Q+A: Tim Hardaway Jr
The Michigan guard is determined to make a name for himself.
SLAM: How have you developed as a player from your freshman year?
TH: I think I’ve developed well. I’m just trying to get better every single year. Just trying to get better at knowing my teammates and it just comes from preparation. I think it comes in the offseason and working out with my dad, and him showing me the things I need to work on and me taking the criticism and all the knowledge that he knows about the game and just trying to implement it into my game and it’s been working out pretty well for me, and I can see it.
SLAM: What do you think are your biggest strengths as a player?
TH: My biggest strengths I would have to say, coming from my coaching staff and my teammates would have to be shooting, being a slasher, defending multiple players, communicating out there on the court, and just being a team player and doing all the little things that my team wants me to do, whether it’s rebounding, passing, pushing the ball up the court, and just being that extra guy that the coaches can count on.
SLAM: You mentioned that you worked out with your dad in the offseason. What are some of the things you guys would do, and what particular things were you trying to work on?
TH: Every year I go back home and try to work on ball handling skills. I think that’s the main aspect of my game that I need to constantly work at whenever I have a chance to. You can never stop working on your ball handling. You can never stop working on getting better, stronger, faster and more athletic. It’s kind of hard to work on defense and rebounding, you can only really do that in pickup games, but in those games I just try to focus on rebounding, boxing out, and seeing how many steals I can get, and just trying to get the rack and work on my mid-range jumper.
SLAM: What factors have led to the Wolverines’ success this season? And how has this team come together?
TH: I think it all comes down to poise and just being persistent out there. I mean we’re the sixth youngest team in the country, a lot of people don’t realize that because we have a lot of seniors. But the guys that are playing are mainly freshmen, sophomores and two juniors. It was great to just have the offseason to bond with everybody. All of this wouldn’t be possible without that offseason—we were able to come together as a team and learn each other’s tendencies and where we’re comfortable with the ball on the court.
SLAM: What kinds of things does the team need to work on?
TH: Handling adversity. And that has a lot to do with us being young, like I said we’re a young team. But it’s great to have that learning experience and watch film and not make the same mistakes as you did in the previous games. And I think that everyone on my team handles adversity well and you just have to try and hold everybody accountable for what they do, and everybody takes that to heart.
SLAM: What does this team have to do to compete in the NCAA Tournament and make some noise?
TH: I think one of the big things that our team needs to do is just be tough. I mean with Michigan State, we just tried to be as tough and physical as possible with them, and we prevailed. We did a great job of not settling for three pointers, getting to the basket, boxing out and rebounding, and playing defense. I think those are two of the most important things, boxing out and rebounding, those are the keys for us to get to where we want to get to and if we can, then we’ll probably have a shot.
SLAM: You’re getting close to the end of your career at Michigan. So looking back, what are some of your favorite moments or memories from your time playing with the Wolverines?
TH: My favorite moments? I’d have to say when we were at Penn State, down by 10 points in the second half with seven minutes left to go. And coach was giving me the ball every time down trying to get me to make a play, and I think that really helped me out and giving me confidence to play in this league and we ended up coming out with a victory. I didn’t score any points in the first half that game but from seven minutes left, all the way through to the end of the second half, I ended up scoring like 13 points, grabbing 5 boards, and dishing out 3 assists. I think that’s what really helped me gain confidence in myself.
Another game would have to be winning at Michigan State my freshman year. It really hasn’t been done in the Beilein era and we were thankful to be the first team to go in there and get a win.
And then the last game I would say is the Ohio State game this year, and I mean just making six threes in that game, and just doing a great job not trying to lose against them. It was tough. It was a battle. Thankfully we came out with a win, and that just shows our resilience and the heart that our team plays with.
SLAM: How do you think your game translates to the next level?
TH: Hopefully it’s about the same. Just trying to be that X-factor that comes in and knocks down jumpers, do whatever I have to do to help the team win, and I just have to have that killer instinct and killer mentality to go out there and beat the other team, and just play as hard as you can the whole game. And I just try to bring that to every game and I try to be a vocal leader out there for the team to help us win. You can only control what you can control, and that’s what I try to do and be my best at.
SLAM: How would you compare your game to your dad’s?
TH: My dad is a lot shorter than I am, six inches shorter, so it’s hard to find out how I compare to him. He could definitely tell you I’m a better shooter than him, but he’s a better ball handler and getting to the basket because he’s so low to the ground that it’s easier for him.
SLAM: Who wins in a game of one-on-one?
TH: The first time I ever beat my dad in one-on-one was when I was in middle school, I think eighth grade, but he was older, and he retired not long after that. Now, I would definitely win.
SLAM: Do you get tired of hearing questions about your dad, and do you kind of want to make a name for yourself?
TH: I really do want to make a name for myself, but I don’t get tired about getting questions because I know he’s been there already, he’s done everything, and he has so many accolades behind his name. It’s going to be tough to kind of reach that. But I love the challenge and I mean now back at home, it’s like, ‘Hey, you’re Tim Hardaway Jr’s dad,” and it feels great to hear that. And obviously he’s a big part of why I play basketball and he just motivates me every time I go out on the court to do my best.
SLAM: Do you feel like you have an advantage with him as a resource?
TH: No question. I mean he’s been through it all, he knows the ropes of the NBA, you know, I don’t see anyone else that knows more than he does.
SLAM: What does the future hold for Tim Hardaway Jr?
TH: I mean we’ll see right now. I’m just focused on playing basketball for the University of Michigan and just trying to do the best I can to help my team get to where we want to get to, and that’s winning the National Championship. And that’s everybody’s goal throughout the country, so it’s going to be tough, but I think we can get the job done.
SLAM: Are you focused on the NBA at all and the possibility of entering the Draft after this season?
TH: Not at all. I’m focusing on trying to win right now with the team that I’m on.