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For some athletes, playing zero minutes in a season could send them to the transfer portal looking for another opportunity. But for redshirt freshman Will Tschetter, it was an opportunity to learn and grow. Deciding to redshirt his freshman year, Tschetter returned to the Michigan men’s basketball team this season as one of a few players with collegiate experience under his belt. 

And this season it’s paying off.

Tschetter has quickly become a reliable bench player for the Wolverines. But that reliability didn’t come immediately. Only now, midway through the regular season, has Tschetter become a consistent contributor on the floor.

“I feel like over the past couple of games I’ve definitely been able to be more comfortable out on the floor defensively and offensively,” Tschetter said. “Just kind of be able to find a niche on this team.”

His minutes started to pick up during the Wolverines’ matchup with Central Michigan on Dec. 29. With Michigan in an early deficit against an unranked MAC team, Michigan coach Juwan Howard decided to make a statement and pull all the starters off the floor. 

One of the first off the bench? Tschetter.

In the end, subbing in five bench players didn’t ultimately help the Wolverines as they succumbed to bad habits and lost in crushing fashion to the Chippewas. But Howard’s all-sub lineup did give Tschetter quality minutes and a chance to showcase his growth from last season. 

“I give Will, a lot of credit,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said after the Central Michigan loss. “Will came in and he brought his lunch pail. He came in and gave us what we’ve asked in the last few days of practice. Being there, helping defensively when a guy drove he was there to help, jump balls. He was active with his voice.”

Tschetter ended the game with three rebounds and two blocks in just 11 minutes, but even more valuable was his spark. Some bench players only remain on the floor until a starter has rested enough to retake their place. But for Tschetter, his mission off the bench is to bring a spark — something Michigan has needed desperately at times.

“He brings incredible energy,” Wolverines assistant coach Howard Eisley said. “He really impacts the game with his effort and hustle plays. He’s been very consistent offensively with the way he talks on the floor. He’s been a real big spark plug for us and we’re going to need to continue to do that for our team.”

Since the Central Michigan matchup, Tschetter has seen increased minutes in nearly every game. He’s notched career highs in every category, only continuing to grow with every new opportunity he’s given. 

But it’s not his stats that make him a valuable addition to Michigan’s rotation. It’s that he’s consistently brought the energy that the Wolverines need on the floor. He’s seemingly always on the floor, diving for a loose ball, boxing out a player under the basket or sliding across the ground after taking a charge. His style of play isn’t flashy, but it’s aggressive and reliable.

It’s no secret Tschetter isn’t a leading scorer or rebounder on any given night. What he is though, is the loudest player on the floor.

Defensive communication is Tschetter’s strongest attribute. And it’s what’s getting him minutes. Michigan has struggled defensively all season, failing to gel as a cohesive unit and allowing opponents to exploit weaknesses.

But with Tschetter on the floor, he’s brought the defensive communication to the next level. And it not only helps his teammates on the floor get into position, but himself as well. 

“(Defensive communication) was one of those things that they said I needed to do in order to be able to find my spot on the floor or to be able to have a chance at that,” Tschetter said. “So I feel like that was something that I really took to heart.”

And with the Wolverines’ rematch with Minnesota on Sunday, Tschetter’s defensive talent could be vital for Michigan. After beating the Golden Gophers by 15 in their own house in early December, the Wolverines have to be ready for a tough rematch if they have any hopes of avoiding defeat.

“I think it’s going to start on the defensive end for us,” Eisley said. “I mean really come out and establish a defensive presence. Minnesota really has a lot of talented players on a team so (we) can’t take them wildly based on what happened the first time. So we really have to come out and establish ourselves defensively and let that create offense for us.”

Tschetter also hails from Stewartville, Minnesota, which just adds fuel to the fire for Sunday’s game. Facing the Golden Gophers will be another opportunity to solidify his case for why his playing time should increase, all while potentially dominating a team he grew up rooting for.

“My grandma and grandpa were big Golden Gopher fans,” Tschetter said. “So obviously Sunday’s game just means just a little bit more. I’m super excited.”

All throughout this season, the Wolverines have continued to wave their magic wand, hoping to cast the correct spell to magically fix things defensively.

And in Tschetter and his growth as a redshirt freshman, they may have finally found one that works.