Jack Glanville: Retirement 00

Five banners hang among the rafters at the north end of the Crisler Center, forever immortalizing Bill Buntin, Cazzie Russell, Phil Hubbard, Glen Rice and Rudy Tomjanovich – players I have never had the privilege of watching, but in As a student in Michigan, I’m bound to know.

The Michigan women’s basketball team has played Crisler for nearly 50 years, however, and not a single jersey hangs to honor the women who shaped the program.

Five men. No women.

With the recent end of Naz Hillmon’s career as the Wolverine, Michigan can continue to follow precedent in disregarding the women’s program or ensuring his jersey ends up where it belongs.

Hillmon is unquestionably the best player to ever put on for Michigan’s women’s basketball team, and if her jersey ever sees the chevrons in Crisler, the University of Michigan athletics department has failed.

“I mean, if there’s anyone – and I think there are a few that preceded her that we were trying to work on – I think she definitely belongs in the rafters of Crisler,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the Wolverines beat. Villanova in the round of 16. “We always talk about the house Cazzie built, but sometimes we talk about the house Nazzie built on the women’s side.”

There are a million excuses as to why the few outstanding players who came before Naz didn’t have their shirts retired. Throughout the pre-Naz era, Michigan’s women’s program never enjoyed much success. He never produced a Big Ten player of the year, never posted an All-American, and never reached the Sweet Sixteen. That’s a lot of never.

Hillmon came to a program devoid of historical success and completely renovated it. She co-captains the Wolverines in their first Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. She helped Michigan reach its highest ranking in program history at No. 4 in the AP Poll and she launched the Wolverines to their best season in terms of winning percentage.

Along with his contributions to the team, Hillmon has racked up an absurd list of accolades and records. She is the only Wolverine, male or female, to finish with over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Hillmon became one of four women to score 2,000 points, became the first and only All-American in program history, became the only Big Ten player of the year in program history, set the program record for most rebounds and double-doubles and was named to the All-Big Ten first team in each of her four years.

If that doesn’t warrant a jersey retirement, what does?

As Barnes Arico mentioned, there are players who came before Hillmon who helped pave the way for his success. Katelynn Flaherty, Hallie Thome, Diane Dietz and Stacey Thomas all have a case for having their numbers retired. All of these women were extremely talented players and helped propel the program to where it is today. But that’s not about them. It’s Naz Hillmon, who over the past four years has proven to be the best player in program history.

As corny as Barnes Arico’s comment might be, she’s right. For the women’s team, Crisler is the home that “Nazzie” built, and the University of Michigan athletic department must recognize that. Hillmon is the first player to wear the 00 in program history, and she is expected to be the last.

Retreat 00.

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