Veteran point guard Mike Smith spent four years at Columbia serving as a primary scoring threat for the Lions, finishing his career ranked fourth on the Lions' all-time scoring list with 1,653 points, second in assists (393), tied for fourth in steals (124) and third in free-throw percentage (.825).
However, once Smith arrived on campus in Ann Arbor, he would need to adjust his game to better fit with what the Wolverines were trying to accomplish on the court - and he certainly succeeded in that effort. Smith would transition his role from leading scorer to leading facilitator during his time at Michigan, helping lead the Wolverines to a Big Ten regular season championship and a trip to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
Smith would finish his short Michigan career averaging 9.0 points, 5.3 assists and 31.5 minutes per game.
After a very successful year in Ann Arbor, Smith decided to opt out of the additional year option provided to student athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and enter his name into the NBA draft. According to Smith, his time at Michigan and competing within the Big Ten prepared him to take the next step.
"What I took away from this season for me is that I learned how to play hard," Smith said on the 'Defend The Block' podcast. "I learned how to play defense better than what I’ve done in the past — I think that’s a given, because that was a question, if I could play defense. If I couldn’t have played defense, I knew Coach wouldn’t have started me."
Given how valuable the experience was for Smith, he shared some words of wisdom to incoming players at the University of Michigan - particularly guards like freshman Frankie Collins and senior transfer Devante Jones.
"I think just going into this year thinking that this is going to be your best years or year ever, depending on the situation," Smith said. "But go in and work each and every day, because if you don’t, Coach is going to make you. So you might as well have the mindset to go in and work each and every day."
"To go in there, if you’re a four-year and you're transferring, I’d say to go in there and run the team and make sure that everybody knows that you’re there, so that everybody listens to you. To go in there and play hard every day, practice and the games, because it translates and people are going to respect you. Do everything you’re going to do in the game, in practice."
"As a freshman, I would say, come in and be willing to learn and work hard every day, because you have a great group of guys and a great coaching staff that’s around you, that’s going to teach you. If you want to be taught, then just learn from then and you will go on to be a great Michigan player because they ultimately know what they’re doing."
Though Michigan will certainly feel the impact of losing experienced guys like Smith, Wagner, Davis, Brown and Livers, the Wolverines will also welcome back some significant firepower in guys like Eli Brooks, Hunter Dickinson and Brandon Johns Jr. To go along with the No. 1 recruiting class in 2021, the addition of veteran guard Devante Jones makes Michigan the runaway favorite to once again capture a Big Ten title in 2021-22.