A position that has had its fair share of ups and downs for the Michigan men’s basketball team has started to flourish, and just in time for March.
The point guard.
The Wolverines have shown unwavering trust in graduate guard DeVante’ Jones all year, they stuck with him when he had trouble adjusting to Michigan and struggled so much early on.
Jones has now settled into his role as a reliable point guard, but it hasn’t been just him. Freshman guard Frankie Collins has also found his way into form, most notably during Tuesday night’s win over Michigan State.
The Wolverines need both of their point guards to excel if they want to make the NCAA tournament and maybe even win a game or two there.
“DeVante’s game has picked up,” acting head coach Phil Martelli said after the win over the Spartans. “Frankie’s game has picked up because DeVante’s game has picked up.”
In his role, Collins must make the most of his limited time on the floor. He has struggled to do that at times this season, but even still, he has remained ready to go. Against Michigan State, Jones picked up his second foul just three minutes into the game. According to Martelli, Collins immediately stood up ready to go in the game when Jones got the second whistle.
Collins asserted his presence in all 12 of his first-half minutes, finding success with his dribble drives and dazzling the crowd with highlight-reel assists. He had four assists in the half to zero turnovers and Michigan held a 16-point lead at the half all while Jones played just three minutes.
“Frankie (was) able to just be who he is,” freshman wing Caleb Houstan said. “Pushing the pace in transition, finding guys, he was definitely a spark off of the bench. He played really well.”
Collins didn’t play much in the second half, but his contributions in the first are the exact sort of production that the Wolverines need out of him down the stretch.
Jones picked up where Collins left off in the second half, continuing his stellar play of late. He was calm on the ball, aggressive and he helped orchestrate Michigan’s attack. He did what the Wolverines needed him to do.
What Jones is needed to do has tended to vary from game to game. Sometimes, like against Michigan State, he is asked to keep control of the game, give the ball to sophomore center Hunter Dickinson and play good defense. But other times, Michigan looks to Jones as one of its primary scoring options. In the loss against Illinois on Sunday, Jones proved that he can do that as well. He scored 25 points and had ten assists all with efficient shooting splits from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line.
“We felt that if he could get leverage on his man, he would be able to play the in-between game,” Martelli said after the loss to the Illini. “And I thought he did it extraordinarily well.”
The Wolverines’ point guard tandem hasn’t always been playing at the level that it is right now, feeding off of each other’s energy and keeping continuity when they check out for one another. But looking back on how Jones and Collins reached this point is, not really that important. What matters now is that the pair are playing in a complementary manner, and they are both thriving.
Just in time.