Friday signaled the start of another Michigan Basketball campaign as Head Coach Tommy Amaker marched his team in front of the media for the first time this year. A mood of optimism was in the air and all were anxious to get started. After two successful seasons in a row and the stigma of NCAA sanctions in the rear view mirror, the program is ready to move forward and continue to work toward the internal standard that they've always had in place.
"I think as we start this season, we're very optimistic about where we are and hopefully where we're headed," Amaker said. "We're coming off of a successful year for us this past year, in a lot of ways. Certainly we want it to be more successful as we continue to climb the ladder, but we're very optimistic about this season and we're very hopeful. I think we've had a very solid work ethic this summer and obviously starting into the school year."
One of the real keys for this year's team is replacing the contributions of Bernard Robinson Jr...something that isn't being taken lightly by Coach Amaker. "I think when you look at the players we lost in terms of a significant player that played a number of minutes, we lost Colin Dill and we lost Bernard Robinson Jr," said Amaker. "We lost two seniors and two captains. Certainly with Robinson, who our players had a chance to watch his first pre season game last night. They saw thought he played very well. They were commenting in the weight room working out today how he was doing a lot of the same things he did here, which was 10 points, 7 rebounds, I think, and 3 or 4 assists. He was an all around player. It made me think that Bernard was such a catch all, do it all player for our ball club. Also, certainly on the other end of the floor, he was our best defender on the perimeter."
To a man, all of the players indicated that there is no single individual that will be able to pick up all of the slack. However, they feel that as a collective unit, they're up to the task. "I think what we're going to miss most about Bernard is his leadership," Amadou Ba said. "He was a great leader for this team. He never had a problem looking you in the eye and telling you exactly what you needed to do. I think Lester can take over that leadership role. He's a captain, he and Bernard played like the same position, and he has been here for three years. He can fill that void." Both Abram and Dion Harris voiced opinions praising Robinson's contributions and the need to make up for his loss as a team, but each player will be taking it upon himself to try to assume as much of that compensatory role as possible. "I want to try to be what he was to us last year," Harris said. "He did everything for us, and I want to take on as much of that role as I can." "Bernard did a lot for us," Abram said. "I'm going to pick up my rebounding, scoring, assists ...everything I can to make this team better.".
Coach Amaker is expecting that type of attitude to prevail all year and for the experience that his players bring to the table to shine through. "We need to become a consistent basketball team," Amaker said. "I'm hoping that we can show the maturity where we're not going to be careless and silly with the basketball as I thought we were this past year. I thought that was a function of somewhat being young and youthful, but we're no longer young. We've mentioned that to our players. We think we have a veteran team. We hope we're going to conduct ourselves and play in a manner that you would expect of a veteran ball club."
Be on the lookout for more on the team in the upcoming basketball preview issue of GoBlueWolverine the Magazine.
The player that has had the most impressive gains in the offseason is Courtney Sims. Up to 252 pounds now and claiming to be just as quick, he looks as if he'll be even more of a force down low this season. Almost every player mentioned how impressed they were with his improvement and that he is just a load to handle at this point. The Pete Newell big man camp also seems to have reaped big dividends. His ability to finish with both hands and the addition of a half hook are said to be new weapons in his repertoire.
Sims insists he won't be muscled out of the post this season. ""I lifted five days a week," Sims said. "I tried to eat three times a day and have protein shakes whenever I could. I didn't really eat fast food, just whatever my mom cooked me. I couldn't believe how much weight I gained. I gained 25 pounds. People can't push me around as much. I can take getting hit in the air a lot better. I don't really feel any slower. I feel the same as last year without the weight."
Another player that has really impressed his teammates is newcomer Ronnie Coleman. Known for his ability to knock down the jumper, he has caught the collective eye of his team by putting the ball on the floor and being a strong rebounding presence in the post. The former Romulus star is aware of many of the questions surrounding his game coming in and has used those doubts as motivation. This season the Michigan may utilize him much like they did Lavell Blanchard early in his career. Coleman's ability to bang down low will get him some time at the four along with his more natural positions at the two and the three. "He's got a sweet stroke," Brent Petway said of his new teammate. "He can get to the rack, and is real athletic, so I am really looking forward to his playing here. He's got a bright future in my eyes."
The Michigan basketball program will be hosting a few fan events prior to the start of the season. On Friday October 22, fans are welcome to attend an open practice from 3:30 to 6:30 pm. A week later on October 30, the team will play their annual Maize and Blue intra squad scrimmage thirty minutes after the Michigan -Mich igan State football games. For more details on these functions, as well as times for the upcoming exhibition games, click here.
The Ticket Office has announced a new eight game Big Ten Basketball pack that will be made available to the public on Tuesday October 19. The package is 112$. For more details click here.