M-Hoopsters Do It To Nike Elite

Yours truly was at Crisler Arena last (Friday) night to witness the Wolverines win their exhibition game over Nike Elite, 81-77. Here is a one-game scouting report of the team.

Final score: U-M 81, Nike 77. Michigan maintained a small lead most of the game until slipping behind by as many as five mid-way through the second half. They rebounded quickly to maintain another sub-5-point lead until the end. This was a good win -- Nike Elite lost to MSU by one the night before.

First, doing the math.

Top scorers for Michigan:
- Junior foward Bernard Robinson Jr.: 23
- Senior forward LaVell Blanchard: 20
- Freshman 2G Lester Abram: 15
- Freshman PG Daniel Horton: 11 (and 6 assists)

Top Rebounders:
- Senior LaVell Blanchard: 9
- Junior Bernard Robinson Jr.: 7

This was the Wolverine's final exhibition. Michigan's regular season opener is next Saturday, Nov. 23 at the University of the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam, against St. Boneventure.

One-game observations:

Notice the Wolverine's top four scorers. Those are four very good players:

Power Foward: Senior LaVell Blanchard is probably playing out of position there (he is MAYBE 6-6 tall), but he's got to be The Wolverines' best rebounder -- and he's solid enough to get the job done.

Wing-forward: Junior Bernard Robinson. NBA talent, although perhaps a little short for the pros at 6-5. In this game he didn't really come to play until the second half, but was instrumental in The Wolverines getting and maintaining their lead late in the game. He is flashy-spectacular.

Wing-guard: Freshman Lester Abram may be the best freshman on the team -- and looks like a future star. Played as steady-solid as an upperclassman (must be watching Blanchard). A little slender right now, and 6-4 tall (those published heights for college basketball players are even more padded than high school footballers'!).

Point guard: Daniel Horton looks 6-1 (at best), but I like it that he was more solid than flashy. Can dish the ball and also dribble-drive.

Those were the guys who made it happen in the second half. The other guards barely played: junior Avery Queen and sophomore Dommanic Ingerson; Gavin Groninger played a little more. And sophomore forward Chuck Bailey played a little at forward, but at 6-6 at best strugged inside.

Which brings us the the center position. Notice that the leading rebounders were the forwards -- that pretty much says it at this point. A strength of Nike Elite was at center, and that exposed Michigan. Freshman Chris Hunter is tall and athletic, but he is, and is going to, struggle mightily until he gains strength and bulk. Fellow freshman Graham Brown has bulk, but not the athleticism of Hunter (in his defense Brown is nursing a back problem). Redshirt Amadou Ba looks huge and athletic, and Virginina transfer JC Mathis has size too -- but unfortunately both have to ride the pine this year.

To compensate for lack of size the Wolverines will need to shoot the three pointer -- but in this game they did not put up many. We know Blanchard can shoot the three, but no Wolverine demonstrated the ability last night. Horton made one if I recall, and there were a few misses.

So right now, on November 16, 2002, The Wolverines are a team with four solid-talented starters at guard and forward. But both forwards are so-so size-wise, and right now there is a hole in the center. I remember the '89 Illinois team that made it all the way to the NCAA Final Four without a center. And of course the '76 Michigan National-Finals team had a 6-6 and a 6-7 guy inside. But that is a tough way to go. They gotta be able to hit the 'trifecta' -- and Hunter has to hit the weights.

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