What was already likely to be a revamped Michigan men’s basketball roster heading into next season became even more so Monday afternoon with the announcement that guard David DeJulius had entered the transfer portal.
A Detroit native, DeJulius was in line to compete for the starting point guard job following the departure of senior Zavier Simpson. Instead, DeJulius will complete his two remaining years of eligibility elsewhere.
DeJulius’s announcement comes as somewhat of a surprise given his reportedly strong relationships with first-year coach Juwan Howard and assistants Phil Martelli and Howard Eisley. DeJulius was one of the first players off the bench for the Wolverines, averaging 20.9 minutes across all 31 games and even started against Nebraska on Jan. 28 following Simpson’s one-game suspension. At times, DeJulius provided a jolt of much-needed energy and even amidst struggles, displayed a certain bravado and confidence.
“At my position, if I’m hitting shots, good,” DeJulius said back in November. “Each and every night, I can’t have a night off, where I’m not rebounding or where I’m not guarding. That’s gonna keep me on the floor. Hitting shots just adds to that. But, at the very least, I’m going to give my teammates all I can on the defensive end and in the muscle areas.”
But, even with Simpson and center Jon Teske departing and junior forward Isaiah Livers testing the NBA Draft waters, an offseason transfer or two was probable. On top of bringing center Austin Davis back on a fifth-year scholarship, Michigan will usher in a loaded 2020 recruiting class of five commits. Five-star guard Josh Christopher may add to that number with an announcement in the coming weeks. The Wolverines are also in the running for sought-after graduate transfers Bryce Aiken of Harvard and Mike Smith of Columbia — both point guards. Once all those questions are answered, Michigan will need to come away with just 13 scholarship players.
DeJulius has yet to speak publicly about his decision, but guaranteed playing time likely factored into the equation. The addition of Aiken or Smith to Michigan’s backcourt would undoubtedly jeopardize that prospect.
As for now though, his exit means rising senior Eli Brooks will have to shoulder much of the burden, both from an offensive and leadership perspective. Brooks started alongside Simpson at the ‘2’last season but served as the backup point guard the two years prior.
Brooks enjoyed somewhat of a breakout junior season under Howard, averaging 10.6 points and shooting 36.4 percent from deep. He also was the Wolverines’ best perimeter defender.
“A lot of people overlook Eli,” Livers said after Michigan’s February win over Michigan State. “I honestly hate when he guards me in practice. You can’t come off any ball screens, you can’t drive. He doesn’t give up any angles. He told me his dad taught him that at a young age, so that’s why he’s so excellent at it now.”
From a production standpoint, Brooks is more than capable of stepping into a primary role. Dubbed “the silent assassin” by teammates, Brooks is not the vocal presence that Simpson or even DeJulius was. Whether he likes it or not, now Brooks has to assume more of that role — especially if Livers opts to leave.
Brooks, Davis, freshman standout Franz Wagner and versatile sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr. will all have significant roles next season for the Wolverines. Accompanying a premature and abrupt offseason though, are a number of questions yet to be answered: Will Livers return for his senior season? Who else might transfer? Will Christopher join a stacked 2020 class? Can Michigan land Aiken or Smith? And, what does the rotation look like heading into next season?
DeJulius’s transfer announcement is just the first of many dominoes still to fall.