The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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50 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2021 M ichigan's defense still has work to do to be among the Big Ten's best, though its No. 30 national rank- ing in adjusted defensive efficiency by as of Dec. 28 put it among the top 10 percent of all Divi- sion I teams with much bigger tests to come. Senior guard Eli Brooks is one of the big reasons for the Wolverines' early season success. He became a stopper last year — head coach Ju- wan Howard said he felt his player should have earned All-Big Ten de- fensive honors in 2019-20 — and he's become even better this season. His play in isolation on Penn State's Sam Sessoms, who unsuc- cessfully drove with a chance to tie it with five seconds remaining in Michigan's 62-58 victory Dec. 9, was a game-saver. "It's huge," Howard said. "He means a lot to this team. He was one of our best defenders last season … this year, he hasn't missed a beat be- cause he's always very detailed. He's a competitor. He gets into a scouting report and he tries to do everything the right way that's being coached. "We had the right person guarding [Sessoms] at the end of the play at the right time. I knew it; he wanted it. He wanted it man-to-man. He didn't want zone defense. He wanted to guard him man-to-man, and it was awesome to see a guy like that mak- ing a winning play. It was inspiring for all of us to watch on the sideline." There aren't many guys who take that much pride on that side of the ball, Howard added, and that makes Brooks "a joy to coach." Though he was also averaging 9.3 points per game through his first seven contests, Brooks has never been a stats guy, Howard noted — he just wants to make winning plays to help the team. Zavier Simpson was another like that, and Brooks learned from him in the three years they were together. "Last year, when I had my first year of coaching him, I got a chance to witness it when he was playing with Zavier a lot," Howard recalled. "Before the season started, I tried to look at starting lineups — who would be right for that group? Who would be the two guard that would play alongside Zavier? Eli kept ring- ing in my ear. "He's just a glue guy. He makes everyone better. He also holds ev- eryone accountable, but he makes it work." — Chris Balas WOLVERINES IMPRESS JOHN BEILEIN Former Michigan head coach John Beilein knows something about devel- oping big men. From Jordan Morgan MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Eli Brooks Is Impressing With His Defense Brooks was averaging 9.3 points per game during U-M's 7-0 start, but it was his play on the defensive end that drew praise from head coach Juwan Howard. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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