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Eli Brooks at forefront of Michigan’s offensive evolution in post-Zavier Simpson era

Phil Martelli loves what he sees out of his senior guard.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 19 Michigan at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines are expected to look similar to last year offensively, but there are mammoth shoes to fill this season with point guard Zavier Simpson and center Jon Teske graduating after the abrupt end to the 2019-20 season. Despite that, Michigan feels it has the pieces and the mindset to move forward and potentially even evolve.

“The offense is very similar to last year. I think that the playbook is more expansive than last year,” associate head coach Phil Martelli told the media during a session on Wednesday. “I think it comes down to (Juwan Howard’s) comfort in teaching, he’s been leaning a lot on (assistant) Howard Eisley as the quote-unquote offensive coordinator. A salute to John Beilein and obviously the guys that we brought in this freshmen class. The basketball IQ is very high so the teaching is at a pace that is aggressive. The offensive side of the ball, we have a lot of looks, a lot of packages and a lot of ways that we want to score. We want to play with that particular pace.”

As Michigan continues to move out of the Beilein era with the way the roster is being turned over and new philosophies put in place, aptitude from beyond the arc remains one of the tenants of the offense.

“I think where it has to go well is our three-point shooting has to be where we think that it is. We need to make long-range shots,” Martelli said. “Then we have to count on the playmaking abilities of Mike Smith, of Eli Brooks and of Franz. I don’t think any player can make up the amount of time that (Simpson) had the ball, nor his creativity. His vision. I think it has to be a collective effort to run an efficient offense.”

Despite some of Simpson’s scoring limitations — or at least inconsistencies — when he was in Ann Arbor, Michigan has to replace one of the smartest players and best distributors of the basketball this season. This will be a shared burden among several different players on the roster.

“(Eli Brooks’) IQ is off the charts and he is willing to share,” Martelli said. “Austin (Davis) is always vocal, he’s always pulling Hunter (Dickinson) aside and saying, ‘hey, your feet positioning on this’ — Isaiah has been good but, I would say, one of the challenges is to stay consistently great, not just good, at communicating. He’s another guy, he’ll pull the younger wings, Terrence or Jace and those guys, and put them in position. Those three have been the most vocal. Franz, for a younger player, only a sophomore, he has a real way of expressing accountability. Whether it’s individual accountability or collective accountability that has been impressive for however long we’ve about there, five weeks.”

Brooks and grad transfer Mike Smith figure to be at the forefront of quarterbacking this offensive attack. Martelli says that Brooks has had one of the best lead-ups to the season of any player on the roster.

“He has really an extraordinary, if you want to call this preseason, he’s had it,” Martelli said. “His confidence, for sure, in his shooting. Don’t tell him I told you though, we scrimmaged back-to-back days on Saturday and Sunday, he went 0-for-9 from three and I couldn’t wait to see him at practice on Monday and say, ‘You made every shot for like six-straight weeks and you go into the weekend not making any shots.’ Of course, he had something technical and I said, okay great. Make your next shot. That’s the only way I could approach it.

“I hope because of the human being that he is, that he just has an extraordinary year and I believe, if he has an extraordinary year, we’ll have an extraordinary year.”

Michigan men’s basketball opens its 2020-21 season on Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. against Bowling Green at Crisler Center.