Hunter Dickinson has led Michigan basketball in scoring and rebounding for three consecutive seasons.
He likely will not do so for a fourth straight season.
The 7-foot-1 center has entered the transfer portal for his senior season, another significant loss for the Wolverines, who already lost one starter to the NBA draft in freshman Jett Howard.
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Dickinson, named All-Big Ten first team and Associated Press All-American honorable mention this year, averaged 18.5 points and a career-best 9.0 rebounds while starting in all 34 games he played this season.
The junior had 14 double-doubles and scored in double figures 31 times as he became the eighth Wolverine ever to score at least 1,500 points and grab more than 750 rebounds in a career.
“Today is bittersweet,” said Michigan coach Juwan Howard in a statement. “While Hunter Dickinson’s departure is unfortunate, there are so many reasons to be thankful for and celebrate. This young man has accomplished so much in his three seasons. Statistics aside, Hunter helped us to a Big Ten title, back-to-back Sweet 16s, as well as a memorable Elite Eight run. These are memories that will last a lifetime.”
Dickinson finishes his three years at Michigan 12th in career points (1,617) and ninth in rebounds (787). Had he stayed and matched his totals from a season ago, he would’ve move into third all-time on the school’s scoring list and first all-time in rebounding.
For all of his talent, the NBA no longer desires a traditional, back-to-the-basket big man and while he has significantly improved his 3-point shooting — he made 42.1% of his attempts (24-for-57) last year after shooting 32.8% the season prior — he is not currently projected to be a first-round NBA draft pick.
Beyond that, he’s still set to continue to make some decent money in college via his NIL deals.
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Earlier this season Dickinson’s NIL value was as high as $800,000, per On3 Sports. For perspective, only Blake Corum ($1.1 million) and J.J. McCarthy ($837,000) are currently higher than that among U-M athletes.
But as much as anything, it appears Dickinson wants to ensure he goes out as a winner. Dickinson won a national championship in AAU in high school, was an All-American playing in the Elite Eight his freshman season and then a dominant center who made the Sweet 16 as a sophomore.
This season, as a junior, seemed an anomaly.
Michigan didn’t win a single significant non-conference game and made a habit of finding ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Of U-M’s 16 losses, 13 came within six points or in overtime.
“I feel like that’s the moral of the season so far,” Dickinson said after a particularly tough one-point loss to Indiana in mid-February. “Just not capitalizing on those opportunities that we get.”
U-M limped down the finish, lost its final three games and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015.
But the cherry on top came when U-M led by eight points in the final minute of a second-round NIT game at Vanderbilt before turning the ball over three times and allowing nine straight points in a season-ending loss.
“We just gave them the game,” said a dejected Dickinson afterwards.
There were tough times personally for Dickinson, too.
He wore a ski mask into Kohl Center in Madison to signify U-M was going to “steal” a victory, before U-M fell, 64-59.
Twice he found himself in hot water after making comments on the “Roundball Podcast” (part of his NIL dealings with Barstool Sports), once when he called Wisconsin’s basketball team “scumbags,” the other when he said students only go to Michigan State if they “don’t get into Michigan.”
“I know as a Michigan man, no Michigan State fan is ever going to like you, sos it’s like, why even try?,” he said before the season. “I’d rather just have them hate me than be average. For me, it’s funny. I try to be funny, and I have a great time with it.”
But there were also highs. He had a 32-point, 12-rebound day in a bounce-back win over Maryland, a 31-point performance at Little Caesars Arena and though it came in a loss, his 31-point, 16-rebound night at Illinois in early March may have been the best of his career.
However nothing matched his game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime against the Badgers in late February in a comeback 87-79 overtime win.
“Hunter has never wavered, never one foot in, one foot out,” said an emotional Juwan Howard after that win. “He’s shown he’s a true Michigan man. He’s dialed in to represent what this team is all about. I’m all in with Hunter and I support him because I know where his heart is. He wants that attention so he can be the bad guy. It’s unfair because Hunter, he’s really a lovable person.
“I love being around him. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
It does create a domino effect as far how it impacts the rest of the roster.
Tarris Reed Jr.’s development was one of the bright spots last year and now he’s primed to become the team’s starting center, but the experience or talent in the frontcourt is limited.
The trio of power forwards, Terrance Williams II, Will Tschetter and Jace Howard, all struggled last season. There’s also redshirt freshman Gregg Glenn and incoming freshman Papa Kante, but neither has collegiate experience.
The best iterations of Michigan’s team next season had Dickinson on the roster. Now, Howard will likely need to go to the portal to help fill the void left in the middle of the court.
Contact Tony Garcia at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @realtonygarcia.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball’s Hunter Dickinson to enter NCAA transfer portal