The Wolverine

April 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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APRIL 2020 THE WOLVERINE 25 supporters, fans, family and friends, etc. … I'm blessed to have the oppor- tunity to be the person I am today, Zavier Simpson." Teske, meanwhile, was initially stunned at the news that his career had ended so suddenly. "It was kind of weird hearing the news at first because all of our par- ents were coming in to watch us play," he told "They told us to get off the court, and then Warde came in and told us that they had cancelled the tournament. "So I'm very disappointed and still kind of thinking about things. But the one thing is, it has to be safety first, and we just care about every- body's safety. "And we're disappointed, but it's bigger than basketball right now. So, we want to be on the cautious side." For the seniors, it was their last chance to prove themselves and compete for a title. Players like fresh- man Franz Wagner will get another opportunity, but they hurt for their teammates. "It's just crazy. I'm pretty sorry for our seniors," Wagner said. "It was a situation I was very excited for with all the games coming up, but I mostly feel bad for the seniors." Simpson tied for the team lead with 12.9 points per game, matching Liv- ers, and dished out 236 as- sists this season in earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. Teske and Wagner finished with 11.6 points per game and junior shoot- ing guard Eli Brooks 10.6, while sophomore David DeJulius added 7.0 points per game, sophomore Brandon Johns Jr. 6.0 and redshirt junior Aus- tin Davis 4.9. While the season had its ups and downs, Howard said he was proud of what they accomplished as a group. "At some point, every team is going to go through [down times]," Howard said. "It happened to us. I think we've learned a lot, and I think we've gotten better through the adversity. We're going to forge ahead …" Not to the postseason, unfortu- nately, but with an eye on next year and the hope of an even better sec- ond season. ❑ Postseason Superlatives Michigan won't be holding its annual postseason basketball banquet for sev- eral weeks, if at all, but several players stepped with big seasons. Here are our choices for a few of the postseason honors: Most Valuable Player: Zavier Simpson Simpson notched career highs in scoring (12.9 points per game), field goal percentage (47.6) and three-point field goal percentage (36.0). He finished the season third nationally in assists with 7.9 per game as head coach Juwan How- ard's "Tom Brady" on the court. Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell was one of many to compliment Simpson's on-court presence after the Wolverines beat his team in Piscataway, N.J., a game in which Simpson notched 16 points, including his 1,000th career point. "They got a lot of weapons, but when they have that quarterback that can slice and dice you, nothing is easy," Pikiell said. Defensive Player of the Year: Eli Brooks This one was a surprise given how good seniors Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske had been throughout their careers, but even head coach Juwan Howard singled Brooks, a junior, out at the end of the year. While Simpson got most of the props from league analysts, he noted, Brooks had been their best on-ball defender. "He's been the anchor of our defense," Howard said after Brooks missed a game with Wisconsin. U-M struggled without him defensively in losing 81-74. "We missed his activity; we missed his energy and being able to guard guys, at- tention to detail when it comes to the scouting report," Howard explained. "That guy is a Swiss Army knife." "Eli is maybe our best defender on the team," freshman Franz Wagner added. "He brings it every night." Newcomer of the Year: Franz Wagner The German captured Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors three times this season and got better as the year progressed. He averaged 11.6 points per game, and though he only shot 31.1 percent from three-point range he was the leading scorer in U-M's last five games, averaging 16.6 points per contest while shooting 41.7 percent (10 of 24) from deep. "Franz is a competitor … Franz Wagner is a guy who is highly skilled, can play at a high level, not afraid of the big moments," Howard said. "He has that experience by playing over in Europe where he's played in big games, playing professionally for a few years. "Franz is developing and improving game by game. This season he's improved in prac- tice habits, always in the gym looking for ways to improve. He's just passionate and loves basketball." Most Improved Player: Austin Davis Davis earned a fifth year with hard work and a post game that helped give the Wolverines a much-needed boost this year when senior center Jon Teske was struggling. Simpson paid Davis the ultimate compliment at the end of the year. "If I'm not confident in you, you won't get the ball," he said. "I'm very confident in Austin." Davis averaged 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game and made an impressive 69.3 percent of his shots. — Chris Balas Freshman Franz Wagner was the leading scorer in U-M's last five games, averaging 16.6 points per contest while shooting a 41.7 percent from three-point range. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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