Klay Thompson and Kevin Garnett? Michigan basketball players make lofty comparisons
The only damper on an otherwise exciting day for the Michigan’s basketball team was the sight of fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks entering the interview room in a walking boot.
Brooks, named team captain by coach Juwan Howard, suffered a mild ankle sprain at some point between his appearance at Big Ten media day in Indianapolis on Oct. 7 and Friday’s on-campus media day event at the Crisler Center. A team spokesman stressed the minor nature of the injury and told reporters the training staff was simply being overly cautious.
Brooks said Friday he’s feeling good and doesn’t anticipate missing any games. Michigan has its only exhibition game against Wayne State on Nov. 5 and begins the regular season Nov. 10 against Buffalo.
As the most experienced player on the roster, Brooks will play a vital role for a Michigan team defined by its youth. Brooks’ combination of maturity, a strong work ethic, an appreciation for the university and his basketball ability led Howard to give him the U-M captaincy.
“Typically, you know, with some teams and some teams that I’ve been on, the players will vote on who the captain (is),” Howard said. “But I like to identify who I feel is the best to be our best leader because sometimes when the players pick it, it can be like a popularity contest. And no offense — I’m not saying our guys are wired that way — but I just feel safely where a guy needs to earn it. I’m old school in that way.
“He listens very well. He’s also locked into every detail of teaching. When you have that type of mindset and level of focus, then you’re able to carry on and apply what is being taught. Last but not least, he loves basketball. When you have all that combined into a player, you get something special. He is a very special individual and he’s our captain. We’re going to lean on him for our leadership, and it’s great when it doesn’t always have to be coach-driven.”
A common theme of Friday’s media day was the steady flow of comparisons between U-M players and the NBA stars they strive to emulate. It made for an enjoyable topic of conversation regardless of how accurate — or inaccurate — the associations prove to be.
Here’s a rundown of who resembles who:
DeVante’ Jones describing himself: “I know I have gotten comparisons to Fred VanVleet so I just try to emulate his game and use my floater, you know, being crafty and understanding that I can’t always get to the rim for layups. That’s why I’ve been working on my 3 ball. Just understanding the game, you know, a lot of studying, watching a lot of film.”
Hunter Dickinson describing Terrance Williams II: “I think this is the best that I’ve seen from T-Will in his career. I think he’s got that Carmelo (Anthony)-game I feel like, where he’s just able to make tough shots. Having a hand in his face really doesn’t bother him much, and I think that’s one of his best attributes is just being able to hit tough shots. He’s been able to do that a lot this year. Coach asked him to be one of the leaders on the team because of his knowledge. He really is a smart basketball player out there. He’s always in the right spots. That’s T-Will’s best attribute is you know what you’re going to get out of him. He’s not going to mess up much.”
Frankie Collins describing Caleb Houstan: “He shoots the lights out. I mean, I personally, when I walk around the gym or the locker room, I call him Klay Thompson. That’s kind of my comparison with that. He does more than that. He’s a good on-ball defender, good in the lane because he’s got long arms and he has a good touch around the rim. I think he’s more than just what people try to label him.”
Moussa Diabate describing himself: “I would say Kevin Garnett. He’s somebody I really look at when I play. Also I like everybody that plays as a big guard. I like big guard things. So I don’t know if you all know him, but like Tim Thomas, I looked at a little bit of Tim Thomas. Just power forwards or forwards that are able to play inside and out. I always watch Hakeem Olajuwon, Joel Embiid, Giannis (Antetokounmpo). Great players. Jonathan Isaac. I just watch a lot of players.”
Williams sheds weight as role expands
Williams, a sophomore forward, made 21 appearances a season ago but never logged more than 14 minutes in a game. The former four-star recruit and No. 101 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings for the class of 2020 played a peripheral role while averaging 1.9 points per game.
Williams believes his role will expand during a 2021-22 campaign featuring a very youthful Michigan squad. And while most of the attention centers on Howard’s highly rated freshman recruiting class, Williams is one of several sophomores expected to take a step forward. Williams, guard Zeb Jackson (No. 96 overall) and small forward Jace Howard (No. 390) should compete for more playing time as this year’s freshmen adjust to college basketball.
To improve what he has to offer, Williams told reporters he lost 10 pounds over the course of last season by overhauling his diet. Williams was listed at 6 feet 7 and 240 pounds on the 2020-21 roster and is down to 230 pounds on this year’s ledger.
“I feel way more lighter,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m moving way better. Conditioning-wise I feel like I’m more in shape than I was last year. So I think that’s a big improvement that people really overlook.
“It’s more of what I just felt like I needed, you know? Last year when I came in and played I felt like I was tired after three minutes, four minutes coming into the game. I was like nah, this can’t happen next year because I feel like I’m going to play more so I need to get in better shape.
“So this offseason, I changed my eating habits. That’s really what it was, changing my eating habits. Constantly eating greens like vegetables. I didn’t eat a lot (of those) last year. Fruits. Not eating a lot of fried foods. It’s all paying off now because I feel it, I feel better, and I’m going to continue to do my diet. Just working out and staying disciplined.”