During Friday’s Jumpman “Forged for Greatness” event, the jerseys of the Michigan men’s and women’s basketball teams were not the most surprising reveal of the night.
As the women’s basketball team was introduced and lined up on stage in front of a packed Crisler Center, each player had the opportunity to briefly share something that she expected during the 2016-2017 season. And no player held back.
Some guaranteed victories over Big Ten foes Ohio State and Michigan State. There were mentions of winning the Big Ten championship and making the NCAA Tournament. There was even talk about hanging banners in the rafters.
“They’re confident, and that’s really important going into the season,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “We as coaches have to remember to take it one game at a time and not look at the whole season in its totality. One thing at a time and try to be the best that we can that day.”
But perhaps the most mystifying statement from the team came from sophomore center Hallie Thome, who said that the team “was going to do something (they’ve) never done before.”
What she was referring to is up for interpretation. The team’s goals are lofty after coming off of two consecutive seasons in the WNIT in which they finished in eighth and seventh place in the Big Ten, respectively. But for senior point guard Siera Thompson, thinking big is business as usual.
“We know what we want,” Thompson said. “We preach it every day, so it was easy for us to go up there and say it.”
Added junior point guard Katelynn Flaherty: “We have very high aspirations for this year, and we’re confident in ourselves that we’re going to attain our goals.”
As the players ushered in the presence of the new Jumpman logo during the first public unveiling of the jerseys, the idea of being nothing less than great was also brought in. Or as men’s basketball coach John Beilein put it, the Jordan brand is synonymous with excellence.
“Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time, and for him to be associated with our program directly is just a wonderful opportunity for all of us,” Barnes Arico said. “We’re thrilled to be one of just a few in the world that get to wear it.”
The confidence and camaraderie shown by the team was not just on display from what the players and Barnes Arico said, though. Their enthusiasm also shone through when the team was summoned to a dance-off against the men’s basketball team. None of the athletes backed down from the challenge, and roaring applause by the crowd at Crisler deemed it a victory for the women’s team, reinforcing their message: Winning is everything this season.