Ann Arbor — When Jordan Poole transferred from Milwaukee King High to La Lumiere, a prep school in La Porte, Ind., for his senior year, he set two goals: Be better prepared for the next level at Michigan and win a national title.
Check and check.
Looking back, Poole, a freshman guard, said making the move to a different city two and half hours away and leaving his family, friends and program he spent three years in behind was a tough decision but one that has eased the transition to the college ranks.
“Coming from a school like that and coming to a high-major program like this, it helped a lot because there's only so much an actual public high school can do for you,” Poole said Wednesday during Michigan’s media day at Crisler Center. “So being away from home, having to do everything on your own and being independent totally helped for the college atmosphere.”
It also didn’t hurt that Poole played on arguably the most talented prep team in the nation, one that included two McDonald’s All-Americans in Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. and Louisville forward Brian Bowen, who has been suspended indefinitely amid allegations he received $100,000 for his commitment.
Poole said making the switch from being “the guy” at King to just another guy at La Lumiere wasn’t a huge adjustment because everyone on the team bought in and were focused on the same ambitions.
“It really wasn't like we have this five-star prospect, this five-star. It was more like we all know we're all good and we're all going to go high major, so we're just going to make each other better every day,” Poole said. “The practices were pretty intense, pretty competitive.”
In fact, Poole said the scrimmages and practice sessions against his La Lumiere teammates were more challenging than some of the team’s games.
“We just continued to go against each other every day,” Poole said. “Going against high-level guys, we want to have bragging rights and stuff like that as soon as we got back to the dorms. There were a lot tough, hard, gritty practices.”
In the end, it all paid off as Poole and La Lumiere capped the season with a 70-52 victory over Montverde (Fla.) Academy in the 2017 DICK’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals championship game. Poole scored 13 points in the win and hit a pair of deep 3-pointers in the second half to help La Lumiere pull away.
It’s a similar type of impact Poole hopes to make for the Wolverines as a freshman, using his 3-point shooting ability to spread the floor and help take the pressure off players like junior center Moritz Wagner and senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
“Be a playmaker,” Poole said of his envisioned role. “Obviously being a freshman whatever impact that you can bring is enough.”
And with minutes still up for grabs, it’s a role Poole is trying to prove he can fulfill as the coaching staff continues to evaluate the roster and weigh its options heading into the season.
“You kind of know and feel the vibe who needs to step up and who feels like they're going to have a bigger role than other people,” Poole said. “Obviously, we're all still learning. Being around Ham, Duncan (Robinson), Moe and guys that have been here a while, being a freshman and coming into a situation like this all you can do is learn. Coach (John Beilein) is going to put in whoever he feels is best out there.”
With Louisville’s connection to the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting, some of the Michigan fan base may feel the Wolverines were cheated in the 82-76 loss to the Cardinals in the 2013 national title game.
However, Beilein doesn’t share that sentiment.
“That '13 season was just a tremendous season. I would've loved to win that national championship game, but I'm going to worry about Michigan in every way,” Beilein said. “I don't think that's ever happened where they were saying, 'OK, there was a violation somewhere else. We're the champion.'
“No, you're not. You didn't win the game and that's the way I'm going to look at it. You got to win that game.”
… Sophomore guard Zavier Simpson has changed the spelling of his first name to his proper birth name spelling. Last season, his first name on the roster was Xavier.
Simpson said it’s a “personal issue” he didn’t want to disclose. He added he will go by ‘Z’ instead of ‘X’ as a nickname.