Some basketball players have a patented move, or have mastered a go-to way to score. But there are a few players who score so effectively, and in so many different ways, that every move is an asset.
Colloquially, it’s known as a player’s “bag,” and freshman wing Jett Howard showed how deep he can reach into his in the No. 22 Michigan men’s basketball team’s season opener.
“(Jett’s) biggest strength is just being able to get a bucket when you need it,” junior center Hunter Dickinson said following the season opener. “He doesn’t have like a certain move I’d say. … People call it like a bag. … He’s so talented that he’s able to kind of do many different things out there.”
Just one game into the season, the bag policy for Howard is already clear: pull out anything he can find.
Howard’s variety of scoring methods from the team’s exhibition and season-opener against Purdue Fort Wayne gave a peek into the bag. He nailed 3-pointers off the dribble, converted from distance off the catch and went downhill, gashing lanes to finish in the paint. This kind of versatility makes Howard a threat anywhere on the floor.
And it also provides a sense of stability on offense, knowing he can score at-will.
“He’s someone who can just fill it up offensively,” Dickinson said. “He’s a natural scorer and somebody that knows how to put the ball in the basket.”
Those words carry extra weight when coming from a player like Dickinson. At 7-foot-1 and with a soft touch, last season’s leading scorer for the Wolverines often draws double teams when he gets the ball in the post.
With Dickinson’s magnetic effect on the floor, players like Howard on the perimeter have extra space to operate. The more consistency Howard shows from range, the more headaches he’ll create for defenses.
“When (Dickinson) gets double-teamed he’s going to do his best to try to make the right play by finding open guys,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said postgame. “With the spacing we have on the floor, Jett is going to be a recipient of it.”
While Dickinson’s strain on the defense clears space for players like Jett, Jett’s skill set often has a similar effect. He uses his bag to help his teammates find theirs. He led Michigan with five assists against the Mastodons by finding shooters when pushing the ball up the floor in transition and kicking it out after drawing attention while driving to the hoop.
With plays like that, Jett’s bag is practically overflowing. It’s more than just his ability to get buckets, but his intuition to make the right play when opposing defenses send extra help his way that brings a new dynamic to the Wolverines’ offense.
“He’s been around the game for a long time and he also has a high IQ,” Juwan said. “He’s a willing passer, he has great size (and) he sees the floor. I’ve seen that from day one, when he first started playing basketball.”
On day one of his first Michigan season, Jett displayed that he can do a lot more than just score. He even showed promise on the defensive end. After letting up a couple three-pointers early, Jett found his rhythm on defense, using his length to disrupt Purdue Fort Wayne’s offense.
On a Mastodon drive in the second half, Jett emphatically swatted the layup attempt into the stands, pointing towards the ceiling in celebration as he suggested that he sent the ball into the heavens.
As he pointed up, it was clear that — while still early — Jett has the potential to quickly raise the ceiling of what the Wolverines can accomplish this year.
Jett has a bag, and on Monday he was in it. What he can pull out of it could determine where Michigan’s season goes.