SAN ANTONIO — The cameras closed in waves around his locker stall, which meant Jordan Poole was back in his element. And Isaiah Livers, sitting a few inches to the left of the media scrum, was back in his:
Giving his Michigan teammate, fellow freshman and roommate all kinds of crapola.
“That’s definitely Jordan right there,” the Wolverines forward said with a grin, nodding to the lights shining over his right shoulder. “He loves all this. That’s his thing: Microphones and cameras in his face.”
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 1, 2018
After all, it ain’t easy being the one to finally send Sister Jean and her Loyola-Chicago Ramblers home for the spring.
“I told her I was a big fan,” Poole said of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, Loyola’s 98-year-old team chaplain and the queen of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, whom he’d stopped to greet after Michigan’s 69-57 win over the Ramblers on Saturday. “She had their back the entire time.
“Everybody talks about them being the Cinderella story, and she was getting a lot of attention. But being able to build a fan base [like] she did, and being able to have Loyola have so many fans out here and travel well. I just thought the entire concept and everything that she brought to the table, and being able to have such a big impact on the team, being in a situation like this, I thought it was amazing.”
Poole wasn’t so bad himself, providing a late kick up the backside to the Wolverines offense for the second time in four NCAA tourney contests.
With Michigan trailing 45-37 with 11:25 left in the tilt, coach John Beilein swapped starters Moe Wagner and Charles Matthews for Jon Teske and Poole. The latter responded with a layup 9 seconds later to trim the Ramblers’ lead to 6 and start a 17-2 Wolverines run that ended Cinderella’s hopes of dancing to the NCAA title game.
“I told him, ‘Go be aggressive, man,’ ” Livers said of Poole, who scored 6 points during that Michigan stretch, a surge capped by 2 free throws from Wagner that gave the Wolverines a 54-47 cushion with 4:59 left in the contest. “Me and him were talking before we went in, we said, ‘Just go hard.’ ”
Poole apparently had gone even harder at halftime, calling out several teammates — veteran teammates — and encouraging them to pick it up after a miserable first 20 minutes from the floor that saw Michigan (33-7) trailing the 11-seeded Ramblers 29-22 at the break.
“I really know the potential that they have and impact that they have,” Poole said of his rah-rah bit. “And I’m always trying to be positive.”
The 6-foot-4 Milwaukee native talks a pretty good game. The last few weeks, he’s backed it up on the court, most notably with his game-winning heave at the buzzer in Wichita, Kan., that stepped on the Houston Cougars’ hearts and sent Michigan to the regional finals:
— Raheem (@ThaLand21) March 19, 2018
“He’s ready for the big moment,” Michigan guard Jaaron Simmons said of Poole, who’s averaged 4.6 points per game in the 2018 Big Dance. “At all times, he’s ready for the big moment. He’s just got that confidence about himself, whether it’s on the court or off the court.
“He’s not bashful about anything. He’s got a lot of swag. And he lets it out.”
March is his thing.
More importantly, it’s his time, too.