ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan basketball appears to be in a rebuilding mode, losing its top three scorers from last season. The Wolverines are unranked in the preseason AP Top 25 for the first time in four years.
Giving the program one more challenge, coach Juwan Howard has been recovering from heart surgery since mid-September.
“He was brave enough and smart enough to know he didn’t feel right,” interim coach Phil Martelli said. “He asked for help and he went to experts and he followed through.”
On the court, Michigan will also be missing some familiar faces.
That trio averaged nearly 37 points a game last season, leaving quite a problem with no obvious solutions. None of the team’s returning players averaged double digits in scoring.
Sophomore guard Dug McDaniel scored 8.6 points last season and senior forward Terrance Williams II contributed 6.1 points a game for last year’s team that went 18-16 and lost in the second round of the NIT.
“We have to keep looking for that go-to guy,” Martelli acknowledged. “He has to have the courage and the willingness to miss a shot.”
Martelli won 444 games at Saint Joseph’s from 1995 to 2019 before joining Howard’s staff at Michigan. Jay Smith, a former Central Michigan head coach and Michigan assistant, will be the program’s third assistant during Howard’s absence along with Saddi Washington and Howard Eisley.
Michigan took advantage of the transfer portal to add much-needed depth.
Olivier Nkamhoua, a two-year starter at Tennessee, has a chance to make an immediate impact. The 6-foot-9 forward, who is from Finland, averaged nearly 11 points and five rebounds as a senior last season.
Nimari Burnett, a 6-4 guard, is attending his third school in four years. He started in nine of 27 games last season at Alabama, averaging 5.6 points, after scoring five-plus points per game two years ago for Texas Tech.
Tray Jackson, a 6-10 forward from Detroit, transferred to Michigan after starting his career at Missouri and averaging 6.4 points over three seasons for Seton Hall.
Jaelin Llewellyn is back for a sixth season, hoping to bounce back from a season-ending knee injury. After transferring from Princeton, the point guard played in just eight games in his first year with the Wolverines.
“He has a lot of energy,” Martelli said. “One play the other day where he went down the floor, 3 on 0, and he left-hand dunked. That was a real stride. Will he bang into somebody? No. He doesn’t bang into anybody yet.”
CLASS OF ONE
George Washington III is the only freshman on scholarship. The 6-2, 170-pound guard was rated as the No. 141 recruit in the country, according to 247 Sports, after averaging 24 points a game as a senior at Chaminade-Julienne Catholic in Ohio.
Michigan opens the season Nov. 7 at home against UNC Asheville. At a tournament later that month in the Bahamas, the Wolverines are in a field that includes No. 14 Arkansas, No. 19 North Carolina and No. 22 Villanova.