Juwan Howard and his players met with the media today in San Antonio ahead of Thursday’s game against Villanova.
Q. Coach, this is the second year in a row where both the men’s and women’s programs for Michigan are headed to the Sweet 16. What is it like for you to see that kind of shared success between both programs and what it means for Michigan basketball as a whole?
JUWAN HOWARD: I think it’s wonderful for the University of Michigan, being the fine institution that it is, to have two basketball programs, the men’s and women’s, to represent the school, represent what the school is all about with the winning tradition on and off the floor.
I give Kim and her staff an amazing credit as far as what they have developed with that culture and finding fine young women that are talented in many ways and play basketball the winning way.
Getting to the men’s program, it says a lot about our AD, Warde Manuel, with the hires that he’s made not just on the basketball level, but being a part of it and having the opportunity to coach and lead these fine young men. It’s a blessing to see all the hard work that they put in, also to see our staff and all the work that they put in to buy into what the Michigan culture is all about.
So I think it’s fun and exciting for the state of Michigan to be represented by the men’s and women’s basketball program.
Q. Can you give us an update on DeVante’ Jones? Is he a full participant? And his status for tomorrow.
JUWAN HOWARD: He practiced today and yesterday, so right now he’s looking good. He’s improved a lot with his health. We will know more tomorrow morning as far as how he feels when it comes to recovery as he wakes up. But I keep my fingers crossed, and we’re praying that he will be available for tomorrow.
Q. To follow on that, you’ve said next man up many times throughout the season. Frankie Collins was that next man up. If DeVante’ is back, how do you manage those minutes with a freshman who’s played so well?
JUWAN HOWARD: We’ve been through it before with injuries, with COVID. It’s already embedded in the culture, and our guys understand with injuries we make no excuses, but we trust that every guy that’s in that roster will get an opportunity to go out there, and when they do play, they’re going to give it their best.
Fortunate enough, when DeVante’ went out with his injury, Frankie Collins stepped up, but it wasn’t a surprise to his teammates, it wasn’t a surprise to me or the staff because the work he’s put in in practice, the work he’s put in when he’s not at practice. The kid loves basketball. He has a basketball mind. He’s been through some competitive moments before throughout the season. But on the big stage in the NCAA Tournament, he didn’t look like a freshman. He looked like he belongs, which he does.
Q. Juwan, obviously defending without fouling is always going to be the goal for you guys, but against a team that shoots free throws as well as Villanova does, how do you balance maintaining aggression but also not putting a team on the line that really takes advantage there?
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, we’re going to guard. We have to defend. It’s a very good team that shoots the ball extremely well. They have great perimeter play. They do a really good job of playing one-on-one basketball when it comes to exploiting matchups. They’re very patient within their offensive sets.
How we drill it throughout the season, back on July 1st, when we first got together, we built the habits on how to defend. And there have been times when we’ve had slippage in our defense, but it’s going to be tested. And we’re looking forward to that competitive juices, we’re looking forward to playing against a competitive team, and I trust our team is dialed in and ready to go tomorrow.
Q. Juwan, you just mentioned defensively there have been some ups and downs this season. What have you done well the last couple games to really elevate the way you’ve played defensively?
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, what we’ve done well is mental stability. Give our guys credit. There have been times in the first half when we’ve been down. There have been times in the first half when we’ve turned over the basketball because we try to make the right play.
But to be able to know and understand that it’s a 40-minute game, trusting the process but being dialed in when a team makes a run, staying mentally stable, that’s where you have leaders on the floor — a guy like Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson, putting the guys together on their back and sharing with them about we’ve got to stay locked in and focused. Our time will come, but keep trusting, keep getting stops. Those are the types of conversations they have in the huddles, and that’s why we have the carryover the way we do by being able to finish ball games.
The game is built on 40 minutes, and until that buzzer sounds, we’re going to keep competing from start to finish.
Q. Collin Gillespie from Villanova, obviously, has played a lot of games. What have you see from him? That kid, seems like he’s been there forever.
JUWAN HOWARD: When they say you’ve been there forever, that means you’re doing something right. What I say about that is a young man who has bought into the culture at Villanova, has trusted the process and had success while doing it.
Year after year, he’s improved and added something new to his game. With the injury, the tough injury that he suffered, but to be able to bounce back, that’s not easy. I haven’t experienced that injury personally myself, but I’ve had friends and also teammates that have. That says a lot about his mental toughness.
Now this year he’s led this team, and now they’re at the Sweet 16. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s had an All-American season. He’s going to be playing basketball, I see, for the near future, whether it’s on the NBA level or wherever else. But he’s going to have a lot of success because the kid’s a competitor, he knows how to play, and he plays winning basketball.
Q. Michigan, you guys have set a big-time record with five straight Sweet 16 appearances. Anything you can put your finger on as to why year after year you guys are able to succeed at this time of year?
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, it starts with the leadership up top. I touched on it, and I know he doesn’t want the credit, he’s not the one that’s going to stick his chest out and beat his chest and say, “Hey, it’s about me, me, me, I, I, I,” but it says a lot about the leadership who hired the people, and that’s Warde Manuel, our AD. He does a fantastic job in identifying who are the right coaches that he wants to lead our men and women programs and in different levels of sports.
So with five straight Sweet 16 appearances, it’s not easy. It takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of being uncomfortable. And now that this is my third year as a coach, I can speak on this. Before COVID, getting an understanding of the team that I have and getting them to buy into the culture and what our team identity will be, the team that I inherited from Isaiah Livers, starting with him, and also Zavier Simpson.
Then you look now at guys like Eli and Hunter, it says a lot about these young men and how they are giving to the program but also giving to the leadership. I’m just excited to have a great team that works hard, play the right way, high-character young men, good students in the classroom, and they’re just enjoying the college experience.
So people say, hey, this is a job; and I look at it, no, it’s not a job for me. This is something that I love doing. I love driving in, getting the opportunity to get in the gym, and learn from these young men and work with them. That’s the key, working with them.
Q. As far as the Big Ten, you guys were the last team standing in the tournament last year. It’s you and Purdue now. I know you’re locked in to your team, but I guess I’m wondering what your take is on the league in general and if you have pride in carrying the banner for the Big Ten to a certain extent?
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, I’m locked in to Michigan. I can control the controllable, and this is the only thing I would say right now that I have hands-on knowledge about, care about is University of Michigan and what this program represents and what we as Michigan people, the pride that we have and the support that we have for one another. That’s the only thing I’m dialed into, and that’s the only thing I’m focused on, is Michigan basketball.
Q. The Big Ten afforded Hunter a chance to go against some really good big men this season, and he talked about how he enjoys that challenge. What jumps out to you about a potential matchup between Hunter and Eric Dixon?
JUWAN HOWARD: I know they talked about the guard play from Gillespie and Moore and others, but Dixon, when you’re a 6’7″ center — people look at centers, and think they’ve got to be 6’9″ or 7 feet. Sometimes you look at that as a slight, but he’s not just a center, he’s a basketball player. But he’s a competitive basketball player built with a lot of strength, toughness, that can shoot the basketball extremely well and plays with a high IQ.
Hunter, he don’t look at a guy has to be 7 feet for me to start competing against him. Hunter loves basketball. A basketball player that, when he steps between the lines, he don’t feel like, “Okay, it’s about me, I, I, I.” He’s dialed into the team.
So let’s get right to it. It’s about Villanova and Michigan playing a basketball game. They’re going to play great team basketball built on concepts. It’s not about one-on-one matchups. We’re going to be dialed into how we play, stick to what we play, trust it, have belief in one another, and compete for 40 minutes.
Q. Last week Jay was talking about the importance of having — you were asked about the streak. Jay was talking about the importance of having guys constantly in the program who have played in the NCAA Tournament year after year after year so that, when you get there, you don’t have to explain what it’s like or wonder how they’re going to react or things like that. I wonder what you’ve kind of seen of that aspect of things in your experience coaching in this tournament with guys who have actually been there?
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, guys with past experience of being in the tournament year after year and for young guys that are freshmen who haven’t experienced it, it’s great to have great leadership to be able to share some of the experiences.
It’s also as a coach you love having leadership that can be that leader when teams go on those runs, where sometimes you lose a little bit of trust, sometimes we start to overthink and overanalyze moments out there on the floor, but you have another coach out there like an Eli Brooks to be able to pull guys together and get them locked in to staying onto the job and the job that’s — and the task that’s at hand.
I have to give our young guys a lot of credit. They haven’t gotten caught into all the outside stuff, the outside noise. Yes, this is a dream of theirs to play in March Madness. They’ve been in high school. They’ve been to AAU basketball, and they’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to compete for a National Championship. But they also put in the work back in July leading up to this point.
So I’ve been so proud with how they’ve been so mature throughout the process, throughout the season, during the Big Ten Conference
Q. Hi, Coach Howard. When did you find out when your team is peaking right now? Are they peaking at the right time, or do you feel like they still have a lot of would, to do?
JUWAN HOWARD: There’s always room for improvement. I’m one of those coaches that they probably say together or in their heads that I’m always nitpicking. I’m one of those coaches that’s so dialed into the details and how we can improve, and there’s always room for growth.
Going back, when you’re watching film and you’re seeing teachable moments in the game, whether it’s on the defensive side of the ball or the offensive side of the ball, on mistakes that we made, but they’re fixable mistakes. That’s the part where I see where we can grow as a group, and I see there’s areas that we’re going to always continue to keep working on so we can prepare to be a better ball club.
At this time of the year, I’m sure every team will tell you there’s always some areas of growth. You never feel like you’re a complete team no matter if you’re playing in the championship game. I’m sure coaches will tell you, and Jay Wright, he can speak for it because he’s been there before, there’s always room for improvement.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach, for your time. We appreciate it. Best of luck tomorrow.
We are joined by center Hunter Dickinson, guard DeVante’ Jones, guard Caleb Houstan, guard Eli Brooks.
Q. Eli and Hunter, if you could, Michigan set a Big Ten record with five straight Sweet 16 appearances. Can you guys put your finger on anything Michigan maybe does differently than other programs as leading to that March success?
HUNTER DICKINSON: They’ve got a man named Eli Brooks for five years that’s been there. Maybe that’s the common denominator.
ELI BROOKS: I’ve only got four of them. I can’t take credit for all five.
Q. DeVante’, can you kind of describe what the last week has been like for you from when you took the hit to when you tried to play and couldn’t and where you are now?
DEVANTE’ JONES: At first it was a little bit emotional for me, but then I got myself together, and just seeing how the team was playing so well, doing so great and getting victories. That’s the main thing for me.
Obviously I want to play here in March Madness, but the time I was just so happy for my teammates being able to win through that type of adversity.
Q. DeVante’, I know it’s a bad memory, but if you could go back, you take a shot in the nose at practice. I mean, at what point do you realize I’m not going to be able to play in the first NCAA Tournament game?
DEVANTE’ JONES: Probably like five seconds after it happened honestly. (Laughter). No, right when it happened, my head felt like crazy and things like that. I just didn’t feel normal, so I just knew that I would probably be out for the first game.
Q. As far as can you talk about where you watched the game and just the emotions of seeing your team win to give you a chance to join them.
DEVANTE’ JONES: Yeah, I watched the game at home in my room. It was a dark room. So I watched it at home. I was excited throughout the whole game. The first half I was kind of nervous. It was playing on my emotions. Second half, they got together, and I was excited they won.
Q. This is going to be your 16th NCAA Tournament game. You played in a few as a freshman. But 16 of these. How much easier is it to play in these games when you’ve done it so many times?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, just controlling like your emotions throughout the game, I think like March Madness is a neutral site most of the time, but one team usually has more fans than the other. We’ve been lucky enough to have more fans most of the time.
So I think just moving forward and being able to play through those environments, sustain runs is the biggest thing.
Q. Hunter, you guys have mixed in some zone throughout the season, but it seems like especially lately it’s been a really effective change of pace for you guys. What’s made it effective, and what’s different for you when you’re playing man versus zone?
HUNTER DICKINSON: I think the reason why the zone is so effective for a lot of teams is most teams run a lot of good man plays, but not a lot of teams have a lot of good zone plays. They don’t work on them as much, I’d say. So that can definitely take teams off guard.
I think for us with our zone we try to really be really energetic and really active in the zone that can try to disrupt teams and try to force them into draining the shot clock so they don’t get the best of shots.
Q. As far as the last game, you had to come out a couple times. One time I think they were saying on TV was the wrist, but then it might have been concussion issues again. Can you speak to what happened in that game?
DEVANTE’ JONES: I can’t say too much. I just wasn’t feeling my 100 percent self, and I didn’t want to be selfish to the team because I knew we had a guard like Frankie Collins who come in and get the job done, and that’s what he did.
Q. I know you weren’t surprised by what you saw, but for those of us who didn’t get to see him play huge minutes, can you say what you saw from him out there?
DEVANTE’ JONES: I knew it, and I tweeted it the day or two before that he’s going to get the job done. He’s a great point guard. He’s young, but he understands his role on the team, you know, athletic, quick guard who can get downhill and score for himself or make plays for others. And he’s very good on defense as well. So he’s all around a great guard for us.
Q. Eli, after the win over Tennessee, you and Terrance talked about how important it was to run them off the three-point line and take that away. Against a team like Villanova that shoots just as well, if not better, in terms of the number of guys that can shoot, is the challenge different at all when all guys can shoot from three versus just a couple like Tennessee had?
ELI BROOKS: Yeah, but it makes more people have to be disciplined on defense. They’ve got fours and fives that can shoot the ball, so we’re going to have to do a good job all around closing out under control because they all can put the ball on the ground as well. Just not shooters, they can also put the ball on the ground and score for themselves.
Q. Hunter, you played with Justin Moore in high school. What was your relationship with him, and what did you see in him as a player?
HUNTER DICKINSON: Me and Justin were really good friends. That was one of my best friends in high school. We’d been playing with each other since like sixth grade, me, him, and Terrance. So we have a really good relationship.
Ever since we were young, Justin was really good at getting to the rim and finishing, just a pure scorer. He just added to his game since then, since DeMatha.
Q. Congratulations on making it to the Sweet 16. You guys play in the Big Ten. What team does Villanova look like in the Big Ten? I know you guys played against Maryland and Ohio State and Michigan State. What do they look like on video getting ready for tomorrow night’s game?
THE MODERATOR: Can you repeat your question, please?
Q. My question is what does Villanova look like, getting ready for tomorrow night’s preparation? You guys played in the Big Ten a lot. Do they look like one of the Big Ten teams you guys play against?
HUNTER DICKINSON: I don’t think so. Like maybe like a more disciplined Iowa team maybe. I say that in terms of like Iowa, they’re really free flowing and they have a couple sets, but it’s mostly just a lot of them making up their own sets and really free flowing. Villanova is really disciplined. They’ve run their sets. Coach Wright has them really trained to do the Villanova system.
But both teams have a lot of shooting. Both teams, I’d say, don’t have that like 7-foot big man like the rest of the Big Ten has. They have really good talent, really good shooting, and can really space the floor.
Q. Eli, I wanted to ask you, you were a freshman when you guys played Villanova in the championship. Is this a little bit of a full circle moment for you? What do you remember about that game?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, this was the two schools that it came down to for me, so this is a big matchup for me. To get the win back in the same place that we lost the National Championship Game in, but I’m not going to make it personal about myself. It’s about moving on to the next round. It just happens to be Villanova back in San Antonio.
Q. I know you really only care about Michigan, but do you pay attention to the fact that the rest of the Big Ten, there’s only one other team left? Last year you guys were the last team standing.
HUNTER DICKINSON: This season was definitely like not the best, not the way that we wanted to. Other fans definitely let us know that, particularly Michigan State, Illinois, who else? Ohio State. Who else? There was other team in there. Who was it? There was one more. Oh, oh, the team down in Madison, the red and white team, they definitely let us know how they felt about our season.
We heard those NIT chants. They were hurtful. They definitely hurt. It’s funny how they’ll be watching us on Thursday back in their cribs.
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23 more replies
Hunter always has the best energy
I take it Hunter won’t be getting BQ an easter card.
Pretty sad journalism there tbh by BQ.
They forgot to add the part where he says, “I don’t think so” in the beginning to the response on whether or not there is a Big Ten team that is similar to Villanova.
Awful reporting by BQ.
Been flying most of today… What is all the fuss about this quote? Who is offended for what reason by it? Iowa fans? Villanova fans? I feel like I’m missing some part of it that is controversial.