Ann Arbor — Last week during Michigan’s media day, coach John Beilein noted he has a “three-man quarterback controversy” at point guard.
The picture didn’t get much clearer in the Wolverines’ lone tune-up, an 82-50 exhibition romp over Division II Grand Valley State on Friday night at Crisler Center.
Sophomore Zavier Simpson got the start and finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 18 minutes. Grad transfer Jaaron Simmons and freshman Eli Brooks each played 15 minutes off the bench and scored five apiece with five combined assists.
Going forward, Beilein said he expects there to be an ongoing competition for the starting spot.
“Each of them gives different things whether it's man or whether it's zone. I wanted to give everybody some chance in there,” Beilein said. “I think there was some uncertainty by some of our other young guys when Jaaron is in with them or Isaiah (Livers) or Eli, they couldn't really do some things. But they had (eight) assists and I think one turnover. That's really good numbers for them.”
Simmons said he found Simpson was going to start before the team’s scrimmage last weekend and didn’t take it in a negative way. Rather, Beilein had a talk with him and preached patient as he continues to get comfortable with a new system and teammates.
“I'm just taking it one day at a time. Continue to learn, continue to do what I'm supposed to do first and worry about (starting) later,” Simmons said. “I came here to win first.”
When Simmons first checked in to the game with 15:38 left in the first half, he made an immediate impact and assisted on two baskets to help spark an 8-0 run. He drove and kicked out to an open Duncan Robinson for a 3-pointer and set up a two-handed dunk by Charles Matthews with a bounce pass in transition.
“He shot the ball well, ran the team well, so there's a process going in there and we have some options there that I really like,” Beilein said of Simmons. “When one isn't doing well, we have other options. Jaaron has never been in the NCAA Tournament – that should be his driving force right now and everything else can take care of itself.”
Brooks spent most of his time at the two playing alongside either Simpson or Simmons in the backcourt. But when Brooks got the chance to push point for a stretch in the second half, he delivered a pair of impressive bounce passes — the first to Matthews in the middle of Grand Valley’s zone for a mid-range jumper and the second on an entry pass deep into the post to sophomore center Jon Teske for an easy jam.
Beilein said he expects Brooks to play at both guard spots due to his shooting ability and noted he could be called upon to log more minutes if foul trouble or injuries arise.
“He's just learning the game. I sense right now he's going to be one of those guys that really picks up college basketball pretty quickly,” Beilein said. “That's what I sense right now and I sensed that before and all of a sudden they flatline as it goes on and they keep making the same mistakes. He seems to be growing more quickly than some other guys we've had in the past.”
While it was just a dry run, Matthews had nothing but praise for Simpson, Simmons and Brooks and their ability to orchestrate the offense.
“We have phenomenal point guards. They make my job so much easier,” said Matthews, who dropped 23 points in his Michigan debut. “They make the rest of the team's jobs so much easier and those guys got terrific talent so I owe them a lot of credit for the high scoring because they get everybody in place and they control the tempo for everybody.
“I couldn't be more blessed to play with three point guards the way we have.”