Michigan’s Xavier Simpson green but making progress

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Xavier Simpson

Ann Arbor -- Xavier Simpson hasn't scored a field goal since his collegiate debut against Howard on Nov. 11.

It's been a struggle at times for the freshman point guard from Lima, Ohio -- and that's evidenced by his minutes. He's played more than 10 in just three games, and only once against a quality opponent entering Tuesday night's game against Texas at Crisler Center.

"We're seeing progress. We are seeing progress," coach John Beilein said this week, without singling out Simpson. "But there's a long way to go, for everybody.

"We are feeding them a lot of information right now, and they're gonna get it, but it's just a matter of time."

Fortunately for Michigan, time remains on its side a little bit -- after the Tuesday game against Texas and the Saturday game at No. 2 UCLA, the non-conference slate closes with three easier games that should allow Simpson and other freshman to get more minutes heading into the Big Ten portion of the schedule.

Simpson, Mr. Basketball in Ohio last season, was 2-for-2 from the field against Howard, including a 3-pointer. He's missed the five shots he's taken since.

He played 13 minutes in the victory over Kennesaw State on Saturday, and was 2-for-2 on free throws, had two rebounds and a steal.

A 6-foot, 180-pounder, Simpson admitted there have been some "wow" moments this season -- as in, wow, we're not in high school anymore.

"There's been times I'm thinking, 'Wow,'" Simpson said.

Are you sure it's, "wow," and not another choice word?

"Both, actually," Simpson said, with a laugh. "Both.”

He added: "Toward the beginning, my mind was just going fast. ... Decisions have to be smarter, just smarter and very fluent.

"It's definitely slowed down. I feel I have a good pace of the offense, because the offense has so many different options."

Simpson was a candidate to get some of senior Derrick Walton Jr.'s point-guard minutes, but so far, that hasn't materialized.

Simpson said he didn't come to UM trying to take Walton's job. He looks at Walton as a mentor, and said the same about senior Zak Irvin and junior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.

Slam dunks

Junior guard Duncan Robinson shot better than 50 percent from 3-pointers in non-conference play last season. He was at 37.5 percent entering Tuesday night.

He did score his 1,000th career point last time out -- he has 455 in two seasons with Michigan, and scored 548 in his one season at Division III Williams College.

... Strength of schedule always is a big debate around Michigan basketball, though Beilein continues to defend his slate -- which this season, in non-league play, included Marquette, SMU, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Texas and UCLA. Still, according to the ESPN RPI, the Wolverines' non-league strength of schedule ranks 264th nationally.

... Michigan and Texas played last season, too, in the Bahamas, with the Wolverines winning, 78-72, in the tournament's fifth-place game.

... Through 31 career games, D.J. Wilson had 13 blocks. He has 12 already this year.


Twitter @tonypaul1984