There were certainly many concerns in the massive transition the Michigan Wolverines basketball program had in between the 2018-19 and the 2019-20 seasons. Not only were the Wolverines going to go through a coaching transition, but they also lost three starters — Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole — who accounted for 39.8 of the 69.6 points per game the Wolverines averaged last season.
It was clear Isaiah Livers was going to step in from his sixth man spot into the starting lineup. Some experts and fans had very high expectations for him, hoping he would make the jump to becoming this team’s star. While he does lead the team in points per game after the first nine games this season with 15.1 points, the player who has made the most surprising jump so far has been guard Eli Brooks.
The Wolverines were going to be desperate for a three-point threat after losing Poole and Brazdeikis, who shot 346 of the 455 three pointers last season. Obviously, that left a huge gap in who would help spread the floor on the court in 2019-20. With Franz Wagner up in the air with injuries and the fact he is a true freshman, and the inept and inaccurate display Zavier Simpson has shown from deep his entire career, the brunt of the load was going to fall on whoever would be the the two-guard this season.
In comes Brooks, who has only been a role player to this point of his Michigan career. John Beilein and the coaching staff raved at how good Brooks was in practice, but that never really seemed to translate to the court. Brooks started in 12 games his freshman season, but then didn’t earn a start until this season.
He shot only 24.4 percent from deep in his first year at Michigan, and just 29.2 percent last season. He seemed timid on the court and at times looked like he was just in over his head. Clearly that was not going to be good enough to have a significant role on this roster.
But something has changed this season. It may be a new coaching philosophy or another year of experience under his belt. Either way, Brooks has looked like a completely different player this season.
Brooks is playing with more confidence than ever before, and he is putting up big points because of it. He has scored 20+ points twice this season (against App State and North Carolina). He has also shot 39 three-pointers this season, converting them at a 48.7 percent clip. To put that into perspective, he shot only 48 three-pointers all last season.
His expanded role has been a huge help to this offense, and has filled one of the biggest holes in this roster. At one point it seemed there was a possibility both David DeJulius and Adrien Nunez could hop him on the depth chart if he continued averaging the 2.5 points per game he averaged last season.
But there has been no example of that yet so far this year. He is showing athleticism and is playing at a level some people thought the junior was not capable of. He doesn’t necessarily have a big performance every game, but he has an impact similar to that of Poole last season.
Now averaging 11.7 points in the first nine games of the season, he has helped filled the void left by Matthews, Brazdeikis and Poole. If he continues to play at this level, this team is going to continue to be very successful this season.