Head coach Juwan Howard spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon in a cold, dreary and rainy Ann Arbor ahead of Friday night’s exhibition against Saginaw Valley State, which all but closes out preseason camp for Michigan Men’s Basketball.
Howard was asked about the player that has made the biggest leap since he arrived over the summer and did not even hesitate to give his answer.
It was point guard David DeJulius, who has drawn rave reviews for his play during camp and in the closed scrimmage against Detroit last week, as well as the open practice on Monday.
“David has been that guy, he’s been that guy that really sticks out in my mind as far as the person who has made some big strides from when I first arrived to where he is now,” Howard said. “David has an unbelievable work ethic. He’s done a phenomenal job with his shooting. He’s been in the film room with Coach (Howard) Eisley learning our offense. That area he’ll get better with – not only David, but everyone in general.
“David is now taking on that responsibility of becoming more of a point guard. We’re gonna need his scoring, level of toughness. But overall, I’m pleased with where he is, and I know – before I walked over here, David was in the gym working out with his headphones on shooting with one of our managers. Never can ever question David or Zavier’s work ethic.”
DeJulius spoke with the media before practice on Thursday afternoon and said that Howard wants him to be able to play both the one and two-guard spots, which leaves the door open for he and Simpson to be on the court at the same time. He’s more than confident enough that he can get the job done in whatever he is asked to do.
“My confidence level is really high,” DeJulius said. “That’s just a testament to all of the hard work put in during the offseason but also the great teammates that I have and a coaching staff that helps instill that confidence in me. It really feels good to know that your teammates and coaching staff trusts you.
”(Howard) told me that he wants me to come in and be aggressive. Play my game. He just kind of tells me that he’s not going to handcuff me or anything, just go out there and showing what I’ve been doing.”
Senior point guard Zavier Simpson, figures to be the team’s heartbeat in Howard’s debut season as he passes the baton to DeJulius, who is entering his sophomore campaign with the Wolverines.
DeJulius says that Simpson has not only had a major impact on his growth as a player, but also on Michigan basketball as a whole, noting that the toughness team-wide has picked up since Simpson set foot on campus.
“Leadership and toughness,” DeJulius said on what he’s learned the most from Simpson. “Just watching him and how he goes about conducting himself on the court and how he plays with so much rage and passion about him. I feel like not only me, but our whole team has picked up from that and the program has. You can see from the program from when he got here versus now, it’s just a lot tougher. That’s just a testament to him.”
DeJulius and Simpson share a strong bond, but they do go at each other often in practice and both players have that bulldog mentality that has become synonymous with the point guard position in Ann Arbor over the last decade or so.
“On the court and between these lines, we’re competing,” DeJulius said. “We’re like the most competitive guys around. Off the court, we know that in the games we have to be brothers and stay locked in and be as one. And I am just always picking his brain about everything. He’s been a big brother of mine since I’ve been here and I feel like he’s really been good for us.”
The Wolverines play an exhibition at Crisler Center on Friday night against SVSU before opening the season on Tuesday against Appalachian State at home. Friday’s exhibition tips at 7 p.m., but can only be viewed live on BTN Plus, which is a subscription service. We will have coverage here throughout the evening.