Michigan basketball: Hello, offseason

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Coach Juwan Howard undertakes his first offseason as Michigan’s head coach. Photo//Robin Buckson/Detroit News.

After a few quiet weeks due to the coronavirus putting the sports world on pause, the Michigan men’s basketball program has had an eventful few days filled with departures and new additions. 

Head coach Juwan Howard is in the midst of his first offseason in college basketball and so far has not disappointed. With all the recent news, I got you all covered with a timeline of this past week’s unfoldings. 

4/6:David DeJulius enters the transfer portal

Michigan’s pursuit of grad transfers at the point guard position spelled the end of DeJulius’ time at Michigan.
Photo//Mike Mulholland/MLive.com

Last Monday, the Michigan Insider was informed of sophomore point guard David DeJulius’ intentions to enter the transfer portal. When talking about potential departures during the season, this was one that was never really explored, but Michigan’s pursuit of transfer Ivy League point guards Bryce Aiken and Mike Smith in recent weeks foreshadowed the move. This past season saw DeJulius move into the sixth-man role with the Wolverines. He was a good scoring option off the bench and finished the year averaging 7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, and 1.5 apg, all while shooting 41% from the field and 36% from three. DeJulius has been moving quickly with his recruiting as after over twenty schools reached out to him, the sophomore has narrowed his list down to four teams: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Marquette, and Missouri. There is no indication of who the current leader is, but Marquette seems to have an edge because of DeJulius’ connection with two current players: He was the high school teammate of Greg Elliott and AAU teammates with Jamal Cain. It will be interesting to see where the Detroit native ends up, but whichever school he ends up choosing, he will have to sit out a year because of NCAA transfer rules. 

4/8: Jace Howard walks-on for freshman year

It was announced last Wednesday evening that 2020 commit Jace Howard will be walking on for his freshman year. Howard, the son of Juwan, initially committed to Michigan back in January under the impression that he would be a scholarship player. The move freed up another scholarship to give Michigan two for a certain grad transfer that I shall mention later. 

View Howard’s recruiting profile on 247 sports here: https://247sports.com/player/jace-howard-94378/

4/9: Colin Castleton enters transfer portal

Castleton never really broke through in his time at Michigan under both John Beilein and Juwan Howard.
Photo//Mike Mulholland/MLive.com

A few hours after the Jace Howard news, it was announced that sophomore center Colin Castleton decided to enter his name in the transfer portal. The move was much more expected than DeJulius’ departure as Castleton fell behind Austin Davis for the backup center job during conference play. Appearing in 25 games this season, he cracked double digit minutes only once during conference play (a game that was due to Isaiah Livers’ injury). Michigan Basketball assistant coach Phil Martelli spoke highly of the 6’11” lanky center a few weeks ago, highlighting his belief in his potential by stating, “There’s going to be a breakthrough. Something was holding back Castleton from realizing his full potential. Once he figured that out, he’s a guy who could skyrocket through that ceiling.” While Castleton’s departure leaves only two true bigs on the roster ( Davis and incoming freshman Hunter Dickinson), the Wolverines have a few forwards (Brandon Johns Jr., Livers, incoming freshman Isaiah Todd) who are plenty capable of playing both the four and the five. 

4/9: Michigan secures commitment from Columbia grad-transfer Mike Smith 

Mike Smith will give the Wolverines a much needed experienced lead guard.
Photo//Columbia Athletics

Welcoming news came early Friday afternoon for Michigan fans as after missing out on the highly-coveted Bryce Aiken, Columbia grad transfer Mike Smith took to Twitter to announce his commitment to the Wolverines. The 5’11” point guard chose the Wolverines over the likes of Arizona, Gonzaga, and Seton Hall. This past season with the Lions, Smith averaged 22.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 4.5 apg. Smith was the lone bright spot on a six-win Columbia squad and in effect had a 39% usage rate during the conference season. To give you an idea of how insane his usage rate was last year, of the 62 attempts Smith made at the rim this past season, only five were assisted and 25 of his 45 made threes out of halfcourt sets were unassisted. Surrounded with much better talent in Ann Arbor, Smith will not have to carry nearly the offensive load he did in New York and can focus more on his off-the-dribble game, which is where he excelled. Via Ace Anbender of MGoBlog, “He graded out in the 77th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler last season, per Synergy, and in the 84th percentile as an isolation scorer.” The most important thing Smith’s commitment brings Michigan is a much needed ball handler and distributor. He finished last season with a 1.51 assist to turnover rate and fans should expect to see both the 4.5 apg increase and 2.9 tpg fall with less usage. Smith still has adjustments to make jumping from Ivy League competition to the Big Ten and questions remain about his individual defense, but he will compete with Eli Brooks for the starting point guard position next year. 

Linked below are some of Smith’s highlights from his best games this season:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrnBpwX7GTE

37 points and 4 assists vs Yale

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WFGav5fN00

38 points and 4 assists vs Harvard

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw9RXab6070

30 points 3 assists vs Princeton