Michigan basketball's Hunter Dickinson pops up at LLWS to support Taylor North

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Williamsport, Pa. — When Hunter Dickinson was a Little Leaguer, he made his pitching debut.

Luckily for the Michigan basketball, a growth spurt and unproductive outing on the mound changed the course of the history for both the school and Dickinson.

“My first time being on the mound I was really nervous,” said Dickinson, who will soon be a sophomore center for the Wolverines. “It was so fun because I love baseball. I really enjoyed my time playing.”

Dickinson’s debut as a Little League pitcher was short-lived. He only ever made the one appearance, but there might be a chance for a sequel.

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“I never pitched again,” Dickinson said. “I wish. I might have to walk onto Michigan’s baseball team. I might have to tell the coach I’m ready.”

Joking aside, the 7-footer's love for baseball is clear.

In the first week of Little League World Series games, Dickinson watched on television and followed on social media. He then asked about attending. Taylor North Little League manager Rick Thorning assisted.

“I’ve always wanted to go to a Little League World Series game,” Dickinson said. “Coach Thorning reached out to me and said he had a ticket for me. I leave for school tomorrow. I told my dad we need to come up for a game.”

That’s exactly what Dickinson did as he and his father Tim packed up and left from Alexandra, Virginia for Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Dickinson, who grew up in Alexandria is a longtime supporter of the Little League World Series. Every year he watches and cheers for teams from his area. This year, after being named Big Ten Freshmen of the Year at Michigan, he decided to take on a second team to support.

“This is my first year being a Michigan fan," Dickinson said. "I feel like now that I got to the University of Michigan, they’ve kind of adopted me as one of their own. These are my guys as well.”

Taylor North dropped a heartbreaker to Hawaii, 2-0, on Wednesday night. It was Taylor North’s first loss of the tournament. They still have plenty to play for as they take on Texas Thursday to advance to Saturday’s bracket championship.

“This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Dickinson said. “I really wish I could have played here when I was a Little Leaguer. This is an experience they will never forget. I just hope they can take it in and enjoy while they have it.”

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As for Dickinson, his Little League playing days ended early when a growth spurt changed his sporting future.

“I was 5-11 in the fifth grade, so I felt like basketball was a good move for me,” Dickinson said. “I stopped playing (baseball) in eighth grade when I hit 6-10. I thought basketball was probably the move for me. I think it worked out for me.”

Michigan fans would agree.

Dickinson led the Wolverines with 14.4 points per game and averaged 7.8 rebounds per game with five double-doubles. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week seven times and was a consensus second-team All-American.

Dickinson, who declared for last month's NBA draft before withdrawing, departed for Michigan right after the game ended.

“I was prepping for the NBA draft and doing that process really helped me out,” Dickinson said. “I was forced to grind and workout a lot and I improved vastly over a short summer. I really improved on my game and added a lot of things that will help me.”

The offseason work has also led to some lofty goals for the standout sophomore and his teammates.

“With Coach (Juwan) Howard being the head coach, every Michigan team will have expectations to win a national championship,” Dickinson said. “Of course, the Big Ten championship and Big Ten tournament championship. Those are always goals for us. It would be really nice to go back-to-back this year.”

Before heading to campus, Dickinson interacted with Little Leaguers and took in an amazing game between Taylor North Little League and Hawaii.

“I don’t think there’s a better way to have a sendoff,” Dickinson said. “You watch it on TV, and it looks amazing from there, but being here is definitely just a different feel. The scene here is just really amazing for a Little League baseball game.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan's Hunter Dickinson pops up at LLWS to support Taylor North