Niyo: Moe 2.0? Michigan's Teske is giving it a shot

John Niyo
The Detroit News
Michigan center Jon Teske has become a leader on the floor for the Wolverines this season, with his play and his passion.

Ann Arbor — If you think Jon Teske’s bow-and-arrow routine is funny — and his 3-point showboating still leaves his Michigan teammates doubling over laughing, on occasion — you should see the celebrations that didn’t make the cut.

According to Teske, the Wolverines’ 7-foot-1 center with a still-expanding game, the quiver pull and the archer’s release that he mimics now after a made three-pointer came out of an impromptu brainstorming session with his roommate, sophomore guard Luke Wilson, earlier this winter.

With the sudden emergence of Teske’s outside shooting, it sounds like Wilson did what any good college buddy would do. He goaded him into doing something out of character.

“He was like, ‘Jon, we gotta come up with a celebration,” Teske explained Friday, less than 24 hours after the junior center — whose laid-back demeanor earned him the nickname “Big Sleep” early on in his Michigan career — hit three 3-pointers in a 69-60 win at Minnesota, including a pair late to put the game away.

And the bow-and-arrow is what they eventually settled on.

“So every time I shoot it, I’ll shoot the arrow at him (on the bench) and he kind of falls down a little bit,” Teske said. “The cameras never get him, so he’s always mad about him not getting attention. I’m giving him his credit now.”

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For that, and more. Because this apparently wasn’t Wilson’s only suggestion. The others will remain hidden for now, Teske says, and for good reason.

“They were so dumb,” Teske laughed. “I was, like, ‘Luke, we cannot do that. I’m gonna make a fool of myself.’ I think I said no to three or four of them.”

The one that stuck, though, is sort of the point of all this discussion. Because I would argue it’s Teske’s emergence this season, both as a player and a persona, that has as much to do with Michigan’s 24-3 record and top-10 national ranking as any other single factor.

The Big Sleep isn’t quite Moe Wagner yet on the court, but he’s growing into his own just the same.

He has provided the kind of rim-protecting defensive presence Michigan hasn’t had in years, leading the Big Ten in blocked shots (2.3 per game) while steering clear of foul trouble. And now he’s shooting 36.4 percent from three in Big Ten play, posting identical stats (16-for-44) to Charles Matthews.

Which only partly explains why his coach keeps getting after him to shoot more often.

“Because I know what I see in practice,” John Beilein said after Teske missed all three of his three-point attempts in the first half against Minnesota, then finished 3-for-6.

And what he saw the other day in practice was Teske drilling 60 out of 87 attempts.

“Under duress,” Beilein added. “I know what I saw.”

Likewise, he knows what other coaches — including Michigan State's Tom Izzo this weekend — will have to consider when they face his team, which isn’t nearly as dynamic offensively as some of his more recent squads but still can cause some headaches.

Especially with Teske adding a pick-and-pop threat to his role — and his extremely efficient rolls — off screen actions with point guard Zavier Simpson, or even shooting guard Jordan Poole.

“What people may start doing is what they did last year with Moe,” Beilein said, a bit hopefully, perhaps. “Start switching and then we’ve got to go into other stuff. … But it is a big weapon. I know if I see, ‘They’ve got a shooting 5, I’m like, ‘Oh, man.’ It’s hard to guard.”

Teske’s not there just yet. He didn’t hit his first collegiate three until mid-November of junior year, after all.

“But I have faith in the young man,” Beilein said. “And the more faith I have in him, I think the more confidence he’ll have.”

And more and more, it’s starting to show. Not just in Teske's willingness to take the long shots, or in his ability to make them. But also in his readiness to revel in them.

“Especially from a guy like him, you wouldn’t really expect him to celebrate too much,” said freshman Ignas Brazdeikis, who never hesitates himself. “And when Jon does that, it just puts a smile on everyone’s face.”

Twitter: @johnniyo

Michigan State at Michigan

Tip-off: 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: CBS/950, 760

Records: No. 7 Michigan 24-3, 13-3 Big Ten; No. 10 Michigan State 22-5, 13-3

Outlook: Michigan leads the conference in scoring defense (57.7 points) and Michigan State ranks No. 2 in scoring offense (80.2 points). ... The Spartans and Wolverines are the top two teams in the Big Ten in assist-turnover ratio and scoring margin. ... Michigan has won each of the last three meetings by double digits.