Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard is off to a great start on the recruiting trail, and he corralled a big addition in grad transfer Mike Smith. The 23-PPG scorer will fill a need at point guard, and he can’t wait to get started.
Smith chose U-M over Gonzaga, Arizona and others, and for many reasons. Education was big for him, obviously — his first stint was at Columbia in the Ivy League — and Michigan “is a top tier school,” he noted.
“You can’t go wrong with that,” he said in a recent MgoBlue.com interview.
His family and friends (and particularly his father, who made it to every one of his games last year) will have an easier time making the 3.5-hour drive from his hometown of Chicago to Ann Arbor, and he now gets to play for Howard.
Smith once attended one of Howard’s basketball camps, and he’s also befriended Jimmy Butler, who had ties to Howard in Miami.
“Just taking in the experience of being around an NBA player that young of an age [at Howard’s camp, I was star struck,” Smith recalled. “I wanted to be there [and follow] in his footsteps. I just remember taking a picture with him and talking to him. At the end of the day, I still remember it. Now, it’s crazy … he’s going to be my coach now. It’s funny how it works.
“I think Coach Howard is doing something special there. I’m good friends with Jimmy Butler, and he’s part of the Heat culture, something you want to be part of. Being around him all the time, he tells me all these stories about it. I wanted to be part of that and kind of see it. I think the players coming back and coming in, I think we can make a run for it.”
He doesn’t envision himself scoring 20-plus points, but if they want him to try, he will. He’s a self-described “fast” guard and a great passer, can score off the dribble and has an excellent midrange game.
It’s important to him, Smith added, that he not pigeonhole himself into a role without knowing how his game meshes with his future teammates. He’s confident he’ll be able to do what’s asked of him, regardless.
“If they need passing, it’s passing,” he said. “If it’s scoring, then scoring. Playing defense, taking the extra charge, getting that loose ball … I think that’s what my role is going to be next year. I’m really fast. I’m small, so I’m always the underdog, which I love. The last couple years kids loved me because I was almost their height … not that small, but still I’m closer to them because everybody else was 6-10, 6-11.
“But I’m really fast. Speed kills as you see in the NBA and everywhere … speed kills. I’m a really, really good passer. I see the court really well. I can shoot the ball, can score, can basically do it all.”
He’s excited to prove he can do it in the Big Ten, as well.
“It’s more competitive every day, but it’s basketball. The ball still goes in the hoop, is still orange, still round. The rim is still there. It’s not changing,» he said. «If you have confidence in yourself, work hard at it, extremely hard, you’re capable of doing anything you put your mind to. I’m a firm believer in that.
“I’m a hard worker, willing to do all the dirty work, willing to give it my all because you never kn0w when it’s your last. I just want to win. Regardless of what everybody else says, the critics — you’re this, you’re that — I try to tune it out and focus on what team needs. I ‘m willing to do that and going to try my best.”