Basketball Roundup (2-25-04)

<p>In the latest roundup piece we take a look at <strong>Dion Harris' resurgence</strong>, <strong>Ronald Coleman's shot</strong>, and <strong>the fairness of the Daniel Horton suspension</strong>.</p>

For those that missed the previous roundup piece on Dion Harris, click here.

Harris Starting to Thrive in Leadership Role

Five games ago, Dion Harris was at a crossroads. Coming off of games against Minnesota in which he scored zero and nine points, and his team reeling from the suspension of Daniel Horton, he could have chosen to pack it in and just play out the string. Instead, he chose to reflect on play and what he could do to get better. As he prepared for the game against the #1 team in the country (the undefeated Illinois Fighting Illini), he drew a very firm conclusion about what needed to be done. "I think for the last games I've just got to try to lead as best as I can," Harris said. "Obviously that's what the team is lacking. We don't have guys that can get us together out there on the court when teams are basically playing better than us for long stretches of time. We don't have anybody to kind of bring us together and say, 'hey...lets go!' When I say lead I mean just make the team go. It is scoring, getting other people to score, defending, and getting out there and really playing hard defense. I don't think anyone is really setting that example for us out there on the floor…vocally or playing wise."

Since making that statement he has done all that anyone, (including his teammates and coaches), could ask for. He went out against Illinois and scored 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and almost led the Wolverines to the biggest upset of the college basketball season. The former Detroit Redford star pointed to that match-up as his turning point. "It was the Illinois game when I just came out and played my game," Harris said. "I think I've been doing that from then on…just coming out, being aggressive, and trying to make plays for myself and others."

His numbers certainly bear that out. In the last five games he has averaged 19.4 points (shooting 46.5% from the field and 46.7% from behind the arc), along with 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. The team may be sustaining losses right now, but Harris will be a better player for this experience. He has improved as a leader and playmaker, and in the process, demonstrated the benefits of honestly assessing where his game was. That, unquestionably, is a good example for his teammates to follow.

"Be Shot Ready!"

Anyone that saw Ronald Coleman play in high school knows that he can really stroke the ball from long range. Unfortunately, that has not been quite as evident to the majority Michigan fans that were not able to see him play prior to his arrival in Ann Arbor. He had flashes where he exploded for multiple three-pointers in a game, but had not really exhibited the type of consistency one would expect from a "shooter." Surely some of that can be attributed the struggles that most freshmen experience. However, there may be an even more significant factor.

Coleman's shot, while pretty to look at, took a while for him to release when he first got to campus. Mechanically, every point his shot delivery was picture perfect…it just was not very smooth. It was a little too deliberate. Failing to get his shot off quickly was something that he could get away with in high school, but not at the college level. "They talked to me about it a lot," Coleman said of his new coaches. "Coach Ramsey had been telling me that I had to have a quicker release and have my feet set so I could take open shots. He said, 'be shot ready!' I've been working on it a lot…staying after practice and getting up shots. It has been paying off in the games."

Increasing the pace of his shot was probably the single biggest factor in some of the errant attempts he put up midway through the season. Now that he is settling in to his swifter delivery, his accuracy is starting to round back into form. "At first when I wasn't used to it, it hurt my shot a little bit," Coleman said. "But when you work on it and work on it in practice, and after practice…it really helps you out. You start to knock them down."

Was Horton's Season Ending Suspension Fair?

When Daniel Horton was suspended for the season last weekend, one thing became very clear to me. It was an administrative decision. For the record, none of the statements made by Amaker during the announcement, or since, explicitly said that. However, it appeared earlier that week that the fourth year coach was optimistic about getting his floor leader back. Horton had even begun to practice again.

So assuming that it was indeed taken out of his hands, (which I clearly am), the question then becomes did anyone else involved in the decision making process have conversations with Daniel about the incident? That would seem necessary in order ascertain the proper punishment. A season ending suspension is not consistent with what he actually pled guilty to. It would seem, then, that the punishment was based more upon the allegations and less upon the actual charge. That means that getting the aforementioned persons to believe his side of the story was just as much of an issue as the legal process was.

Some close to the situation insisted that Daniel categorically denied many of the allegations that were spelled out in police reports (and subsequently in the newspapers). Did Horton take for granted that those in positions of authority would believe him if his coach did? Did he believe that his spotless behavioral record would carry a little weight? The answer to both of those questions is probably yes. Had he thought otherwise, who knows what he might have done differently? Hopefully he entered his guilty plea with the understanding that the expeditious resolution of his legal issues would not necessarily get him back on court any quicker. I, however, am not convinced that was the case.

It is not inappropriate for the University to be image conscious. As a matter of fact, recent history makes it clear that they absolutely have to be. Public perception is part of healthy program. That said, catering to it can sometimes diametrically oppose what is most fair for the athlete. That was the case here in my opinion. At the same time, even those that believe as I do must also agree that the decision was not so egregious as to have done irreparable harm. Horton did not have his scholarship revoked and he will be able to resume his career next season. Furthermore, some level of punishment was certainly in order. Daniel is by no means blameless. There is never an excuse to forcefully put one's hands another individual unless it is in self-defense. There was no evidence of that on this particular occasion.

Daniel will clearly have to address a couple of issues as he moves forward. First, his anger management skills will likely be dealt with through counseling or some other corrective measure. The other issue will surely be the relationship that was the catalyst for these recent problems. At the time he was charged with the crime, it was reported that Horton had resumed his relationship with the young woman he was accused of assaulting. While there is a dispute over veracity of all of the allegations that were levied, there isn't one regarding whether their pairing has been a bit tumultuous.

I don't know a damn thing about country music, but I believe that there is a song with the chorus, "you gotta know when to hold em…know when to fold em." That song certainly seems apt in this case.

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