Michigan Wolverines Basketball: Martelli Talks Eli Brooks’ Health, Value
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Michigan Basketball's Phil Martelli Talks Eli Brooks’ Status, Value

Michigan got hammered Saturday at Minnesota in its first loss of the season, falling 75-57 with Eli Brooks on the bench in a boot. The senior guard remains questionable for Tuesday night’s game with Maryland.

Brooks is averaging 8.7 points, 3.6 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game, but his value is much more than the numbers indicate. He’s also U-M’s best defender, and missing him was like being without one and a half players, assistant coach Phil Martelli said Monday.

“I would say it’s almost hour by hour. He was with us Saturday in a boot; Sunday we could just see him off to the side, and he does an awful lot of work with [trainer] Alex [Wong],” Martelli said. “He did have sneakers on today.

“I don’t know that he’s ruled out for tomorrow night, but he’s not ruled in.”

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Michigan Wolverines Basketball senior guard Eli Brooks is a key part of U-M's game plan on both ends.
Michigan Wolverines Basketball senior guard Eli Brooks is a key part of U-M's game plan on both ends. (AP Images)

They’ll do a walkthrough tomorrow at about 3:00 at which point they’ll get final word, Martelli added.

Head coach Juwan Howard will insist he’s 100 percent so it’s all or nothing, not “ease back in.” They spent today with point guard Mike Smith and senior Chaundee Brown running with the ones, but they left the door open for Brooks’ return.

“We’re not saying, ‘okay, Eli is out so this is the rotation … let’s get a guy like Terrance Williams more prepared,” Martelli said. “But Eli is most excited because his tooth is coming in today. I asked how he’s feeling and he said, ‘I’m getting my tooth today.’ So, I’m leaving him alone today.”

In a way, Martelli said, Maryland is going through something similar with guard Eric Ayala, who’s expected to return from a groin injury Tuesday that caused him to miss a few games. Both are keys to their team, and U-M found out just how much Brooks meant in the loss to the Golden Gophers.

“It’s a monster, but clearly not an excuse,” Martelli said. “We knew he wasn’t going to go, nso we needed to play better, but Juwan nicknamed him “the professor” for a reason. We were just a little bit more disjointed. You talk about the best defensive player in the big ten, a multiple position guy, it’s not like losing one position. Is Eli a two guard? Yes …. Is Eli a point guard? Yes, he’s a point guard, also.

“But if we’re going to speak to the players about the next man up mentality, collectively — not just players, but coaching staff — we had to do a better job, because we knew Eli (wasn’t going to play). It’s wasn’t like that was a game-time decision, like people were thrown off like, ‘wow. Where’s Eli?’ Preparation, mental, physical, game plan … that was on everybody to pick up for Eli there.”

And they failed collectively, from the top down, Martelli admitted. Smith didn’t score, and while he dished 10 assists, the offense was never smooth. He also got worked for all 20 minutes of the first half by Minnesota’s pressure defense.

U-M never got into a flow offensively as a result.

“The way I’ve answered people, it just didn’t feel like we ever had a feel of that game, a sense even in our communication, bench to player calls … we’ve done these calls hundreds of hundreds of times and relayed them this way, but we could never get a touch on the game,” Martelli said. “That was from my view as I sat back and watched again, said, ‘we didn’t feel this game.’"

How much that had to do with Brooks isn’t certain, but he expects a better effort against Maryland with or without the senior in the lineup … preferably, of course, in.

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