Hunter Dickinson and the “Fab Four” Want to Leave Michigan Basketball Legacy

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Hunter Dickinson cannot relax.

At least not when he’s on the basketball court. Not anymore.

Michigan’s top-ranked freshman got away with some hesitation in high school: on defense, in some practice drills. When you are 7 feet 1, 255 pounds and are highly skilled, you can afford it.

High performance college basketball is different.

“In Michigan, especially with Coach (Juwan) Howard,” Dickinson said, “there’s no relaxation.”

Dickinson thinks he’s playing a big role, literally and figuratively, for Michigan this season. The center, ranked n ° 42 nationally in the 2020 class, will compete for a starting place straight away. He is one of a group of talented freshmen who hope to create lasting memories under Howard.

Dickinson joined Michigan on December 20, when Howard was 11 games into his head coaching career. Dickinson wanted to get a feel for Howard’s success and what his attack would look like.

“I wasn’t really sure how this was going to turn out,” Dickinson said. He watched Michigan’s three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament during Thanksgiving week – convincing wins over Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga – and thought to himself, “Well this guy sure can. win big games. He can certainly surpass the best coaches in the country. “

Dickinson liked what he saw as an offensive style in the NBA. “If I want to play in the NBA,” he said, “this is the attack I have to be used to playing in.” His relationship with Howard, a longtime former NBA great man, sealed the deal.

After a strong senior season at DeMatha, Md., Dickinson trained over the summer with former Maryland forward Jalen Smith, an All-Big Ten first-team selection last season who declared themselves for the NBA Draft and last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year. , Luka Garza.

All three played for the same AAU, based in Washington, DC.

“I was starting to get a feel for what the Big Ten was like just seeing how they trained,” Dickinson said. Taking on the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Garza gave Dickinson some insight into the physical nature of the great college hoops.

Still, there were some things he needed to learn on his own, such as giving maximum effort throughout the practice.

He has realized that his defensive work begins early in possession, not once the player he is guarding has the ball. He must face his teammates Austin Davis and Jaron Faulds to get them away from the basket. “If they bury you too deep,” Dickinson said, “they’re going to score.”

Dickinson likes to shake his body. He just needs to get used to it after noticing that in high school, perhaps due to his height advantage, he was often whistled for fouls.

He noted that his conditioning is not where he wants it to be, but is improving every day. Assistant coach Phil Martelli recently said Dickinson “ran a lot better than in high school.”

Dickinson came to Ann Arbor with high-level passing skills and an impressive basketball IQ, according to his Michigan coaches and teammates. He attributes these traits to his older brother Ben, a former Division I player.

“I was constantly in the gyms watching great players play,” Dickinson said. “I would see what they were doing and I could deal with gambling at a young age. (The Dickinsons are a sporting family: Mom played varsity volleyball and Dad played varsity baseball.)

When Dickinson has specific questions about playing in the paint, he has several mentors inside Crisler: Davis and Faulds, who have a combined seven years of college basketball experience; basketball operations manager Chris Hunter, a 6-foot-11 former Michigan captain who played one season in the NBA; and of course Howard.

“I feel like as a great man you kind of have to have a little ‘mean’ about you just because of the position and the role you play,” Dickinson said. Especially in the Big Ten, he said, “You have to kind of like to get hit and also give punishments.”

Dickinson thinks he came to Michigan with that mentality. “Since I was young, I never wanted to be the sweet kid,” he said. “I always wanted to be someone respected in the sense that I was tough.:

If there’s any slack in that department, Howard knows which buttons to press. The coach sometimes calls Dickinson after a player he knows Dickinson doesn’t think is very good.

“He knows when to motivate me and when to be a full coach,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson is one of four freshmen Howard has recruited this season. While Michigan had two freshmen last year, one signed up before Howard was hired and the other chose Michigan not over another school but over stay. in Germany. This 2020 class, in some ways, resembles Howard’s first.

“We are aware that we are kind of Juwan’s first children, so to speak,” Dickinson said. “We are his first project. We talked about it.

Dickinson said he had a great relationship with his classmates, especially his childhood friend Terrance Williams II.

Senior guard Eli Brooks spoke about freshmen on Tuesday. He said Williams, a 6-foot-7 forward, does a lot of good things on the pitch and has shown good shooting and physical play. 6-foot-5 combo guard Zeb Jackson makes his voice heard in practice and asks smart questions. Juwan’s real son Jace is a 6-foot-7 forward who Brooks says brought a lot of energy and positivity in addition to creating good screens on the ball.

There was a time when it seemed like Michigan’s freshman class was going to be bigger. Isaiah Todd had signed up before choosing the G-League. Joshua Christopher, who ended up at Arizona State, had a strong regard for Michigan.

“We would have hoped to have five to have the next Fab Five,” Dickinson said. “But we have four great players.”

He added, “We’re going to try to leave our legacy as a Fab Four, I guess, in Michigan, and hope to cement ourselves with Juwan as the recruiting first class.”

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