By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
PRIOR to the 2019 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis, Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard said there would be sad faces from players, coaches, staff and fans of the programme, irrespective of the results of the tournament, but because they had to leave the Bahamas.
Those results saw previously unranked Michigan use the Bahamas and the tournament’s platform to become the biggest story in college basketball over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Michigan claimed the tournament championship and finished with wins over two teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 poll over the course of the three-day event at the Atlantis resort’s Imperial Ballroom. The Wolverines began the tournament with an 83-76 win over Iowa State, 73-64 over No.6 North Carolina and culminated with an 82-64 win over No.8 Gonzaga in the championship game.
Howard said the team bought into the concept of sacrifice and staying locked in despite the backdrop of the resort and it’s amenities.
“I am proud of these guys for competing throughout the tournament. I’ve asked them to sacrifice for all personal goals that they had today and all other days that i’ve been here looking at the beach, the pool, and the casino and this beautiful resort but we were here to win and this is a business trip for us. Yes, I get it, some of us don’t have the opportunity to come back here again and you want to take full advantage of it, I respect that, but they believed in it, they trusted it and it worked. At the end of the day I am just so proud of this group and how they competed throughout the weekend,” Howard said, “What surprised me the most is that our group never complained about anything. I thought they were going to complain about the business trip part of it but surprisingly the guys never said anything about it. They said ‘hey coach, we have a job to do.’”
Howard, a former Wolverines player who went on to a 20-year NBA career, is in his first year at the helm as head coach. He said the tournament also provided a bonding experience for the team moving forward.
“We are family, and that is one thing that we always stress. We don’t just talk about it, we believe it and we feel that and they see how we are all connected and all see how well we work together. There are no egos. We push each other on the staff and if the players see that then why not fall in line. The season just begun, we have to continue to keep competing game after game and keep learning and keep getting better,” he said, “I’m sure we are on the map now. I’m not saying we weren’t before, but a lot of teams are looking and seeing that Michigan’s team is out there now when you are beating teams like Creighton, Iowa State, and North Carolina and Gonzaga you are no longer under the radar so we have to enjoy this win….and when we get back to Ann Arbor we have work to do.”
Michigan will continue its road stretch Tuesday (Dec. 3) when it heads to Louisville for a ACC/Big Ten Challenge game that will be featured on ESPN.
“This is a beautiful island and the people here are so warm and inviting and they have done an excellent job of just opening up their island and just showing us how special this island is. I think it’s beautiful that the Michigan family has embraced this opportunity,” Howard said, “thank you Bahamas!”