The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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44 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2020 2020-21 BASKETBALL PREVIEW M ichigan loses a point guard in Zavier Simpson who was among the best leaders the program has seen, a bulldog whose passing and defense will be tough to replace. It will take more than one player to do it, head coach Juwan Howard said in early November, and he'll rely on a trio — graduate transfer Mike Smith, senior Eli Brooks and freshman Zeb Jackson — to help overcome the loss. That order was expected to be the depth chart as of Nov. 9, though it was subject to change. "We have a very talented group and three core guys that will receive a boatload of that [experience] being a decision-maker for our offense," Howard said. "First, I start off with Mike as one. Eli is the second, and Zeb will get his opportunities as well." Smith is considered the scorer of the bunch, having averaged 22.8 points per game — which ranked sixth nationally — last year at Co- lumbia. Brooks is experienced and the best defender, while Jackson has shown well in the early going. Senior forward Isaiah Livers ad- mitted Nov. 13 that U-M's style of play was different under the new floor generals, but he liked how the team was coming together after Simpson's departure. "I would say there are more play- makers," Livers said. "Zavier did a tremendous job leading the offense last year and creating plays for oth- ers. This year is kind of different. When you lose a guy like that … "I'm not going to sit here and say Mike passes like [Simpson], because that would be a lie. Mike brings other things to the team. He can shoot, he can score. He's a leader, has a lot of experience. With a point guard like that, you can go a long way." Jackson is the newcomer, and he's been one of the biggest surprises since he arrived on campus, assistant coach Phil Martelli said this summer. He's athletic, savvy and a good (and getting better) shooter. His fellow point guards have done a great job putting him in position to log some minutes in 2020, and Livers can already see why. "It's that freak athleticism," Livers said. "A guy gets past him and we don't have to help as much as you do [with] a point guard who can't jump as much. He's going to go up and grab that ball off the rim; he's going to block their shot. He's very quick. "He's very twitchy, shifty. I don't really know how to describe it. I closed out on him a couple times, and I'm not going to lie, he got me. He'll go one way, go back the other way. I'm like, 'Damn! This dude is quick!' "That's why I'm very excited to see how he turns out to play." — Chris Balas FRESHMAN CLASS IMPRESSING EARLY Point guard Zeb Jackson isn't the only freshman impressing. Center Hunter Dickinson, a 7-1 behemoth, is pushing to start, while forward Terrance Williams and guard Jace Howard are great teammates who are settling into their roles. "We've got a great class," head coach Juwan Howard said. "All of them are very talented and super competitive.   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Talented Trio Will Man Point Guard Position Senior Eli Brooks is among the three contending for minutes at the point guard spot vacated by Zavier Simpson. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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