ANN ARBOR — Touted as leaders throughout the offseason, Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, and Jon Teske were officially recognized by their Michigan basketball teammates as such. The three were named captains for the 2018-19 season.
The Wolverines voted on Sunday on a ballot that had space for three names. At a Monday afternoon press conference, head coach John Beilein said he had not shared the results with the team and therefore declined to reveal the vote.
Before tipoff in Tuesday’s season-opening victory over Norfolk State, Matthews, Simpson, and Teske met the referees at midcourt, a responsibility reserved for the captains.
Last year’s captains — Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, and Moritz Wagner — are all playing professional basketball.
Matthews is a redshirt junior who started all 41 games last season, his first in a Michigan uniform after transferring from Kentucky. The 6-foot-6 small forward was second on the team in scoring (13 points per game) and rebounding (5.5) to Wagner.
Teammates spoke about Matthews’ leadership throughout the season. Before the NCAA Tournament, he started a tradition in which the Wolverines broke their practice huddles with a call to be “national champions.” Michigan came within one game of making that a reality.
Simpson enters his junior season as the returning starter at point guard. He averaged a team-best 3.7 assists per game last year and put his stamp on Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament runs with his stifling defense. He is the most talkative Wolverine during practices, demanding full effort from his teammates.
Teske replaces Wagner as the starting center. He averaged 12.3 minutes per game last year but will take on a much bigger role this season. The 7-foot-1 junior is a force defensively and has good shooting touch out to the 3-point line. He may not be as vocal as his fellow captains, but he was chosen for a reason. “Behind those closed doors he’s definitely a big leader,” sophomore Isaiah Livers said. “I look up to him. He’s a very smart guy.”
Livers and sophomore Jordan Poole both said they voted for Matthews, Simpson, and Teske. The three captains are the lone Wolverines who entered the season with two years of college basketball playing experience. The trio has mentored younger players at their positions.
In mid-October, Matthews said the captains’ responsibilities include choosing the team’s jersey color, and communicating certain player preferences with Beilein. “They’re the voice of the team,” Matthews said.
Now Matthews will be one of those voices. It is the second year in a row Michigan has had a captain who started his college career elsewhere — Robinson played his freshman year at Williams College — and first time since the 2014-15 season that Michigan doesn’t have a senior captain, though Matthews is in his fourth year of college and the most veteran player on the roster.