Sport Michigan basketball dances onto national radar behind Jon Teske's monster game
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – For 40 minutes, Juwan Howard was checking out the moves of his talented players.
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So afterfor the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis, he showed some moves of his own.
While the team celebrated on the court, the rookie coach broke into a celebration of his own.
“We work hard as a group, so why not have some fun,” Howard said after his team knocked off a second top-10 opponent in 24 hours.
First, it was North Carolina. Friday afternoon, it was Gonzaga.
Two top-10 wins in seven (unbeaten) games as coach. Yeah, he deserved to party a little.
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“We listen to music in practice,” Howard said. “Coach enjoys music. Coach enjoys dancing, so why not? Why take life so seriously all the time? Have fun.”
They had fun all right after turning a close game in the second half into a blowout against a team that’s now 8-1. No one had more fun than 7-foot-1 center Jon Teske.
Teske, who couldn’t even make it to the first media timeout in the opening round against Iowa State without getting called for his second foul, was near perfect Friday with 19 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
He was the tournament’s MVP. He was an MVP among many stars for a Wolverines team that is likely to jump into the Top 25 next week.
“I’m just trying to help the team,” Teske said. “Just doing whatever I need to do.”
With a plethora of high-level scorers – like Zavier Simpson (13 points, 13 assists Friday) and Isaiah Livers (21 points) – Teske's main mission is to do the dirty work: Clean up under the basket. Set hard screens. Pick-and-pop. Protect the rim. Make shots.
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“Jon is one of a number of talented players we have in the post,” Howard said. “It’s so much fun watching them in practice.”
Teske wasn’t the only reason Michigan won; but he was a large factor behind the 18-point victory.
“He was big, and he scored on us in the post,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “They picked and popped him, which they hadn’t done a lot of. He hit his shot. He did a great job protecting the rim. We couldn’t score over the top of him.”
Teske made 9 of 15 shots from the field, and he did it against a team that was just as big and physical in the post. He had 10 points and eight rebounds in the semifinal round against a.
“I give a lot of credit to coach Howard,” Teske said. “Since the first day, he’s been showing me tips. It showed the last couple of games. North Carolina and Gonzaga both have terrific bigs.”
They weren’t as terrific as Teske this week, however, and his maturation included an extreme amount of patience. Teske had to wait his turn behind better post players when he was younger. He learned. He watched. He studied their every move and did the same with other post players around the Big Ten.
Now, Teske is the man.
“As a senior, I have to be a leader,” he said. “As a freshman and sophomore, I knew my role. I knew my role was a backup big. Now it’s changed. I have to lead the young guys.”
He led them all right, into the respect category after what the Wolverines did on consecutive days against North Carolina and Gonzaga.
Or as Howard said as he walked off the postgame podium:
“We’re no longer under the radar.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press:
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