Youssef Khayat eager to make defensive impact at Michigan

Like most hoopers growing up, young Youssef Khayat found himself glued to the TV. Living in Lebanon, he woke up early in the mornings before school or stayed up late into the night to watch his favorite stars — especially the LA Clippers’ Lob City teams — go to work.

“Blake Griffin, for me, was my childhood hero,” Khayat said on MGoBlue’s Defend the Block podcast. “I was coming back from school — giving Blake alley-oops, I was imagining myself giving him alley-oops.”

And again like most players growing up, Khayat acted out highlights the next day on the basketball court. But unlike many kids that dreamed of being the center of attention — Blake Griffin slamming down dunks with authority or JJ Redick draining threes from the corner — Khayat visualized himself as the teammate who made those plays happen.

And as he prepares to join the Michigan basketball team soon, Khayat’s team-first mindset could help him do just that for weapons like sophomore center Hunter Dickinson and incoming freshman forward Jett Howard.

Of course, it’s a long way until he can make it to that level. He hasn’t even made it to the United States yet, let alone ingrained himself in the Wolverines’ offense. The latest hope is that he’ll be able to join the team on their overseas tour. But Khayat is used to learning the ropes thanks to his time spent with professionals in France, where he picked up transition offense experience that he will bring to Ann Arbor. As a young player alongside established veterans, adjusting and learning on the fly was a necessity.

“I was always the youngest on the team,” Khayat said. “I just had to do the extra stuff, always be the last one training, always be giving my all on both on both sides of the court. So, just learning from people older than me, from experienced people. Even when I’m on the bench, always learning, always seeing what I can improve, the little details that can help me.”

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