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Ex-Wolverine Zavier Simpson signs deal with German pro team

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

The first stop of Zavier Simpson’s professional career will be in Europe.

The former Michigan point guard signed a deal to play with German club Science City Jena this season. The team announced Simpson’s addition last week.

Zavier Simpson

Science City competes in the ProA league of the Basketball Bundesliga, the second-highest tier of professional basketball in Germany, and it finished with the third-best record (18-9) in 2019-20 after the season was called off in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The team — which is based in Jena, roughly 160 miles southwest of Berlin — will tip off its 2020-21 season on Oct. 17.

Simpson, 23, joins Science City after leaving Michigan with 108 wins, tied for the most in program history along with classmate Jon Teske, and 667 career assists, a total that ranks second in the Wolverines’ record books.

A three-year starter, Simpson often set the tone on both ends of the floor for Michigan. He was lauded by his teammates and coaches for his leadership skills and toughness. He was dreaded by opponents for his ability to penetrate the paint and pick apart defenses with his passing, as well as finish with his demoralizing running hook shot.

Last season as a senior, he played a vital role in bridging the gap from one coaching staff to another as Juwan Howard took over for John Beilein and was one of the top facilitators in the country, ranking third nationally with 7.9 assists per game. He also averaged a career-high 12.9 points and 4.5 rebounds to earn All-Big Ten second-team honors.

Simpson wrapped up his four-year career with numerous program records and 1,073 points, joining Gary Grant as the only Wolverines to tally at least 1,000 points and 600 assists.

Despite all his success at Michigan, Simpson was unlikely to be selected in the NBA Draft due to his size (6-foot, 190 pounds) and inconsistent outside shooting (31.4% career 3-point shooter). Still, he was viewed as a fringe draft prospect who could potentially earn a two-way contract thanks to his ability to defend, run a team and operate in pick-and-rolls.

However, Simpson didn’t get the opportunity to boost his stock with the postseason being canceled and pre-draft workouts being wiped out because of the pandemic. His chances to make an NBA roster also took a hit with the league’s calendar being pushed back and the Summer League not taking place.

As Simpson starts his pro journey overseas, replacing his production and shot creation will be one of the biggest keys for Michigan. Graduate transfer Mike Smith and senior Eli Brooks are the top options to fill the role and take over at point guard this season.

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins