UM's Juwan Howard: All seniors are welcome back for 2021-22

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
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As the Michigan basketball team wrapped up a postgame ceremony honoring its senior class after last month’s home finale, the underclassmen chanted “One more year!”

In a typical year, that wouldn’t be possible. But this isn’t a typical year.

Back in October, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to all winter sport athletes in Division I as part of a one-time rule change in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That means all of Michigan’s seniors have the option to return next season, a possibility that coach Juwan Howard would welcome.

Michigan guard Eli Brooks (55) drives to the basket ahead of UCLA guard UCLA Bruins guard Johnny Juzang (3) during the first half.

“Our senior class was amazing,” Howard said Thursday during a video conference call following his selection as The Associated Press men’s coach of the year. “We’re truly going to miss them.

“I hope they remember that it was a free year, so if they choose they want to come back, the invitation is open.”

Michigan had five scholarship seniors on the roster in guards Mike Smith, Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown, forward Isaiah Livers and center Austin Davis. All five played key roles and were among the team’s top seven scorers.

Smith and Brooks made up the starting backcourt. Brown was the sixth man who provided a spark with his defense and 3-point shooting. Livers was the team’s second-leading scorer and top 3-point shooter before he suffered a late-season foot injury. Davis was a reliable backup to freshman Hunter Dickinson.

The Wolverines would benefit from any of them staying in Ann Arbor. And if they do, they wouldn’t count against Michigan’s allotment of 13 scholarships next season. However, if they were to use the additional year and transfer elsewhere, they would count against their new team’s limit.

Whether any of Michigan's seniors will take advantage of the opportunity remains to be seen. Following Tuesday’s Elite Eight loss to UCLA, Brooks said he was still contemplating his future.

“I think that's a conversation to be had in our exit meeting,” Brooks said the of end-of-season discussion he’ll have with Howard. “I talked about it with my family and weighed the different options, but I didn't come to a conclusion.”

As for whether any of his veteran teammates were considering a return, Brooks said: “I can only speak for myself.”

Smith and Davis were both asked earlier in the year. Smith said he’d think about it “when that time comes,” while Davis said he was keeping his focus on this season. Brown hasn’t publicly discussed his plans. Livers, who is projected to be a mid-to-late second-round draft pick, said the thought he played his last college game crossed his mind after he was injured in the Big Ten tournament.

As things stand, Michigan is at its scholarship limit for 2021-22 with seniors-to-be Brandon Johns Jr. and Adrien Nunez, junior Franz Wagner, sophomores Jace Howard, Zeb Jackson, Terrance Williams II and Dickinson, and a six-man freshman class that’s ranked No. 1 in the nation. Of course, that can change with any offseason roster attrition, such as early departures or transfers.

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

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