The Michigan men’s basketball team is returning just one starter — junior center Hunter Dickinson. Joining Dickinson and a sprinkling of returning Wolverines are nine newcomers, including five incoming freshmen. While college basketball is known for a high degree of roster turnover, Michigan is presented with an almost entirely new supporting cast.
In spite of being such a newly acquainted group, the Wolverines seemed as if they had already built chemistry and developed relationships with their teammates at Michigan Media Day in Ann Arbor. Many of the newcomers attributed this closeness to the Wolverines’ trip to Europe in August.
“So in Paris, I think it was pretty important for us to just learn about each other,” freshman wing Youssef Khayat said. “I didn’t know anybody personally, but after this trip I think I knew what everybody is about and what the coaching staff is about. So, I think we’re a big family and the Europe trip helped us a lot.”
Coming to Michigan from Lebanon, Khayat first met his new teammates in Paris during the Wolverines’ trip to Europe. While Paris is closer to home than Ann Arbor for Khayat, Europe was an entirely new experience for some of Michigan’s players. And they loved it.
“That was my first time overseas,” freshman guard Dug McDaniel said. “It was a great first time being able to enjoy it with my guys, it was some of their first times too. Just experiencing new things together, I’m looking forward to that all season.”
While Khayat and McDaniel affirmed a sentiment that appeared to be uniform amongst the Wolverine players, the coaching staff noticed the impact from the trip to Europe as well.
“We had one of the best trips ever this summer,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “… it was awesome. So, that’s what really brought us all together. I think from that trip we learned a lot about one another, and hopefully it will carry over to this season and continue with our culture.”
With the trip to Europe providing the Wolverines with a place to grow closer as a team, it seemed like the trip was a success. But, Michigan didn’t go overseas just to bond. The Wolverines made the journey overseas to play basketball – against professional basketball teams, with grown men.
“It couldn’t have come at a better year than this year,” junior wing Jace Howard said. “I think us being able to gauge where we’re at, especially mid-to-late August for a young team, it’s super important for us. I think us playing against professional teams out there, you get your self evaluation and you get the team evaluation.”
Facing off against Fos Provence Basket in Paris, Olympiacos in Athens and AO Mykonoy BC in Mykonos the Wolverines saw mixed results. After splitting the first two games, Michigan’s contest in Mykonos was cut short after an unexpected power outage. The Wolverines captured the lead prior to the game being called at halftime.
Regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard, Michigan thought of its trip to Europe as an overwhelming success. It claims to have come closer as a team, and gained valuable experience on the court against quality competition. While chemistry off the court is important when so many new players are thrust together, chemistry on the court is even more crucial.
After spending 10 days in Europe, the Wolverines think they’ve found both. Now all that’s left to see is if this chemistry transfers onto the Crisler Center floor and opposing team’s hardwoods.