On Thursday, the Michigan men’s basketball team will welcome Indiana into Crisler Center for the two teams’ first matchup of the season.
After a slow start to the Big Ten season that saw the Hoosiers go 1-3, Indiana has responded with three straight wins, including a seven-point victory over Michigan State last Saturday.
With guard Yogi Ferrell gone to the NBA and forward OG Anunoby recently suffering a right knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season, Hoosier center Thomas Bryant has assumed an even bigger role on the team.
While Bryant is shooting almost 17 percent worse than he did last year, he is still averaging 11.9 points per game and his rebounding average has increased from 5.8 to 7 rebounds per game.
The Daily sat down with Bryant at Big Ten Media Day in October to discuss Bryant’s decision to pass on the NBA Draft and return to Indiana, playing with Ferrell and the Hoosiers’ tough non-conference schedule.
The Michigan Daily: You had a chance to jump to the NBA last summer. What do you think of the new rule that allows players to test the waters before jumping into the draft?
Thomas Bryant: I think it’s great. It’s great for players to go out there and test the waters and get the feedback from NBA scouts on what they need to improve on, what they do well. Every college basketball player’s dream is to make it to the NBA, what better way to get feedback than from NBA personnel?
TMD: What were the biggest factors that led you to go back to Indiana for another year?
TB: I knew I needed to get better. There’s some key things I needed to get better at, and I knew staying would actually help me get better at those things.
TMD: You mentioned conditioning earlier as one of those things, but in terms of X’s and O’s, what do you want to get better at?
TB: I feel like I could be better on both ends of the court and being more versatile and more vocal out there on the court.
TMD: Now that you’re in your sophomore year, what did you learn from your freshman year and how can you take that into your second year at Indiana?
TB: Just the mindset that I need to have about playing college basketball. It’s a lot different than high school, and you just have to have that mental mindset and there’s a mental toughness that you need to have on the court.
TMD: Yogi Ferrell has been somewhat of a villain for Michigan fans over the past couple of years. What was it like playing with him last year?
TB: It was great. He knew a lot about the game, and he brought the most out of his teammates each and every day. Whether it was in practice or in a game, he was a real leader.
TMD: Your team was undefeated at home at Assembly Hall last year. What will it take to go undefeated again there this year? (Indiana is currently 12-2 at home with losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin.)
TB: We need to have the same mindset that we had last year, especially on the defensive end. We have to have a pitbull mindset on the defensive end because our defense will transform our offense into a great offense.
TMD: You have a pretty tough schedule to open up the year with games against Kansas and North Carolina. Are you excited to play the better teams in the country?
TB: Oh yeah. We look forward to playing the better teams in the country. We like that. All we want to do is play great, top-notch teams. We’ll take that with open arms.