Llewellyn shows leadership and poise against Eastern Michigan

DETROIT — As talent on Michigan’s men’s basketball roster has passed, one trend has remained consistent: The 22nd-ranked Wolverines have found an effective outlet for production in veteran transfer guards.

Ever since Michigan coach Juwan Howard arrived in Michigan, adding transfer agents has been a big part of building his teams. Last season DeVante’ Jones proved to be a vital asset, the year before Mike Smith was an experienced leader, and this year Jaelin Llewellyn has the opportunity to reinforce that void.

With the start of a strong backcourt in Jones and Eli Brooks, he lacked leadership this season. On Friday, Llewellyn showed some insight into how he can help fill that position.

“(Jaelin’s leadership) is very important,” junior forward Terrance Williams II said. “He’s our playmaker, the coach expects a lot from him and he also played a lot of minutes at Princeton, so he has valuable experience coming here as a transfer.”

Against Eastern Michigan, Llewellyn had 12 points, three assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes. In that time, he showed the potential that his experience and veteran stature can bring to Wolverines.

During the Wolverines’ neck-and-neck battle with the Eagles, his high ceiling was particularly apparent, proving to be a threat with the ball and heading for the basket, scoring seven points in the final three minutes and hitting some Clutch free throws to seal the game.

Playing in front of more than 14,000 fans in Little Caesars Arena is a big step up from Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium, which at times has seen fewer than 100 fans in the stands. It was a challenge that Llewellyn did not shy away from.

“I’m just proud of how he made those free throws in the end,” junior center Hunter Dickinson said. “He’s come a long way without really shooting, but we’re all looking for him to lead the team and lead the team as a point guard.”

Those streaks where Llewellyn didn’t shoot show there’s still room for improvement. As his role in the Wolverines rotation grows, his ability to contribute consistently throughout the game may be a key factor in Michigan’s success.

Going into Friday’s game, that concept was clear. And after stepping up late in the game, the feeling of his important role grew. It was on the stat sheet, but beyond that it stemmed from all the things he brings to court that can’t be quantified.

For most of the game, the Wolverines and Eastern Michigan remained locked in a back-and-forth battle, with neither team able to pull out. That was until the last five minutes of the game when Michigan started to gain ground. One of the main sources of this change was Llewellyn.

“I’m just really proud of him, how he’s been able to lead the team and keep playing even though sometimes his number isn’t called consistently,” Dickinson said. “Sometimes it comes and goes, but just staying the course and always being prepared was really important to us.”

As Llewellyn sank two free throws with 55 seconds left, pushing the Wolverines lead to a two possession game, he exemplified the leadership he is capable of providing.

Llewellyn joins a long line of veteran transfer guards, and with that he has some big shoes to fill. On Friday, his ability to play that role was evident. Now Llewellyn has to prove he can do it the whole game.

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