Martelli updates status of Hunter Dickinson, Brandon Johns and Zeb Jackson
Over the past month, the Michigan men’s basketball team has seen its season drastically altered by COVID-19.
The Wolverines were forced to cancel a non-conference game against Purdue Fort Wayne due to COVID-19 concerns within the Mastodons’ program, postpone top-10 conference battles against Michigan State and Purdue and take the court shorthanded at Illinois.
Entering the second half of January, Michigan finds itself sitting at .500 through 14 games. The Wolverines are firmly outside the NCAA Tournament at the moment. Even more concerning, however, is the fact that Michigan remains below full strength following a COVID-19 outbreak within the program that resulted in the team falling below the Big Ten’s roster minimum of seven healthy scholarship players.
During the Wolverines’ loss in Champaign, they sorely missed the interior presence of All-American center Hunter Dickinson and senior forward Brandon Johns Jr. Despite traveling to Illinois with the team, they were held out due to conditioning and stamina concerns.
With Maryland set to enter Crisler Center for a conference matchup on Tuesday night, Michigan still doesn’t know if it will have its two big men back.
The Wolverines gathered for a practice on Sunday at 5 p.m. According to associate head coach Phil Martelli, Dickinson and Johns were present at the practice but were not full participants.
While their status for Tuesday remains uncertain, Martelli offered insight into the Michigan coaching staff’s decision-making criteria.
“A lot will be based on how they respond and how much they can get into live action today,” Martelli said Monday. “… Not cliches, but their long-term wellbeing will be the determining factor.”
Sophomore guard Zeb Jackson, on the other hand, hasn’t seen game action since Dec. 18. He did not travel to Rutgers two weeks ago or Illinois last week due to personal reasons, and it is unclear when — or if — he will return to the program.
“He’s just working through some things,” Martelli said. “Getting all the support from the coaching staff, from the personnel on campus. Making sure, again, that he’s in a good place mentally to rejoin the team, if that’s what’s best for him.”
The Wolverines’ guard play has been shaky at times throughout this season, which could allow Jackson to make an impact if he returns. At 6-foot-6, the southpaw has the combination of size, skill and speed to add a valuable dimension to Michigan’s backcourt.
Until then, however, Jackson will continue working with the program’s support staff while Dickinson and Johns could potentially return as soon as Tuesday.
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