Chaundee Brown had a long list of suitors this offseason. 

The 2016-2017 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year and former Wake Forest guard was coming off a season in which he averaged 12.1 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Demon Deacons. The appeal was evident — the program that landed Brown was getting a battle-tested veteran, a capable shooter and a frisky defender who had held his own against stiff ACC competition. 

Brown announced in mid-May that he would transfer to Michigan, turning down the likes of Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State and LSU. While Brown wouldn’t have started for the Bulldogs and Illini — ranked No. 1 and No. 6 respectively in the AP Top 25 Poll — he very well could have for the latter two teams, or a number of mid-majors for that matter. Instead, though, he chose the Wolverines knowing that his minutes may be limited. 

“We just have so much talent,” Brown said. “… I know that myself, (senior guard Eli Brooks), (sophomore wing Franz Wagner) and (graduate guard Mike Smith) we all have to sacrifice each other’s minutes, shots, things like that. But that’s why I came here. I knew I was probably gonna come off the bench here. I have no problem with that. I just wanted to win. That’s all, I wanted to win.”

Brown didn’t do much winning during his career in Winston-Salem going 35-58 in a three-year span. In finding a new team, winning was a priority. So far, so good for Brown and Michigan. The Wolverines are 4-0, and excluding an overtime scare against Oakland, the results were never in doubt. 

In addition to crisp ball movement and a well-rounded offensive attack, Michigan’s bench play has been the driving force behind its early success. In no game was this on display more than in Sunday’s 22-point demolition of UCF — the highest ranked opponent the Wolverines have faced this season according to KenPom. Michigan’s bench accounted for 49 of the team’s 80 points and Brown led the way with an efficient 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. 

“I have a second unit that is selfless,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “They have bought into their roles. Truly the star was Chaundee … he’s accepted the role of being the sixth man for us and he’s perfecting it. It says a lot about his character.” 

Against the Knights, the Wolverines found themselves in a double-digit hole midway through the first half. With Wagner in foul trouble and the starting unit struggling to score, Michigan turned to Brown, freshman center Hunter Dickinson and freshman forward Terrance Williams to dig it out of it. 

“The bench guys, we’re all D1, division 1,” Brown said. “(Coach Howard) knows that we have game. Coach Howard, all the coaches recruited us for a reason. He saw it in AAU and in college basketball.

“Just coming off the bench, that’s a different role. We’re sacrificing a lot of things that on other teams, we would’ve been star players or starting but we’re taking a second role on a winning team. We’re just always ready.”

Through the first four games, Brown’s ability to hit 3-pointers has been on display. At 44% — and with an average of 6.25 attempts per game — Brown leads the team in that category. Whether his stellar conversion rate is more of a product or a cause of the Wolverines’ dynamic offense is unclear, but his confidence from deep is at an all-time high. 

“I believe in my shots,” Brown said. “I work on my shot hours a day, hours and hours in the gym. Before the game, before practice, after practice, I just work on my 3-point shots a lot and I just felt like I’ve been getting good looks. Can’t turn down a good look. Coach Howard always tells us, if you pass up an open shot it’s like a turnover for us. So all the open shots I get, I try to take them.”

Howard added: “I watched a lot of film on him. I knew that he was a knockdown shooter. I kept telling my staff about it, and we were having conversations as we were quarantined in our homes. … We talked about — one of the things that he provides is something that we can truly enjoy as a staff and also as a team is his outside shooting. So it was no surprise to me at all. It was a big reason why we were high on him.”

Though it’s early, Brown has excelled as Michigan’s sixth man and justified the decision he made over the summer in the process. 

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