Naz Hillmon's number deserves to be retired. Julia Schachinger/Daily. Buy this photo.

Five banners hang amongst the rafters in the north end of the Crisler Center, forever immortalizing Bill Buntin, Cazzie Russell, Phil Hubbard, Glen Rice and Rudy Tomjanovich — players I never had the privilege to watch, but as a student at Michigan, am required to know.

The Michigan women’s basketball team has been playing in Crisler for almost 50 years, though, and not a single jersey hangs to honor the women that molded the program. 

Five men. No women. 

With Naz Hillmon’s career as a Wolverine recently coming to an end, Michigan can continue to follow the precedent of slighting the women’s program, or make sure her jersey ends up where it belongs. 

Hillmon is inarguably the best player to lace up for the Michigan women’s basketball team, and if her jersey never sees the rafters in Crisler, the University of Michigan athletic department has failed.

“I mean, if there’s anyone — and I think there are a few that came before her that we were trying to work on — I think she belongs in the rafters of Crisler for sure,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the Wolverines beat Villanova in the Round of 32. “We always talk about the house that Cazzie built, but we sometimes talk about the house that Nazzie built on the women’s side.”

There’s a million excuses as to why the few exceptional players that came before Naz haven’t seen their jerseys retired. Throughout the pre-Naz era, the women’s program at Michigan never experienced a great deal of success. It never produced a Big Ten player of the year, never posted an All-American and never reached the Sweet Sixteen. That’s a lot of nevers.

Hillmon came to a program devoid of historical success and completely renovated it. She co-captained the Wolverines to their first Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. She helped Michigan to its highest ranking in program history at No. 4 in the AP Poll and she launched the Wolverines to their best season ever in terms of winning percentage.

In addition to her contributions to the team, Hillmon has accumulated an absurd list of accolades and records. She is the only Wolverine, man or woman, to finish with over 2000 points and 1000 rebounds. Hillmon became one of four women to score 2000 points, became the first and only All-American in program history, became the only Big Ten Player of the Year in program history, set the program record for most rebounds and double-doubles and was named to the All-Big Ten first team in each of her four years.

If that doesn’t warrant a jersey retirement, what does?

As Barnes Arico mentioned, there are players that came before Hillmon who helped to pave the way for her success. Katelynn Flaherty, Hallie Thome, Diane Dietz and Stacey Thomas all have a case to see their numbers retired. All of these women were immensely talented players and helped propel the program to where it is today. But this isn’t about them. It’s about Naz Hillmon, who over the past four years has proved herself to be the best player in program history.

As corny as Barnes Arico’s comment might be, she’s right. To the women’s team, Crisler is the house that “Nazzie” built, and the University of Michigan athletic department needs to acknowledge that. Hillmon is the first player to wear 00 in program history, and she should be the last.

Retire 00.