Eli Brooks and Zeb Jackson not practicing
While teammates stretched and shot around, fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks and sophomore guard Zeb Jackson stood off to the side.
Brooks’ sported a walking boot on his left foot, with the injury announced as a mild sprain. When asked whether it would affect him longer term and possibly bleed into the start of the regular season, Brooks replied matter-of-factly:
“I’m not going to miss any games or anything.”
Jackson was out with an illness rather than an injury, a team spokesperson said on Friday. His symptoms were enough to prevent him from practicing, but not enough to keep him home and away from his teammates.
This resulted in senior guard Adrien Nunez lining up on defense with what appeared to be the first-teamers, while freshman guards Kobe Bufkin, Frankie Collins, and Isaiah Barnes stood on the offensive side of the ball.
Caleb Houstan is as advertised
On the topic of freshman, forward Caleb Houstan showed a glimpse of what he might bring to this Michigan team.
In shootaround before the start of practice, Houstan drained shot after shot from mid-range and a significant portion from beyond the arc. In the team’s first drill, a passing exercise, Houstan looked smooth and natural. In the few times the Wolverines messed up and were forced to restart the drill, Houstan wasn’t anywhere near the ball.
Where he showed a flash of what made him 247Sport’s No. 10 nationally ranked recruit was in a mobile catch and shoot drill. It called for players running from baseline to elbow and back again after each shot for a minute straight. Each time Caleb’s turn came, he drew the gaze of the media. Shot after shot fell through the hoop, making it seem like Houstan would have to try harder to miss a shot than he would to make one.
“He shoots the lights out,” Collins said at Michigan media day on Friday. “I mean I personally, when I walk around the gym and locker room, I call him Klay Thompson.”
Houstan showed reporters what Collins meant when he said that on Friday. Though, it is important to remember that Houstan was not being guarded during the drill, and once defense is factored in, his efficiency is guaranteed to drop. Still, Houstan displayed his natural talent, and it was something that you couldn’t help but recognize.
A new-look Terrance Williams II
When sophomore forward Terrance Williams II took the court, he looked noticeably slimmer. His 6-foot-7 frame presented itself as that of a more agile small forward than a bruiser who could throw themselves around down low.
The transformation was intentional on Williams’ part, and encompassed a large part of his offseason plan.
“Over the offseason, I ate. I changed my eating habits. That’s really what it was,” Williams said. “Constantly eating greens like vegetables, I didn’t eat a lot last year. … It’s all paying off now because I feel it. I feel better now and I’m gonna continue to do my diet. It’s working now, staying disciplined”
Paired with a workout regimen that aligned with his goals, Williams has shed 10 pounds, dropping from 240 to 230 entering the season.
But his transformation doesn’t appear to be limited only to his physical attributes. Williams’ jump shot looked a lot smoother than the one he touted last year, and he, too, shot at a very high clip during the catch-and-shoot drill.
“Terrance, especially, I’ve seen his jump shot improve tremendously,” senior forward Brandon Johns Jr. said. “There’s a lot more consistency.”
If Williams can find that consistency in games, it will be a boon to this Michigan team, and It’s something that will be crucial for his ability to find minutes in the upcoming season.
Big men stretch the floor
At this point, it’s still all speculative. Without watching an intra-team scrimmage, drills that incorporated full-speed defenders or a game, it’s hard to make any definitive conclusions.
That being said, freshman big man Moussa Diabate and sophomore big man Hunter Dickinson were sinking shots left and right.
Diabate, especially, looked talented. On the hoop where he spent the majority of open practice, it seemed he was running through shooting drills more than anyone else on the floor. He hit shots from the baseline, the elbow and deeper shots closer to the arc. In warmups, he practiced floaters from the free throw line, making a meaningful amount of them. At 6-foot-11, any kind of shooting presence that he brings could prove to be a problem for opposing defenses.
“It’s just unbelievable what he can do out there on the court,” Johns said. “It surprises me all the time.”
In another part of the court, Dickinson participated in the same drills. From the baseline, he was banking his shots off the backboard and in on most of the ones he took. He also made a high percentage from shots closer to the perimeter.
Dickinson has been looking to add a jump shot to his game to take it to the next level. The work he’s put in during the offseason was apparent on Friday, and truly becoming somewhat of a shooting threat will be necessary for his prospective NBA career.
“I think just the three pointers are probably the biggest thing that (NBA) teams want to see out of me,” Dickinson said.
If Diabate and Dickinson are able to translate their practice shots into games, the Wolverines will stretch the floor and create mismatches on almost every possession.