Two years ago Tim Hardaway Jr. proved to be one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten two years, and while he showed the potential to be an all-around contributor, his also was prone to many of the trappings that have befallen other offensive stars. Watching him play you could tell that when his shots were going in his energy was high and his defense was where it needed to be. If those shots were not falling his game would sometimes suffer in a way that would take him right out of a game, thus making one of Michigan's top player's moot out on the floor.
It was important that Hardaway develop the mental side of his game. It's not that he didn't have a high basketball IQ… he is very solid in that aspect of the game... but it was necessary for him to think differently. He need to change his approach to the game of basketball for him to be the player he wanted to be and the player Michigan knew that he could become.
Enter assistant coaches lavall jordan and Bacari Alexander. Both have consistently stayed in Hardaways' ear since his freshmen year about working on other parts of his game to be a more complete player.
"Coach Jordan and Coach BA this whole entire season have really emphasized we don't care about offense we know offense will come," Hardaway says. "What are you going to do on the defensive end what are you going to do to help your teammates on the defensive end. Are you going to be that safety or that linebacker that is talking to everybody to tell them where to go, pointing things out on the defensive end to help your young freshmen out? I feel like I have done a great job with that. They help me out all the time. If I don't see what I am seeing out on the court, they see stuff on film to help me out -- but I am up to the challenge and I am going to take it to the fullest."
Today Hardaway stands a different player. He is a more well-rounded. He has always been able to score from the outside but now he scores on drives to the basket, he has a really nice midrange jumper; he also has taken on the responsibility of taking on the other team's best scorer. Hardaway has improved in so many areas that he is a threat on both offense and defense. He still gets on himself from time to time, but you see his maturity has helped him move on to the next play -- and he has seen the quality of his game enhanced.
"I feel like I have really mature with how much my game has grown," Hardaway says, "and is because of the hard work I have put in it to become a more versatile player. I work hard in the off season to improve many parts of my game, like my ball handling and get to the basket more. Overall I am happy with the way I am playing -- but there is always something to work on, so I just have to keep working hard to get better."
Leadership is another part of Hardaway's game that has really come into play this season. The past few years Zak Novak and Stu Douglass held down the leadership of this team. Now it is Tim who has taken over those duties and has found his own way, as well as adding what he learned from Zak and Stu to be an effective leader.
"It has helped me out tremendously," he said. "I have been here since Zak and Stu -- I think I am the only person that's played the most on the team with them. I have been with them the longest so I kind of know what to expect from our opponents and know how to handle it. You know Novak and Stu really taught me how to handle adversity very very well. And you know you are going to have different emotions on the team, so you have to pick and choose when to get on a player, and when you can't get on a player and when you need to encourage them. I think they really helped me with that aspect of the game, and help uplift my motivational skills."
Hardaway has used those skills to not only become a better player but also a better leader on a young team. This year you could tell how sometimes he would get after Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Spike Albrecht, Glenn Robinson and Caris Levert. Many times Tim would get after them pretty tough, and other times it would be with a gentle hand giving them advice out on the floor.
timHardaway has ripened for this moment, to guide this young team tonight with hopes of helping lead them to a national title tonight against Louisville.
Hardaway Stepping Up as Player and Leader
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