Evanston, Ill. — Michigan’s Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske have been a part of a lot of victories during their four-year careers.
So many that by the time they leave Ann Arbor, they’ll likely find their names at the top the program’s record book.
With Wednesday’s 79-54 thumping of Northwestern, Simpson and Teske recorded their 104th career win and moved into a first-place tie with four former Wolverines, including Glen Rice, for the most in Michigan basketball history.
“That's special,” said coach Juwan Howard, who was unaware of the duo’s standing on the all-time list. “It says a lot about them being able to be considered a winner. They've won Big Ten (tournament) titles. They’ve been to the NCAA championship game. They have a ton of experience.
“They've been a part of the big moments, but they have worked hard to get to that moment, with all the countless hours of working hard on their game individually and also being coached by a great coach in Coach (John) Beilein.”
When it comes to Michigan’s record keeping, the program credits a player for wins in a season as long as he appeared in at least one game without redshirting. That’s why Teske and Simpson have the same number of career victories, even though Teske didn’t play in 18 games as a freshman and Simpson was suspended for last month’s contest at Nebraska.
Austin Davis was part of the same recruiting class as Simpson and Teske but redshirted his first year. As a result, Davis isn’t credited with the 26 wins the Wolverines recorded during the 2016-17 season.
Michigan would go on to win a program-best 33 games the next year en route to a second straight Big Ten tournament title and a national title game appearance. The Wolverines followed that up with 30 more victories in 2018-19, marking the first time they’ve recorded back-to-back 30-win seasons.
Rice, the program’s all-time leading scorer, J.P. Oosterbaan and Mark Hughes set the mark by winning 104 games — and Michigan’s lone national title — when they played from 1985-89. Jordan Morgan also racked up 104 wins from 2010-14.
Simpson and Teske will have a strong chance to pass them all. The Wolverines (15-9, 6-7 Big Ten) have seven regular-season games remaining before the Big Ten tournament and, possibly, the NCAA Tournament.
Junior forward Isaiah Livers isn’t surprised the two seniors, who boast an astounding 74 percent career winning percentage (104-36), are in a position to break the record and raise the bar.
"Sleep (Teske’s nickname), man, he's not the loudest on the court. You don't hear him talking a lot, but behind the scenes he's a real good big brother and I haven't told him that. I probably should tell him that,” Livers said. “Zavier, I didn't know what college basketball was until I ran into that dude. My first open gym he was yelling at me because I let (ex-Wolverine) Duncan Robinson hit two 3s. I'm like, 'What am I supposed to do?'
“And then I realized at the college level, scouting is serious. You can't just allow players to get off, especially Duncan Robinson, probably the best shooter to ever come out of Michigan. That's when I woke up and was like, OK, I better pick it up or Zavier is going to be on me all four years that I'm here.”
Like Livers, sophomore guard David DeJulius has learned what it takes to win at the college level under Teske and Simpson, whom he credited for improving his IQ of the game.
“To see how well they play with each other, especially off the pick-and-roll, and just to see the mentality that they have and their leadership role in practice, it's something that not only myself but the rest of the team feeds off of,” DeJulius said.
DeJulius added Simpson and Teske won’t just leave a lasting mark in the record book. They’ll also leave a lasting mark on him.
“These two years has been nothing short of amazing, just to see the approach that they have, the winning mentality that they have,” DeJulius said. “It's big shoes to follow going forward when they leave. Right now, I'm just appreciating those guys for being here.”