The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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NOVEMBER 2021 THE WOLVERINE 37 2021-22 BASKETBALL PREVIEW his return and what it's going to mean to a basically younger group. I think he will be given every opportunity to lead. He'll also be given every opportunity to score the ball and every opportunity to guard the other team's best perimeter player. "He came back to pursue champion- ships, and you pursue those by having not just the best players at each posi- tion, but by having the best people, and that's what Eli is about. He values win- ning over everything else." He's been the leader in the early going, and he's embraced it, already having been named team captain by Howard. "Being around Eli, he's like a captain, so we call him 'The Professor,' " Jones said. "He's seen a lot of things, he's a leader and he understands that he has been for a while. "Being able to pick his brain, trying to understand what I can do better — of- fensively, defensively — he does a great job helping me each and every day." DEPTH TO BE DETERMINED While Brooks and Jones are expected to carry the load, they'll need some help from their teammates, too. Brooks has played some point guard in his first four years and can spell Jones when neces- sary, but those behind them haven't played much and will need to prove they can perform. Sophomore Zeb Jackson will get his shot off the ball to build on his late-sea- son improvement. He scored six points (two three-pointers) in eight minutes during an NCAA Tournament win over Texas Southern and had a great summer in preparation for his opportunity. Howard called him one of his hardest workers on a team filled with them, and Martelli agreed. "It was ridiculous, just relentless pursuit," he said. "But I think the word would be he's calmer. He just seems calmer than last year. Maybe that was his change from the position of point guard. His shooting numbers have been outstanding. Now we have to see that in competition." He's also become a vocal leader and one of the team favorites for the way he handles himself. Freshman Kobe Bufkin, a McDonald's All-American, will also get a long look. He was a bit " banged up" this sum- mer, per Martelli, but added some good weight (he's now 6-4, 175 pounds) and showed a lot as both a playmaker and shooter after averaging 25 points last year at Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian. "He has a way about him when you're on the court with him. You say, 'here's a player,'" Martelli noted. "He has to develop, and strength is an issue, but among a group of gym rats, he's right there at the top of the list, and there's just something smooth. "He has a lot of unique finishes at the basket and a pretty stroke, and I think with strength he will develop the range we would like to see him play with." Senior Adrien Nunez, too, could be an 'X'-factor in that area. Though he's only made 20.7 percent of his triples in three years, he's much better in practice and might get a shot to prove it again in games. "If there's a wild card in the whole thing, a guy like Nunez his senior year might have that ability you need," Mar- telli said. "It's about putting the pieces together be able to say, 'oh, yeah — I can do this.' " And at the point, freshman Frankie Collins, a "work in progress" shooter but relentless defender, will also get his chance. He'll likely play like former U-M point guard Zavier Simpson in his first year, eased into the lineup to pro- vide some backup minutes behind Jones and Brooks. Working with Eisley has helped im- mensely, Martelli noted. He called his fellow assistant a "point guard guru," something Collins has embraced. "Frankie recognizes that; he's gravi- tated to that," Martelli said. "What I like about him is he's slow and steady. What we're seeing this week is a little better than we saw last week." Recruits they talk to remember him for his incredible on-the-ball defense, too, a testament in itself. All told, there's plenty of experience, but it's a group of guys still learning how to play together. They've made signifi- cant progress, though, and they all get along extremely well. That's a great place to start. ❏ Freshman Kobe Bufkin, a McDonald's All- American, showed a lot as both a playmaker and shooter while averaging 25 points last year at Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian. PHOTO COURTESY KOBE BUFKIN Michigan Men's Basketball Roster — Backcourt No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown 0 Adrien Nunez G 6-6 220 Sr. Brooklyn, N.Y. 2 Kobe Bufkin G 6-4 175 Fr. Grand Rapids, Mich. 3 Zeb Jackson G 6-5 190 So. Toledo, Ohio 4 Brandon Wade G 6-1 190 Sr. Ann Arbor 10 Frankie Collins G 6-1 185 Fr. Henderson, Nev. 12 DeVante' Jones G 6-1 200 5th-Sr. New Orleans 13 Ian Burns G 6-6 200 Fr. Winnetka, Ill. 25 Jace Howard G 6-7 225 So. Miami 55 Eli Brooks G 6-1 185 5th-Sr. Spring Grove, Pa.

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