A transfer to Princeton and a former four-star recruit who done in UM in April hails from an Ivy League school, as did Mike Smith, who moved to Ann Arbor from Columbia two seasons ago.
But a more striking similarity between Llewellyn, Smith, and Coastal Carolina transfer DeVante Jones, last year’s starting point guard, is the drive to break into the NCAA Tournament and win at the highest level. In fact, that’s why Llewelyn chose Michigan.
“It’s been a historically great program and they’re used to winning basketball games,” Llewellyn said on air Tuesday. UM Podcast “Protect the Block”. “And I want to get into the tournament more than anyone else, and this is a team that has experience playing there, and they also needed some experience at the defender position.
“And it definitely helps that Ann Arbor is only four and a half hours from my hometown so my parents, friends and family can come and watch more games than previous years in Princeton and Virginia for high school. Well.”
Llewellyn, a Mississauga, Ontario, Canada native who played school ball at Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, Va., encountered COVID-19 on his way to Michigan.
Despite being in his fourth year of college, the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder has played only two full seasons. The Ivy League was the first to close at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and did not have a 2020-21 season.
Llewellyn still vividly remembers the team meeting where he learned that the remaining 2019-2020 schedule had been cancelled. He had a breakout season, averaging 15.3 points, and the rising Tigers entered the conference tournament.
Llewellyn spent the next few months away from the Princeton campus, taking online classes in Virginia. Although his father, Cordell, who played for Wake Forest and Rhode Island in the 90s, encouraged him where he could, he was tested by isolation from family and teammates.
“It was harder than people think,” Llewellyn said. “I mean, I didn’t see maybe 60% of my team for probably a year and a half because we weren’t allowed on campus and only a small number of people came back to campus in the spring. And I spent that year working at a high school in Virginia as a senior dorm parent at a boarding school and an assistant coach on the basketball team.
“So I was completely suspended from all this for a year. I didn’t feel like I went to Princeton at all, even though I took online courses. First time attending an online Ivy League course in the midst of a pandemic and no season has been easy.”
Back in New Jersey for the 2021–2022 season, Llewellyn at times felt like a freshman learning again. However, he still looked to improve his efficiency and increased his field goal percentage from 39.1% to 44.7% last season.
He averaged 15.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists while hitting a career-high 38.6% from three-point range and helping Princeton win the regular season conference title. However, the Tigers fell short of Yale for the Ivy League Tournament Championship and then ended their season with a first round NIT loss to VCU.
Llewellyn was painfully close to the NCAA tournament. As one of the top 100 high school recruits, he prioritized education in his decision to go to college. But as an alumnus, the desire to play in the March Madness qualifiers was paramount.
This is how trainer Juwan Howard and the Wolverines became fans. Assistant Howard Eisley is also a renowned defensive coach.
“So far they have been just great for me and my family and I think I had really good communication with them during my visit and they made me feel very comfortable,” Llewelyn said. “They outlined from the start what they needed as a program from a defensive position and I felt like they believed in me and my abilities and I think that has only grown since I first met most employees in April. It’s been great to get to know them a little since I’ve been here.”
Llewellyn also noticed the success of Jones and Smith – he played against the latter in his freshman year – at UM. And it’s hard not to notice the 7ft 1in Hunter Dickinson post from Michigan.which gives Llewellyn an ally he didn’t have at Princeton, who had a shorter center and usually played five outs..
“He is strong both offensively and defensively and it will take a lot of effort to stop him,” Llewelyn said. “…Now you have a big guy, it’s a brand new game and I’m happy to put him in positions to make it big, but he’ll also put me in positions as well as the rest of the team. to be successful because so much focus will be on him when he gets low and stretches the floor as well. So if they collapse, I caught catch and shot from my big men last year, so I’ll be ready to fly” .
However, catch and shoot is only one of Llewellyn’s abilities.
“I think I’m a fast defender who can smash the floor with his punch and attack the paint,” he said, “and draw guys in with his speed and agility. And I think that I can also shoot at all three levels. and I’m just happy to start. And I like to take responsibility, so be careful.”
With Michigan wrapping up last season in the Sweet 16, Llewelyn will be looking to lead the Wolverine there and possibly beyond.
“It hurt a lot to be there this year, and even with winning the conference in the regular season and then just failing in the conference tournament, it really stung,” Llewelyn said. “I just want to be in a position where I can get back to where I was last March.”
Contact Mason Young: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @Mason_Young_0.
This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Jaelin Llewelyn came to Michigan basketball for this reason alone.