The changes in Zavier Simpson’s temperament are subtle. But if you dig past the new hairstyle and the gruff exterior, they’re apparent. And they’re meaningful.
His ethos will long remain intact — a mean-mugging, pestering point guard, defined by his tenacity and embraced for his work ethic. That hasn’t changed. It’s hard to imagine it ever will.
But as Simpson transitions to a senior season distinct from the three prior, the circumstances of a coaching change and a Michigan basketball program turned on its head demand a different kind of leader.
Freshman Cole Bajema noticed it early in practices. One particular instance stuck out.
“In a defensive drill, I think I messed it up once or twice,” Bajema said. “I was kind of getting down, like, ‘Come on, Cole, come on. Get your stuff together’ type of thing. He said, ‘Cole, just relax. Just play basketball and you do you.’
“It’s worked really well. He’s been really good encouraging for me.”