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February 21, 1992 - Image 49

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-02-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I SPORTS I

A Different Kind ft: Victory

Ben Braun's Eastern Michigan Eagles may be struggling on the court,
but they're winning in the classroom.

STEVE STEIN

L

Special to The Jewish News

ast season, Coach
Ben Braun and his
Eastern Michigan
University basket-
ball team were the
darlings of the NCAA tourna-
ment. They were the embodi-
ment of why the annual post-
season extravaganza is called
"March Madness?"
Only the most rabid college
basketball fan knew much
about the Mid-American Con-
ference champions when they
began play in the East

Regional. Soon, though, the
Hurons (they're now known
as the Eagles) made a lot of
people take notice.

Victories over Mississippi
State and Penn State at the
Carrier Dome in Syracuse put
Eastern Michigan in the
"Sweet Sixteen?' But the
Eagles' dream season ended
in East Rutherford, N.J.,
where powerful North
Carolina beat them in an
East Regional semifinal on
national television.
Eastern Michigan finished
with a 26-7 record. Braun was
named the MAC Coach of the

Year for the second time in
his 5 1/2-season career at Yp-
silanti. Four seniors went on
to play professional basket-
ball, including Charles
Thomas, now a guard for the
Pistons.
There hasn't been much to
cheer about this season at
Eastern Michigan, however.
At last check, Eastern
Michigan was 7-16 overall
and 2-9 in the MAC. Senior
forward Kory Hallas, the
Eagles' leading scorer and
the only returnee from among
the top six players of last year,
suffered a broken hand in a
Jan. 29 game against Kent
State and he hasn't returned
to the lineup.
But Braun, who coached
the United States basketball
team to a surprising second-
place finish to host Israel in
the 1988 International Mac-
cabiah Games, isn't singing
the blues.
That's because while winn-
ing game is nice, the 38-year-
old Chicago native doesn't

Most have been
able to make
college a
successful blend
and they've been
academically
sound.

believe it should be
everything for a college
basketball coach. For Braun,
getting his players off and
running in the game of life is

just as important. More than
40 of his former Eastern
Michigan players have earned
their four-year degrees.
"Our players usually have a
good sense of why they're
here," Braun said. "They
know that college should be a
total experience. I've never
had a player at Eastern
Michigan who was totally
fulfilled by basketball. Most
have been able to make col-
lege a successful blend and
they've been academically
sound. They've been 'normal
people!

Ben Braun: Winning off the court.

"We're not going to panic
because we've lost some
games this year. Our record
isn't indicative of how we've
played most of the season.

Our inexperienced people
have gotten a chance to play
and we have made some
strides. We'll improve. We just

have to bite the bullet and
keep working?'
Braun finds it ironic, but
he's very satisfied with the
fact that this year's team is
losing on the basketball
court, but it's doing better in
the classroom than any of his
previous squads at Eastern
Michigan. Six of the 12
players recorded grade-point
averages of 3.0 or better dur-
ing the fall semester and
most were at least at the 2.5
mark.
One of Braun's biggest fans
is Theron Wilson, who was
Eastern Michigan's top
recruit last year but is sitting
out this season because he
didn't meet the academic
standards required by Pro-
position 48.
It came as no surprise when
Wilson was ruled ineligible.
After being taken off the
streets of Detroit by a Royal
Oak family, who became his
legal guardians, Wilson at-
tended Royal Oak Dondero
High School for his junior and
senior years and started to
get his academic and athletic
lives in order.
The 6-foot-9, 215-pound
Wilson was heavily recruited
by universities from across
the country, but Braun's at-
titude convinced him and his
guardian family that Eastern
Michigan was the right place
for a college career.
"Coach Braun was honest
with me," said Wilson, who
recorded a 2.8 grade-point
average in his first semester
at Eastern Michigan. "He
and his assistant coaches
made a commitment to me, so
I made a commitment to
them. Coach Braun didn't
make any pitches to me. He
just said I had to work hard
to be the best. That's his
philosophy.
"When I talk to Coach
Braun here at school, we
hardly discuss basketball at
all. We talk about life, study-
ing, the future . . . he really
cares about you as a person."
John Bancroft echoed
Wilson's last comment. Ban-
croft's son, Ben, became
friends with Wilson while
they played AAU basketball

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS 49

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