where we had full games I felt we played pretty well and games like yesterday where we were a second-half team.
The key is you want to make sure we don’t put ourselves into that position again because as fun as it is, as crazy as March is, that luck is going to run out if you keep putting yourselves in deep holes in the first half. We understand that and we’re evaluating that and I don’t want to say we’re going to be on pins and needles but we’re going to come out with a different urge than how we did yesterday, for sure.
Q. Terrance, Phil Martelli likened Hunter Dickinson to a WWE villain on the court, what’s he like off the court?
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: Off the court he’s funny. When he’s on the court he’s locked in, and it comes with the game. He does a lot of trash talking, he’s always been doing that since he’s been little and since I’ve been playing with him, but, off the court he’s cool, he’s funny, it’s just trash talk on the court to be honest.
Q. How much did yesterday really kind of get some of that — I don’t want to say relief in getting past that first game, but how did it feel to rally in a game like that and get focused back to what you all do best?
JACE HOWARD: I would probably say that yesterday was — that game was a mirror of our season. First half not — of the season didn’t go how we planned. It made us really dig down deep and decide how bad we wanted to finish out the season, how bad we wanted to meet our goals.
That’s just how life is. I remember saying at halftime, like, this game is going to mirror our season, coming out the second half like we did in the second half of the season, we were resilient, we flipped it around and gave ourselves an opportunity to be somewhere like how we are today.
I just think that’s really good for us moving forward because now we have something to fight for. Not saying that we didn’t before but it adds that little juice and no time better for that than March.
Q. Everybody talks about Tennessee’s defense, their propensity for stealing the ball. What is particularly daunting of their defense that you happen to be weary of?
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: The guards play a lot of ball pressure, they do a lot of gambling sometimes as you can see so we’ve got to take care of the ball and be strong with the ball. We can’t be loose with it, dribbling, triple threat, not having it out. Even their bigs, if you get in the paint, you know, they got a couple of shot blockers. Those are the big things that we talked about on defense so far.
JACE HOWARD: Just being offensively sound, don’t let them speed us up. We are at our best when we play our game and when teams get us out of that, obviously bad things happen.
So it’s just being ourselves. Don’t let anybody else or any other team get us out of who we are and what we do best. If we don’t let the game or their tempo on defense speed us up, I feel very confident about our play.
Q. I know the regular season didn’t exactly go as you guys wanted it to but now that you’re here do you feel the season, the success of it hinges on keeping going and making a deep run in this tournament? Is that not how you view things inside the program?
TERRANCE WILLIAMS, II: I mean, we had three goals in the season, two of them we didn’t accomplish but since we are in March Madness we have another goal to catch so I feel like if we get this goal, that’s one of the goals and it’s a big one, too so I feel like we are playing for our season and we are playing as hard as we can. Resident saying we wasn’t throughout the year but now we’re locked in especially with March Madness so we’re going to take it one fame at a time.
JACE HOWARD: It’s the beauty of March. You can always make a season memorable in March with how well you do. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us, because we feel like we deserve it. We feel like we are good enough to do big things this month. I just think it’s just a great be opportunity for us, and regardless of what happened in the past. I feel like we as a team are using that now to fuel us and taking what we learned in those bad situations and applying it now. There is no better time to do that. So, yeah.
Q. You guys have alternated win and losses for over a month now, but at this point in the season your next loss is your last. What makes you confident that tomorrow is the day where you buck that trend?
JACE HOWARD: We got no other choice. I remember there were some jokes by Hunter this morning saying, we should play the managers so we can get the loss out of the way. But that’s Hunter for you. I think every second is vital. It could be your last game. So we have no choice but to do that. We have to win. And we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our fans and the people that are behind the scenes like our managers, the director of basketball ops, from top to bottom. There is no better way to do it than now.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck, gentlemen.
Welcome Coach Juwan Howard from the University of Michigan.
Q. I noticed Jalen at the game yesterday as you were leaving the court y’all shared an embrace. I’m curious what you can tell us about what was said and how much that meant to you in the moment.
COACH HOWARD: You really don’t know me, right? The media, they know I don’t share anything personal, I keep that in house. It was great to see Jalen. He surprised me, I didn’t know he was going to be here but there is nothing like having family in the building supporting you.
Q. It’s been a while from a win streak, obviously you’ve had moments in games where you played good, you struggled. In your opinion how close are you guys to putting all the pieces together and just really gearing up for something special here?
COACH HOWARD: We understand we’re going to be playing a really good team tomorrow. This team has size. They have shooting. They have great coaching, experienced coaching. Our kids just try to be ready from start to finish, play a competitive game, because that’s the type of game we expect them to play. Play Michigan basketball.
Q. Juwan, seems like DeVanté Jones is ready to come back, is that true and will he go into the starting lineup?
COACH HOWARD: DeVanté was out there for more than practice, got out there, got a little lather and it’s a game-time decision. I will be on my knees tonight praying he will hopefully be ready to go tomorrow because we’re going to need all hands on deck.
Q. Coach, congratulations on the win yesterday. What does Tennessee look like — I know you guys play in the Big Ten, do they look different than you have seen during the season?
COACH HOWARD: Can you repeat the last part of your question?
Q. Tennessee what do they look like in your preparation throughout your career of coaching at Michigan?
COACH HOWARD: Well, they’re a very good team. What I’ve seen is I mentioned earlier, they have great size, good inside play, protectors, they have shooting from all over the floor, whether they’re perimeter or primary ball handler or from Chandler or Zeigler, they also have wings and they have a great coach. He’s had a lot of success in college basketball over his years in different programs.
They play in a tough conference which is the SEC. They face teams like Kentucky and many others so I’m expecting it’s going to be a very competitive game tomorrow, but yes in the Big Ten we have had a lot of competitive teams that we have faced that are pretty good, too, it would be nothing new to us when it comes to facing size and facing shooting. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to make sure when we get out there, it’s still basketball. It’s still basketball. The ball is still orange, and it’s still round.
Q. Juwan, I think Villanova is the only team this year that played Tennessee and had fewer than 10 turnovers in a game. What is it they do so well to force opponents to make mistakes?
COACH HOWARD: Defensively they throw a lot of coverages at you, sometimes they will throw two to the ball and blitz, sometimes they will have a soft blitz. There are moments when they put bigs in the drop coverage. They also will switch, 1-5 depending on line-ups they have in there, I’ve also saw some zone they have played. With those different types of coverages, at times they can either speed you up and cause confusion out there on the floor, some will get you out of the timing of your sets, some of the scoring opportunities that you want to score, whether it’s inside or outside. But the key with us, we can’t overthink it.
Just be patient, make simple plays and not try to make the whole run of plays.
Q. Tennessee recruited Jet pretty hard. His brother said he came pretty close to picking them. What’s it like as a parent when other programs come after your kids?
COACH HOWARD: My wife was more like the lead on that recruiting process. She is also there to help during the official visit. I remember I couldn’t go because we had an official visit lined up as well and a very important one that came out to visit Michigan. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to hear the recruiting process even though I had had some opportunities to speak with their staff and assistant coach and head coach, but having your son who now you’ve got to go through a recruiting war with one of the top programs in the SEC, and Michigan being Michigan, and I couldn’t come there as arrogant and say, hey, this is family, family gotta stick with family.
I still wanted my son to choose his school that he felt was best for his college future, because I’ve already had mine. It’s about him, and I wanted him to enjoy the recruiting experience, because he deserved it. He earned that right. Tennessee, being a great program, I left impressed with them, too, but my wife was too damn happy about Tennessee, and Jet was excited about the program and what they had to offer for his development, and he was truly impressed with coach.
So — Rick Barnes, I’m speaking of. Really came close. He was leaning toward Tennessee and now you look at it full circle. Here we are now in the NCAA Tournament facing each other in the second round.
Q. Were you ever concerned that Jet would choose them or is that not the right word?
COACH HOWARD: I was concerned. I was. I had to ramp up my recruiting and not saying we did not give him the same — not saying we did not give Jet the same recruiting experience that we would give other prospects but now I can speak of Jet, I won’t get an NCAA violation but that’s still my family, that’s my son, that’s my blood. With that I kind of slightly threw that into my recruiting. (Chuckles.) I’m just joking, but, yeah, I did get be concerned. I really did.
Q. You couldn’t go on the official visit but if you could speak to the interaction you did have with Rick Barnes and kind of what relationship if any you have built with him?
COACH HOWARD: Yeah, I left impressed, impressed with the man, because I watched him from afar. I have seen his success and how he’s turned around programs and things over at Texas and how they played some fun, exciting basketball, always stayed competitive.
I watched him very closely, because there were times when Texas basketball — and Rick Barnes was there as the head coach when I was playing for the Houston Rockets. There were three years in a row where we had our training camp at UT, so I was familiar with Coach Barnes. Then to get a chance to talk to him, understand the man, being a family man, also heard about a program and how he’s helped to develop these guys who have had success in the NBA now like Kevin Durant and TJ Ford. He’s had a lot of success in every program he’s been involved at.
Q. You talked Kennedy Chandler. What have you seen he’s been able to do this season as he’s grown over the course of the last three months?
COACH HOWARD: Yes, Kennedy is a special, special player, one of the best point guards in college basketball, in my opinion. The way he’s able to make immediate impact right out of high school into the college level, that’s impressive. But it also says a lot about the coaching staff and his development and putting him into positions to help lead the team to where they are today. Looked at his shooting, his shooting has gotten better. He shoots 40+ percent from three. He’s always known as a playmaker, a guy that can get downhill and can make plays for others. But no one talked about his shooting, and you’ve just seen how he’s worked on it and that’s one of his strengths.
He’s a high IQ player, he has the same face. I call it the Kawhi Leonard or the Tim Duncan face. He never seems to get rattled or frustrated, from what I’ve noticed. I’ve been impressed with how he’s mentally stable when things are going good or bad.
Q. Just like you to talk about Caleb Houstan and what he’s brought to you and what you think he will mean to you tomorrow.
COACH HOWARD: Caleb Houstan has stepped right in, earned a starting position, loves to be coached. He’s getting better and better. I see great things happening for him with the game of basketball while he’s here at Michigan and also when he goes on and hopefully plays at the NBA level, which I think he has a chance to.
In the second half he made some really good plays and also some big shoots that we needed, the key to our run. Sprinting in transition, which he’s worked on all year, being able to stop on balance and shoot a three with a hand that’s flying at you. That’s not easy. Also coming off a dribble hand-off and stopping on a dime, and then being able to get downhill and being able to grow in that area and wanting to grow in that area.
Defensively he’s been improving. He also has done a really good job with his length of being able to get rebounds for us with his size and toughness. We’re going to need it. We’re going to need everything. We will need everyone. We will need Caleb, and I know he’s looking forward to the big day.
Q. When you are look at Santiago Vescovi on film, what makes him difficult to guard before he even get a shot off, in terms of the way he moves and gets around the court?
COACH HOWARD: You said it. He moves great without the basketball. His feet is always moving. Kind of reminds me of a guy like JJ Reddick, also Duncan Robinson, Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller. That’s pretty special, because obviously he has to have great conditioning, and you can see that he worked on it. But then to be able to read how the defense is playing and whether they’re locking and trailing, how to curl it, or if a guy shoots the gap how to step back and shoot the jumper.
Also being able to make a pass and then go back and follow it by setting up your defense by getting them off your body. That’s elite level, but it also says he’s a high IQ player that knows how to play basketball. I’ve been impressed watching him on film. He’s a tough guard.
Wish Juwan would have the same personality and openness he had talking about Jett’s recruitment with every question. Pretty stark difference between the opening question about Rose and the Jett stuff.
I agree. The way Juwan answers questions that go to areas he doesn’t want to talk about can come off as rude sometimes. Instead of starting with “you don’t really know me, right?”, he could simply say “you know, I would prefer to keep that conversation private.”
I thought it was funny because he knows how bad his press conferences are, so he’s giving a nod to the local reporters who know he doesn’t divulge anything of substance.