There’s a certain intensity in Tim Hardaway Jr.’s eyes. Even on four hours of sleep and leading the New York Knicks (he returned to the team in January) with 26 points in an away game mere hours ago, the 6-6 shooting guard is staring into the photographer’s camera lens like a baller possessed.

Bopping between free throws and crossover dribbles in an empty Knicks training facility in Westchester, New York on a Saturday morning, there’s no sign of fatigue in the 25-year-old. One guess is it could be the shoes.

To celebrate Jordan Brand’s collaboration with Hardaway Jr.’s alma mater, the son of the former perennial All-Star is wearing the maize and blue color scheme with the block M on his kicks, repping the University of Michigan proudly. “I had to pull a lot of strings to get these,” the Jordan Brand rep cracks a joke. “I’m happy that I’m able to represent Michigan, the school, represent the brand, what it stands for. It’s always a great feeling to rock the block ‘M’ any chance you get.”

Basketball fever is at an all-time high in March, not just for fans but for college athletes hitting the court. Hardaway’s memories at Michigan are fond though, they sound like the ideal boot camp for the big league. Multitasking as a student-athlete isn’t for the weak.

“Basketball in March is what everybody waits for,” he says. “Preparing as a ball player in March is tough, especially when you’re waiting to see on Selection Sunday where you will be playing, who the opponent will be but before that you have to take care of your conference tournaments, and that’s also a battle in itself.

You could have your bad nights, you could have your great nights but the opportunity itself to be a part of it is what everybody lives and breathes for.”

The Miami native juggled school and ball for the Wolverines under head coach John Beilein from his freshman to junior year before getting picked up by the Knicks in the 2013 draft. A few months before, Michigan came close to the championship in 2011 until the team lost to the Duke Blue Devils. When he hits rewind on the game in his mind, the loss feels more like a life lesson.

“I still think about that game a lot. It’s tough because I wanted to go out there and do my best, and I really felt like we all laid it out on the line. Couple of calls here and there that were called a certain way. I’m not gonna get into it but it was something special that I will never forget,” he says.

“The guys that I had [on the team are] still close friends and communicate each and every day. I was happy for coach Beilein and for us to get to the National Championship. No one thought it was possible but we made sure that coming together as one, standing up together as a family, we would be able to get the job done.”

Hardaway Jr. says that his time in Michigan also helped shape him into a professional. Rick Ross’ “Sixteen” smooth and mellow bar fest was the appropriate score for his grind on the hardwood. “It just calmed me down to go out there and perform the way I could,” says Hardaway Jr.

The former Wolverine’s beast mode also helped sharpen his time management skills. “I think it helped me a lot with time management, knowing what you have to do in order to be successful on and off the floor, especially when it comes to making sure you’re on time and not late to anything ‘cause there’s consequences. You don’t want to be on the coaches’ bad side so when you’re not late to those practices, weight room training or meetings in college, it helps you out in the real world.”

The real world at present for Hardaway Jr. is ensuring he leads his current squad to greatness. Remembering that the opportunity to showcase his talent on a global platform is a privilege few get to experience and a little criticism outside adds an extra boost.

“I hope the current college players don’t take anything for granted. Everybody wishes they had an opportunity to play in college, especially on a stage like the NCAA Tournament or for any tournament in March. If you’re playing in March, that means you’re doing something right,” he says.

“I had the opportunity to play in it for three years straight and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I wouldn’t take it away from anything so I was happy to experience it. I’m happy they’re experiencing it and while they’re young in their careers as well.”

He emphasizes, “So just don’t take it for granted and don’t have those moments where you say you wish you should’ve done this or you could have done that. Do it right now so you don’t look back and question yourself.”

Jordan Brand wishes the best of luck to all teams in the tournament.  

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