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The 21-day rule theory, developed by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, is commonly referenced in the task of forming new habits. Maltz claims that in order to truly adopt a habit, you need 21 days for it to mold. 

Maltz’s theory is also an approach that Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico is implementing for her team. 

With Naz Hillmon graduated and in the WNBA, the Wolverines enter this season without last year’s star player. And while Hillmon’s 21 points per game is a significant void to fill, the 9.6 rebounds she averaged may present an even bigger challenge. 

This year, Michigan’s roster features a number of new and returning players who can help make up for her scoring. However, it’s still unclear how the Wolverines plan to account for her dominance on the boards. 

“It takes 21 days to build a habit,” Barnes Arico said. “So we all have to get in a better habit of blocking out every time and chasing down rebounds.”

In Saturday’s 87-32 rout over Division II opponent Daemen, Michigan controlled nearly every facet of the game. In terms of rebounding, though, the Wolverines found themselves more evenly matched with their opponent than they have grown accustomed to over the past few years. Despite the 55-point margin of victory, Michigan only out-rebounded the Wildcats by seven, and on the offensive glass, it collected three fewer boards than Daemen.

In comparison, the Wolverines out-rebounded opponents by an average of 10.3 last year, giving Michigan a definite edge in its matchups. 

After the exhibition game, the Wolverines recognized their lack of dominance in that respect, and were quick to acknowledge the need for improvement. 

“All October we’ve been saying rebounding (is something to work on),” fifth-year forward Emily Kiser said. 

Kiser, who tallied seven rebounds on Saturday, came into the season positioned as Michigan’s strongest rebounder, given her 6-foot-3 frame. Beyond Kiser, though, the Wolverines are still looking for others to step up. And this year, that may not only come from other forwards — the onus could fall on the guards. 

Against Daemen, sophomore guards Greta Kampschroeder and Jordan Hobbs both showed how they can contribute in that facet.

“Obviously with Naz Hillmon (gone) we lost a lot of inside dominance,” Kiser said. “… We have big guards this year like Greta, Jordan that can get in there (and) mix it up.” 

After tallying just five rebounds throughout the entire 2021-22 season, Hobbs wasted no time showing her offseason improvements. Snatching six boards in 14 minutes of the exhibition game illustrated that growth. While Kampschroeder only grabbed three rebounds, her relentless intensity on defense will likely lead to an uptick in that statistic, especially as Michigan continues focusing on developing that habit.

“When you lose an amazing, amazing rebounder like Naz Hillmon, you have a big hole to fill,” Barnes Arico said. “So that’s something that we have to practice and to make a habit and we work on it every day.”

As Wednesday’s season-opening game approaches, the Wolverines have the opportunity to show the progress they’ve made in the rebounding department. But how they fare against Delaware State — a team without a single player over six feet tall — won’t necessarily reflect the strides they’ve made.

Michigan has time to build up its rebounding strength, though, as it faces lower-level competition for the first month of the season. If it can keep growing — slowly but surely — the Wolverines can begin to nurture strong rebounders in both the frontcourt and backcourt.

Because it takes 21 days to make a habit. But beyond that, it takes 90 days to turn that habit into a permanent change — and that’s the ultimate end goal for the Wolverines.