The Wolverine

June/July 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 41 2017 BASKETBALL RECRUITING ISSUE tions and defend all five. "He's an elite athlete, and the skill level is much better than when I saw him earlier this year," Beilein said. "Now the next step is for him, like D.J., to embrace physical contact and realize if you're going to be a forward at this level — the three or the four — you've got to embrace it … more rebounding, posting up, those things. "That's where D.J.'s game has taken off a little bit — the ability to rebound, the ability to play off the 'B' spot as we call it, a little bit off the block." He's still relatively young to the game, as well. Livers played baseball until this year, taking some time away from his basketball growth. "He played baseball every spring, which I love," Beilein said. "I have another guy I can talk baseball with, which is really cool … even though he's a Tigers fan, and the Tigers are my No. 2 team behind the [St. Louis] Cardinals." Brooks, meanwhile, came from out of nowhere to earn his scholarship. A rela- tive unknown, having played his AAU ball off the heralded "shoe circuit," he led his team to the school's first two state tournament wins in program his- tory. He finished his career with 2,426 career points, second all time in his school's York-Adams Conference, and became a local legend after taking the time to bond with kids and sign auto- graphs after games, always remaining humble. Spring Grove fans serenaded him with chants of "thank you, Eli!" when his team was about to be eliminated from the state tournament. The level of competition wasn't the strongest, but Beilein saw Brooks shine against some great players in AAU ball. He saw plenty in conference play, too, to know Brooks can excel in the Big Ten. "If you see him, watch him play even with his high school team, people are loaded up on him all over the place," Beilein said. "We feel he is an elite-level point guard — if he was on one of the bigger AAU programs, people would have noticed him much earlier and ev- erybody would have appreciated what he did. When it came down to it, it was us and Villanova who appreciated it, really." Ohio State and North Carolina State also offered, but U-M beat childhood favorite Villanova to land him. Beilein is thrilled they did. "He's a great passer and an incred- ible rebounder … Derrick Walton- esque," he said. "He was averaging like double figures in rebounds, would have 16 in one game, 20 in another. He has an incredible nose for the ball. "Eli's got a legitimate jump shot that is a little like Derrick, too. He's got a little rise to it, and that's important. A jump shot at the point guard [position] is a good asset to have because of the ball screen. You can't come off the ball screen and shoot a set shot." His father and coach, James Brooks, believes he can play both positions at the next level, and Beilein is certain of it. "He's as pure a point guard as you can have," Beilein said. "He will play two, as well, because he's a good shooter." The Wolverines also added gradu- ate transfer Jaaron Simmons, a 6-1 point guard from Ohio University who put up 15.9 points and 6.5 assists last year. He'll battle Brooks and sopho- more Xavier Simpson for playing time, though Beilein was unable to comment until Simmons enrolled, which was ex- pected to be in June. How much he and the freshmen will play this coming season has yet to be determined, but Beilein is confident all will be major factors in keeping the program humming for the foreseeable future. ❏ ANALYST WEIGHS IN ON U-M'S CLASS Michigan's 2017 class was ranked No. 36 in the country by Rivals.com, in large part because it's smaller than many. But the pieces add up to a solid group, Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Eric Bossi said. "It's one of those base classes where you don't really expect any of the guys to put up crazy numbers as freshmen, but they can be valu- able filling a role," he said. "Then as juniors and seniors you have guys with a lot of experience who fit and know the system. They'll be guys who fans of other teams say, 'These guys are still around?' "It's good to get those base classes every couple of years. It's good to have your best players be upper- classmen, and we've seen that at Michigan." Bossi's take on the U-M signees: • Jordan Poole (6-4, 185, Rivals. com's No. 102 player nationally, La Porte [Ind.] La Lumiere): "He's interesting, because if he plays within an offense in terms of com- ing off a pick, hitting shots, reading the play and making some things happen off the dribble, he can be really good. "Sometimes he forces the issue a little bit … but if they rein him in and play to his strengths, he could be really good in that system." • Eli Brooks (6-1, 170, three- star, Spring Grove [Pa.] High): "He's a combo guard, can play some at the point, some at the two. He can make some things happen off the dribble when the offense breaks down. "He can get his own shot and shots for others." • Isaiah Livers (6-8, 210, No. 132, Kalamazoo [Mich.] Central): "He had a pretty good senior year. Hopefully he'll continue to develop that role where he can be a face- up guy. He has a good-looking shot, good mechanics, and I think he'll be able to extend his range. "He's a guy they can count on being versatile for them." — Chris Balas Combo guard Eli Brooks finished his prep career with 2,426 career points, second all time in his school's York-Adams Conference. PHOTO COURTESY JAMES BROOKS

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