The Cat-Loving Michigan Star Who Slipped Through the Cracks

The Cat-Loving Michigan Star Who Slipped Through the Cracks

One in particular was his favorite: a cat acquired when Poole was a young boy. The cat died during Poole’s senior year in high school, but Poole grew animated on Saturday while discussing their years together.

“His name was Bling,” Poole said, pointing emphatically to a reporter’s notebook. “Put that in there.”

Recognizable around Ann Arbor for his cat shirts, those short shorts and his surplus of confidence, Poole now is familiar to fans in Michigan and beyond for his 3-point shot against Houston, which gave Michigan a 64-63 second-round win. Among the reasons it might have been overlooked, though, was that it settled into the basket after midnight in the Eastern time zone, after many fans had gone to bed. But that did not stop the extroverted Poole from sharing his joy with anyone who asked him about it.

“You see him in front of cameras?” his teammate Isaiah Livers said. “He lives for this. He lives for the headlines. That’s the type of guy he is, and he deserves it.”

He did not receive all of the praise, however. Some of it, at least on Twitter, was mistakenly directed to the Academy Award-winning actor and producer Jordan Peele, who accepted it all with a tongue-in-cheek reply on Sunday afternoon.

“I wanna thank everyone for the congratulatory messages. When you practice your jump shot as much as I have, you just hope one day it’ll pay off,” Peele wrote, touching off an exchange of congratulations between the two Jordans.

In just a few months, Poole has developed into a valuable role player for the Wolverines. He played in 35 games, all of them off the bench, and averaged 12.7 minutes and 6.2 points. His 3-pointer Saturday against Houston was only his eighth point of that game; in the previous four, including Michigan’s run to the Big Ten tournament title, he had scored a total of 10 points.

In the first few months of the season, as he was adapting to the college game, Poole could not crack Coach John Beilein’s nine-man rotation and spent much of his time on the scout team, mimicking the plays of coming opponents. It was there that Beilein and the other players began to realize that Poole had a knack for hitting late-game shots.

The desperate game-winner against Houston was tossed in from well behind the 3-point arc, and Poole was so off balance that his legs split awkwardly wide and he fell to the floor before the ball went in after the horn sounded. But it went in.

“He’s the clutchest player I’ve ever played with in my life,” Livers said. “They couldn’t know that he hits that shot in his sleep.”

Minutes after the game, Moritz Wagner, the Wolverines’ junior big man from Germany, walked into the jubilant Michigan locker room and found Poole entertaining a group of reporters in front of Wagner’s locker. Wagner shook his head.

“I’m going to move to another locker because he’s never going to stop talking,” Wagner said.

He might not stop soon. At No. 3, Michigan is the highest remaining seed in the West Regional in Los Angeles, where it will face No. 7 Texas A&M on Thursday. (No. 4 Gonzaga will meet No. 9 Florida State in the second game.)

But even as the legend of Poole grew on the court, he knew his celebration would be short lived. It was already early Sunday morning, and he had a paper and a presentation to complete for a class in Greek mythology.

“It’s due Monday,” Poole said. “Got to grind and knock it out.”

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