Before the Michigan women’s basketball team began its contest against Illinois on Sunday, the Wolverines borrowed a football tradition. Preceding the playing of the National Anthem and opening tipoff, alumnae of the women’s basketball program held up the classic banner reading, “Go Blue M Club Supports You” for the players to run under.

Michigan players ran out from under the banner during layup lines, going into the game hoping to come out with a win to make those who came before them proud. The special weekend also included an alumnae game before the current Wolverines squared off. This year’s team may have gotten the most out of this weekend not from the game, but hearing their predecessors speak.

Saturday, after a morning practice, the alumnae and current roster came together to have brunch. Former players, ranging from last year’s stars Nicole Elmblad and Shannon Smith to all-time great Penny Neer — who played basketball, softball and ran track and field at the University — talked to players about their experiences.

Sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty, who scored a career-high 36 points Sunday afternoon, not only enjoyed running under the banner for the first time, but took in all the wisdom the players of the past had to offer.

“I think a lot of (what the alumnae mentioned) was not what they regret, but what they would tell their younger selves, just to be confident and have fun,” Flaherty said. “They said to enjoy their four years here, which I think sometimes within this process some of us kind of get lost, you have bad days.

It just reminds us to appreciate where we are and the opportunity we have and that we’re at a great university playing under a great coach.”

The weekend also reminded Flaherty of fleeting time, as she realized she’s more than halfway through her sophomore season, and in turn, close to being halfway done with her collegiate career. It renewed her mindset to appreciate every moment she dons a Michigan uniform and steps onto the hardwood when her name echoes through Crisler Center during the starting lineup announcements.

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico also talked about the opportunity to wear a Wolverine uniform for the program, adding to Flaherty’s statements by saying it is something special that comes with pride and tradition. Barnes Arico loved having the connection between the alumnae and her team, as most of the alumnae told the players to be mindful while enjoying their time at Michigan.

“I think one of the common themes (from the weekend) was that the opportunity to play college basketball at this level at the University of Michigan is one of the greatest opportunities in the world, and to really embrace that,” Barnes Arico said.

While the Wolverines have gone through their ups and downs this season, losing in heartbreaking fashion by missed free throws or running out of gas down the stretch, the effort has always been there. Barnes Arico wants to ensure that each player is doing what they can, whether that means making an extra pass, taking a charge or even providing encouragement from the sideline.

The weekend only brought that point home even more. Playing on a team means being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s like having a club there for support before the game even starts. And Michigan didn’t need the banner to remember that.

“It doesn’t matter if you play five minutes a game or 35 minutes a game,” Barnes Arico said. “To be able to be a part of something bigger than yourself is really what the experience is all about. A lot of times, it’s about the people that you meet through the course of your career, more than, in 30 years, the wins and losses.”

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