UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Jon Teske is a quiet person. But when he’s excited, the junior lets you – and the whole arena – know it.
At the close of a 14-2 run to end the first half in Michigan basketball’s 66-47 win over Providence, Teske had a putback dunk after Zavier Simpson missed a layup and showed some emotion. So did U-M’s reserves, getting up, getting excited and letting the Friars know it after a chippy 20 minutes.
For the first two years of his college career, Teske’s demeanor reflected his play. He didn’t play much, even last year as Moritz Wagner’s primary backup. Outside of the Big Ten championship game against Purdue, most of what he did was ancillary to the Wolverines’ success.
When Simpson was asked about that display of emotion after Sunday’s game, Teske – sitting to the junior guard’s right – looked down and to the left, red-faced.
“At the end of the day, he worked hard,” Simpson said. “He worked hard on the scale and sat for pretty much two years and not get the opportunity, just to present himself and show what he’s capable of. So, for him to knock that 3 down, him to get a big dunk, it’s always great to see that.”
Attention isn’t Teske’s thing. But he may need to get used to it.
Teske scored a career-high 17 points on Sunday, including a 3-pointer to spark that 14-2 run. It was the first of his career, and came at an opportune time, just after the Friars cut U-M’s lead to one.
“We’re used to seeing Jon do that,” Simpson said. “Jon can knock it down, we trust him to knock it down. He just knows how to play.”
Teske’s shooting has been something of a mystery for a while now. Last season, John Beilein and players would mention it, even as he attempted just one outside shot all season. In practice, Teske has knocked them down.
But, until Sunday, he hadn’t done it in a game.
“The fact that he can shoot the ball – he’s got to shoot the ball,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “And, I believe that’s his first 3 ever. What I hope is the first 3 of many.”
Nobody expects Teske to be Wagner from beyond the arc, but being a 3-point threat would huge for the Wolverines.
There have been small steps in that area – Teske attempted three 3-pointers over the first four games, one more than he did over his first two seasons in Ann Arbor.
Shooting wasn’t the only way Teske had an impact though. He finished inside on pick-and-rolls. He rebounded, finishing with six. He defended like a 7-foot-1 player should, affecting shots and protecting the rim.
According to Beilein, Teske spent the summer with strength coach Jon Sanderson, working to build the advantages he put on display Sunday and through the season’s first five games.
“He’s got this much more lift,” Beilein said, “and that’s everything to him right now. He can finish dunks today that he might have missed last year.”
It’s not just dunks – it’s rim protection. After Sunday’s game, the Wolverines led the country in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. The biggest difference between last season, when they were third: their block rate is up from 7.9 to 13.9 percent.
Much of that is because of Teske, who came into Sunday averaging nearly three blocks a game – and affecting even more shots without getting a hand on the ball.
“He’s the most unselfish big man I’ve ever played with,” freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis said. “He doesn’t care about scoring. He wants to win the game, and that’s about it.”
Teske will get some attention after this game, though. Whether he wants it or not.