Basketball Team Reacts to Probation

The Michigan Daily's Sports Editor Steve Jackson has consented to give us reports every few days on the status of the Wolverine men's basketball team. In this, his first report, Steve reports on team morale coming out of the announcement of the self-imposed postseason prohibition for this season. He also reports on the on-court status of the team -- coming out of last Friday's open practice, and going into the final exhibition game this Friday.

There are some people that claim that Michigan basketball has a meaningless season ahead of it. But none of those people are welcome in the locker room with LaVell Blanchard. The self-proclaimed "Michigan Man" has been a rock for the team to lean on, when the shadow of the Ed Martin scandal finally fell off the wall and knocked any postseason hopes for the upcoming season out of the Wolverines' hands.

"Things happen for a reason. I think this has brought us together as a team," Blanchard said. "A lot of our goals can still be met."

While Blanchard, one of coach Tommy Amaker's three captains this season, did not disclose exactly what those goals would be, he did make it clear that Michigan was moving forward with a positive attitude.

"I can't tell you how impressed I was and am about the kids," Amaker said. "We had a meeting and I made the announcement to our kids, and certainly there was disappointment, frustration and anger. But after you get through those normal initial emotions our kids were as resilient, as positive and as mature as anyone could imagine. I was really proud to see that unfold because they stood there and talked amongst themselves and with our staff about how they wanted to make this a terrific season."

When Blanchard and Amaker finished talking to the television cameras about the school's self-imposed sanctions, they helped the team take the first step in that direction by taking the court with zeal.

This past Friday's open practice, the last scheduled one of the preseason, was surprisingly spirited, given the somber news they had heard in their emergency late-night meeting last Wednesday.

As far as on-court matters go, a few key things stand out.
1. Freshman Chris Hunter may be the best option for Michigan at center, but he is not very strong with the ball inside. His moves are decent when they practiced on air, but he needs to stay in the weight room and put some more meat on that 6-foot-11 210-pound frame.
2. Hunter and fellow freshman big man Graham Brown have been banged up this preseason, but neither has been the consistent rebounder that Michigan needs in the middle. Hunter grabbed just three boards in 25 minutes in the exhibition against Wayne State.
3. Guard Lester Abram is establishing himself as the best impact-freshman of the year. While PG Daniel Horton brings McDonalds All-America credentials to the table, his on-court performance thus far has not lived up to the hype. Abram has been an immediate help on both ends of the court, and Amaker has already given him a vote of confidence by starting him at the #2 guard spot over Gavin Groninger and Dommanic Ingerson in the first exhibition game.
4. Amaker's starting lineup was unusual at times last season, but make no mistake – Avery Queen got the start at point guard against Wayne State in the first exhibition game (Nov. 1) because he has improved and is playing better Horton, at least right now.

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