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Amid all the uncertainty of this offseason,the Michigan women’s basketball team knows one thing for sure: its star player is returning for her junior year. Forward Naz Hillmon will be bringing the same energy and leadership that made her the team’s leading scorer last season. In her first few practices of this season, Hillmon has made it a priority to develop as a leader among the team. 

“I definitely have to continue to use my voice and (set) an example, not just in doing but in saying. Sometimes, you know, it can’t be productive to only be a showing leader,” Hillmon said. “You have to be a vocal leader to say exactly what needs to happen and how things should be run.” 

It’s strange hearing from Hillmon that she wants to develop her voice on the court more, given her performances in seasons past. Last year she outscored the team’s second-best scorer by 118 points. She’s the first player to wear number 00 in program history, an indicator of her noticeable presence and standing within the program. 

While she may still be developing her on-court voice, Hillmon is no stranger to being vocal off the court. She is a part of the Big Ten’s Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism campaign and is a member of the education subcommittee. As one of the Wolverine’s best players, Hillmon has utilized her platform to discuss social issues around the United States. 

“Being in the education subcommittee I have to educate. I can’t just talk about it, I have to be about it,” Hillmon said. “Any way I can spread (information) to my teammates, coaches, family and friends, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. 

“After (Election) Day I will just continue to relay any information that I’ve learned from this coalition and relay that back to my team.” 

Hillmon’s voice no doubt rings in the ears of Michigan’s new players — like freshmen forwards Cameron Williams and Whitney Sollom. Both Williams and Sollom have access to the forward who was the fourth player in program history to reach 1,000 points as a sophomore and who was named to the All-Big Ten first team two years in a row. Hillmon has been one of the more dominant players on the team and can provide invaluable lessons to new players. 

“I like to think (I’ve taken a leadership role). I hope that I do anyway. Three of the freshmen are post players so I’m trying to give them tips and pointers, as Hallie Thome did for me when I came in as a freshman,” Hillmon said. “Each of them has an aspect of their game that sets them over the top and they work really hard.” 

It will take hard work for the Wolverines to succeed in a conference where they went 10-8 last season. Hillmon has echoed the sentiments of her teammates who have set their goals to become the best team in the conference. 

“As a team goal I think that we really strive to be Big Ten champs. Whether that’s the tournament, or just the conference play, really (just) going out there and showing how hard we’ve been working,” Hillmon said. “We are one of the hardest working teams in America.” 

In a tumultuous time, Hillmon is still cognizant of the future of the team and the social climate around the country. She has her eyes set on leading her teammates to a championship and continuing to advocate for social justice everywhere. She’s still learning how to utilize her voice, but she’s making steps in the right direction on all fronts. 

Said Hillmon: “We don’t have to be the future, we can be the present.”

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