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Eli Brooks returns to Michigan’s lineup after one-game absence

The senior guard strained his right foot last week.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When the Michigan men’s basketball team takes the floor against Maryland on Tuesday night, it will get a big piece of its starting lineup back.

Senior guard Eli Brooks will return after missing the Wolverines’ loss to Minnesota due to a strained right foot. Brooks is averaging 8.7 points on 43 percent shooting through 11 games this season, and he provides a consistent 3-point shooting threat along the perimeter.

But Brooks has made his mark at the other end of the floor. He’s established a reputation as one of the Big Ten’s best on-ball defenders, often drawing the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player. Without him in the lineup on Saturday, Michigan gave up 75 points against a conference opponent for the first time this season.

“I think just being out there in general, he has an effect on the game,” fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith said during a Zoom call with reporters on Monday. “He may not be the most vocal, but he’s more of the action type person that we look forward to and he brings that energy. He may not show expression or emotion all the time, but you know when he’s out there he’s out there. And obviously we missed him last game, we missed him in practice. it was just him being out there, that’s kinda when we noticed, him not being out there.”

Added sophomore wing Franz Wagner: “Eli knows how to play the game. Maybe you look at his stats, he doesn’t seem like one of the best players. He does things that matter that people don’t really understand basketball don’t necessarily see. I think that’s very important. Maybe he didn’t get the assist on the play, but he did the right pass to the right guy that maybe found the open shooter, stuff like that. He runs the floor. He does all those little things that all those coaches talk about that matter and that make a lot of things a lot easier for everyone else on the court.”

On Monday, associate head coach Phil Martelli told reporters that Brooks’ status was “hour-to-hour,” adding that he spent Saturday in a boot before working with team trainer Alex Wong individually on Sunday. He wore sneakers again on Monday — an indicator of his positive progress and return to the lineup on Tuesday.

In the Wolverines’ first meeting with Maryland, Brooks scored 10 points and dished out four assists. He’ll return to his normal starting spot alongside Smith, Wagner, Isaiah Livers and Hunter Dickinson.