Michigan Basketball’s Roster Well-Equipped For ‘Positionless Basketball’

Michigan basketball’s roster has been a hot topic for some time. Toward the end of last season, many wondered how head coach Juwan Howard and Co. would whittle the numbers down to an even 13 scholarship players.

After a decommitment (five-star Isaiah Todd), transfers out (Colin Castleton and David DeJulius) and transfers in (Chaundee Brown and Nojel Eastern), the Wolverines are finally at the magic number 13 — if rising senior forward Isaiah Livers chooses to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school for his final season.

Even more interesting than the scholarship count is what kind of players Howard has comprised the roster with. Most of U-M’s players can play multiple positions, which works perfectly for the philosophy of «positionless basketball» that has become increasingly popular across NBA and college basketball, a philosophy that Howard has embraced.

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«That’s the way basketball is being played right now, and even at the next level,» U-M radio analyst Terry Mills said. «I’m pretty sure these kids have aspirations at the professional level, and if that’s the case, you’ve got to be able to do multiple things.»

The examples of players that fit the positionless mold are all over the roster. Look no further than senior guard Eli Brooks, who has played both point guard and shooting guard for the Wolverines. Livers has the ability to play either forward spot, and has even played some as a stretch five during his career. Sophomore guard Franz Wagner is a guard/wing that has shown his versatility and ability to play multiple spots. Junior forward Brandon Johns has played both forward and center. The list goes on.

You also see it with the recruits and transfers Howard has brought in.

«You’ve got five players out there that can play multiple positions,» Mills said. «I think that’s the way he’s started to recruit.»

Freshman forward Terrance Williams is a perfect example. At 6-7, he played center in high school out of necessity, battling with the likes of 7-2 fellow signee Hunter Dickinson. But, his game translates to more of a small forward or undersized power forward at the college level.

«You talk about Terrance WIlliams — I’m really amped up to see that kid play,» Mills said.

«A lot of people, from what I hear and the things I read on him, this kid can flat out get it done. [2020 five-star] Greg Brown’s father said that if he was the same height as his son [6-8], he’d be better than his son.»

Another signee, Zeb Jackson, was more of a point guard prospect early on when John Beilein was recruiting him. Now, he’s a 6-4 combo guard, one that U-M will use at both backcourt spots.

«I really like what I’ve seen out of Zeb Jackson,» Mills said. «I watched him on ESPN, and he’s just a very versatile guy. That’s what you want. You don’t want a guy that’s just, ‘he’s just stuck; he’s a point guard and we can’t use him anywhere else.’

«In this era, I think we’ve got a mix of talent that’s coming in here that can play multiple positions.»