It’s no secret that Michigan has been the beneficiary of stellar point guard play in the past decade. Between National Player of the Year Trey Burke, Derrick Walton, Jr. and Zavier Simpson, the team has brought in and developed a series of talented guards to man its offense.
Whether Eli Brooks follows in that tradition as Michigan’s chief ball handler or primarily features as a ‘2’ guard, he figures to be critical to the Wolverines’ success in 2020. Having spent time in both John Beilein’s and Juwan Howard’s systems, Brooks enters the 2020-21 campaign as one of Michigan’s senior leaders, and its success as a unit may hinge on his ability to fill Simpson’s shoes and run the offense. With Brooks having a larger role than ever, The Daily broke down some of his film to see what we can expect from him this season.
Ball Fakes and Passing
Though he played predominantly off-ball a season ago, Brooks is a skilled and savy ball-handler.
In this first clip, he uses the ball fake to generate an open shot attempt. As he brings the ball up court in a December game against Presbyterian, forward Colin Castelton sets a screen, allowing Austin Davis to break free for a run to the paint. As Davis begins to cut, Brooks fakes a feed inside, causing the defender to collapse back into the paint in an attempt to intercept the pass. The defender bites on Brooks’s fake, and guard David DeJulius is left wide open in the corner, with Brooks finding him for an easy triple.
The next clip comes from a February game against Nebraska. On a fastbreak, Brooks receives a pass from sophomore guard David DeJulius. As he drives inside, he fakes a pass to DeJulius on the three point line. As three defenders converge around Brooks and put their hands up to react, he is able to sneak in a pass to sophomore forward Brandon Johns, Jr. for an easy lay-in, tricking the defense and setting up an easy score.
Brooks has excellent vision at times, and his ability to fake out defenders will be a skill that should help the team continue to gain high-percentage looks from the field in the post-Simpson era.
While he may not appear to be a sharpshooter on paper, Brooks was much improved from deep last season. After shooting 29.2 percent from three in his sophomore season, Brooks increased his shooting percentage to 36.4 percent.
In a 73-64 victory over North Carolina in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, Brooks hit on four of his six attempts from long range. One of them came on this play, where Brooks received a screen from Castleton before gaining enough space to rise up and hit the shot.
Brooks showed more confidence than ever before last season when it came to 3-point shooting, and if Michigan is to have a successful season, he will need to continue to have the confidence to take some of these more contested looks. Teams will be far more wary of Brooks’s improved stroke this time around, and if he is able to continue to establish himself as a threat from outside the defense will close in on him more frequently and allow for better spacing and more open shot opportunities for his teammates.
Creating Fastbreak Opportunities:
Winning the points off turnover battle is nearly always crucial to a team winning a game and Brooks is skilled at both creating and finishing fastbreak chances.
In this clip from a game against Creighton, Brooks is able to fight past a defender and swipe a pass away from Creighton’s point guard. On the ensuing fastbreak, he brings the ball up swiftly with freshman forward Franz Wagner and junior forward Isaiah Livers trailing. Brooks is able to step back here, preventing the paint from potentially being clogged up and thereby allowing Wagner to pop out to the perimeter for a look from deep while Livers cuts inside. Brooks then finishes the fastbreak with a perfect pass to Livers for an alley-oop jam.
With Zavier Simpson having graduated in May, the Wolverines will need a new defensive ace who can force turnovers and help convert them into points. Brooks has proven that he has the ability to be that difference maker on the defensive side of the court, and his vision in the open floor should help Michigan continue to gain prime opportunities in transition.
If Michigan is to compete this season for a Big Ten title, it will need Brooks to continue his solid guard play from last season. With an improved 3-point stroke, good court vision and ability to run fastbreaks, he should be poised to continue to make plays in his final campaign.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.