Sport After attrition, Michigan’s guards know there are minutes -- and shots -- up for grabs

17:20  21 october  2019
17:20  21 october  2019 Source:   mlive.com

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ANN ARBOR -- Michigan attempted 1,894 shots last season. The three players who took the most -- a combined 1,131 shots -- are no longer on the team. Senior Zavier Simpson returns at point guard , but the other backcourt spot is up for grabs . Another one or two perimeter spots could be open as

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ANN ARBOR -- Michigan attempted 1,894 shots last season. The three players who took the most -- a combined 1,131 shots -- are no longer on the team. All three averaged about 30 minutes per game, and two were listed as guards. These facts are not lost on the returning Wolverines.

a person holding a basketball: Michigan guard Eli Brooks (55) shoots the ball during a practice at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, on Thursday, October 17, 2019.© Mike Mulholland | mmulholl@mlive.com/mlive.com/TNS Michigan guard Eli Brooks (55) shoots the ball during a practice at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, on Thursday, October 17, 2019.

"It's definitely an eye-opener when you see three guys at your position, basically, leave," sophomore guard Adrien Nu 1/4 u00f1ez said last week.

He is among the several Michigan players hoping to take on a bigger role this season than last. Head coach Juwan Howard is counting on it.

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Senior Zavier Simpson returns at point guard, but the other backcourt spot is up for grabs. Another one or two perimeter spots could be open as well depending on how Howard's preferred style of play.

Nu 1/4 u00f1ez, junior Eli Brooks, and sophomore David DeJulius, among others, will get opportunities to fill Jordan Poole’s shoes. Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis are also gone, leaving Michigan without its top three scorers from a season ago.

"When I saw the players we lost last year, I knew that playmaking and scoring would be a need," DeJulius said. "I made sure I got my confidence back, stayed in the gym and worked on my shot and decision-making."

Several Wolverines described Howard's arrival as a fresh start. Those who didn't get much playing time in the past were eager to impress the new coach.

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Brooks, for example, started a dozen games early in his freshman season but hasn't always been a part of the rotation since.

He stayed in Ann Arbor during the offseason and put in work in the weight room. It has showed in 5-on-5 action.

"Early on, I had a couple of dunks -- just some things I haven't been doing freshman and sophomore year," Brooks said. "Being able to guard different positions, being stronger that way really helps out on the court."

Brooks likes the general principles of Michigan's new offense.

"It fits well with me. There are a lot of plays in space, a lot of people are involved, a lot of different actions. It's more of a read, so I feel like I'm more comfortable in it."

Said Howard: "There is always something that Eli surprises you with each and every day."

Brooks is 6-foot-1. DeJulius is an inch shorter. Both are combo guards, and the ability to play off the ball will be key given Simpson's presence.

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DeJulius spent many of his offseason workouts preparing for that: moving without the ball, coming off down screens, spotting up for 3s to take advantage of Simpson's penetration and passing skills.

DeJulius said he is very comfortable sharing the court with Simpson.

"Our games complement each other very well," DeJulius said. "Defensively, we're pit bulls, bulldogs, tenacious. Offensively, he's more pass-minded while I'm more scoring-minded."

Nu 1/4 u00f1ez hopes to be more scoring-minded this year as well. His minutes last year were limited to the tail end of blowouts. But Howard called him one of the best shooters on the team last week and, more importantly, said Nu 1/4 u00f1ez "is going to see some playing time."

He has been the given the greenest of lights to shoot, at least so far in practice.

According to Nu 1/4 u00f1ez, first-year assistant Howard Eisley told him, "If you see the rim, shoot it," and has threatened Nu 1/4 u00f1ez with 10 pushups any time he pump fakes or turns down an open look.

"He wants me to have that confidence in myself and it really helped me," Nu 1/4 u00f1ez said. "It's a high-pressure situation: new coach, I'm trying to rewrite my whole story." Eisley helped ease that pressure; meanwhile, Nu 1/4 u00f1ez said, "Everyone else has been preaching 'defense defense defense.'"

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Michigan returns Simpson and senior center Jon Teske from last year's starting lineup. Junior Isaiah Livers and freshman Franz Wagner figure to see significant playing time as well. Livers is 6-foot-7 and listed as a forward, though Howard has described him as a "big guard" because of his shooting ability and the way he moves. The 6-foot-8 Wagner is listed as a guard and said he prefers playing on the wing. Freshman Cole Bajama (6-foot-7) has been working with the wings but he too is listed as a guard and is comfortable with the ball in his hands.

There will be plenty of minutes -- and shots -- available this season, and several candidates poised to take advantage.

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