Ann Arbor — When Michigan traveled to the Breslin Center last season, the team had to fill a spot in its starting lineup with Charles Matthews sidelined.
The No. 12 Wolverines will likely be facing a similar situation in Sunday’s trip to East Lansing as it appears junior forward Isaiah Livers will miss his second straight game with a left groin injury.
Coach Juwan Howard said Livers, Michigan’s second-leading scorer and top 3-point shooter, is “basically day-to-day” as he continues his rehab and is “not quite sure when he’ll be back.”
“He's just improving day by day, which is great,” Howard said Friday. “I'm loving the signs of how his health has improved.”
When asked if he expects Livers to play against Michigan State, Howard said he was praying but uncertain.
However, senior center Jon Teske wasn't optimistic. Teske said Livers hasn’t been practicing much this week and he doesn’t expect him to be available.
“It sucks with him being out, but we have a saying, ‘Next man up,’” Teske said. “It's going to be difficult going in there and playing without him, but we know we have the guys on this team to go in there and win. We've just got to stay connected, play smart and see what we can do."
Sophomore guard David DeJulius said while Livers has been “shuffled in and out” at practice, the team has been focused on keeping his spirits up and keeping him engaged when he’s not on the floor.
“You can see when he got hurt that game (against Presbyterian on Dec. 21), he was just sad not only for himself but most importantly he sent a text out about how hurt he was that he couldn't be there for his brothers,” DeJulius said. “He promised us that he would take it 110 percent in his recovery, so he can be back with us as soon as possible. You can see that each and every day he's in here early making sure that he's keeping his body right and keeping his body strong for his return.”
With Livers unlikely to suit up, sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr., an East Lansing native, could make his second consecutive start. Johns had six points and four rebounds in 21 minutes in his first career start last weekend against UMass Lowell.
“Isaiah and the coaching staff have confidence in the growth and Brandon Johns in the lineup…and we know that everyone has to step up,” DeJulius said. “It's going to be a big task because Isaiah is a big loss.”
Teske said Sunday will be another “huge” opportunity for Johns, who could see a bigger role in his return to his hometown.
“I think he's real excited to go in there and play,” Teske said. “He deserves it, he's earned it and he has shown in the past, going back to last year, he's capable of going in there and playing hard.
“We all trust him to go in there and do his job.”
Howard was among the many current and former NBA players who took to social media after former NBA commissioner David Stern died on Wednesday.
Howard, a former first-round pick who had a 19-year playing career, called the news “devastating” and noted two of his biggest achievements involved Stern.
The first was getting to shake Stern’s hand and take a picture with him after being the No. 5 overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft. The second was having Stern hand him his championship ring after winning back-to-back titles with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013.
Howard said he also admired Stern’s passion and vision for the game as well as the job he did growing the brand across the world.
“He was a forward-thinker,” Howard said. “When someone passes away we have nothing but great things to say about that individual but everything that has been said about him is true. I really respect him, I thank him. Lord rest his soul in peace and without him I don't know where I'd be right now.”