Dani Wohl's priorities have happily put him on the end of the bench.
Special to the Jewish News
lifelong stellar athlete, Dani Wohl
received several college basketball schol-
arship offers during his senior year at
West Bloomfield High School.
Naturally, finding a strong basketball program
topped his priority list when he chose his college,
right? Wrong. Okay, then was basketball a close sec-
"I wasn't sure where I wanted to go," Wohl says.
But he decided to follow the advice of his parents,
Milt and Renee, and look for a school featuring
"great academics and a big Jewish population."
Contrarily, "a lot of schools that offered me scholar-
ships were smaller schools with no Jewish popula-
With basketball no better than third on Wohl's
priority list, his search finally led him to Ann Arbor,
via Binghamton, N.Y.
Wohl joined West Bloomfield's varsity for the state
tournament during his freshman year and remained
a varsity fixture for the next three seasons. As a sen-
ior in 2001, he averaged 18 points and 11 assists per
game and was team co-MVP.
During high school, he also participated in several
JCC Maccabi Games and the 1999 Pan Am
Maccabiah Games in Mexico City, where he played
for the gold medal winning U.S. squad.
In the spring of 2001, Wohl thought he'd found
what he was looking for in New York State
University at Binghamton, even though the basket-
ball team had given out all its scholarships for the
2001-02 season. "But I was going there with the
intention of getting a scholarship this year," he says.
Binghamton is in south-central New York, about
three hours' drive from both New York City and
Philadelphia. The basketball team moved up to
Division I and joined the America East Conference
Ups And Downs
The 5-foot-10 Wohl played briefly in 18 games last
season, scoring nine points in 61 minutes. But when
the season ended, he began thinking about transfer-
"It wasn't really the place for me and I just knew I
didn't want to spend four years there," he explains.
Overall, the season "had its ups and downs. It was
fun. I loved my teammates. I made great friends. I
still talk to two or three of them once a week ...
"It was definitely fun traveling and playing at
North Carolina and the Carrier Dome in Syracuse
— and almost beating Carolina (Binghamton lost
by one point). But at the same time, it was rough
not playing and not loving all the coaching."
Despite his unhappiness with Binghamton's
coaches, Wohl found an unlikely ally when he
decided to transfer — head coach Al Walker.
"He helped me out in the process of transferring
and talked about where I wanted to go, if I wanted
to try to go to a smaller school, or a bigger school
and be a walk-on," Wohl says.
Walker soon contacted the University of Michigan
basketball staff, sent them a video of Wohl in action
and arranged for a meeting.
On the court, Wohl is an excellent playmaker. But
by attending U-M, he's passing up playing time he'd
undoubtedly receive at a smaller school. It's also
unlikely that he'll ever receive a scholarship.
Nevertheless, Wohl couldn't say no to Michigan.
"Michigan has always been like a dream, a huge
goal for me," Wohl says. "In my family, my whole
house is Michigan. My parents went to Michigan,
my brother graduated last year, our doorbell plays
Hail to the Victors. We went to the national champi-
"We're just die-hard Michigan fans, so I thought if
I got a chance to be a walk-on for Michigan I can't
pass that up."
As a transfer, he can't play in regular-season games
this season, but otherwise he's a full-fledged member
of the team. He practices with the squad, works out
and studies with his teammates and is listed on
Michigan's official roster.
"I'm definitely in the right place," says Wohl, a
cum laude graduate of West Bloomfield. "There's no
better school to be at than Michigan. You're getting
a top-notch education and playing basketball at a
major Division I program. There's nothing better
Wohl's daily routine — in addition to classes ---
includes practice from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. He lifts
weights every other day for 90 minutes, under the
supervision of the team's strength coach. The team
eats meals together and attends a study table nightly.
Wohl played about seven minutes in U-M's Oct.
19 Maize and Blue scrimmage. "I played all right,"
he reports. "I had a couple assists."
In contrast to his Binghamton experience, Wohl
has nothing but praise for U-M coach Tommy
Amaker and his staff. "So far, I love the coaching
staff here. Coach Amaker is a great coach and I love
the way he carries himself and goes about coaching
and instructing us and teaching. And all the assis-
tants as well. That's a big difference. I didn't love all
the coaches at Binghamton."
Wohl, who retains three years of basketball eligi-
bility, knows it'll be hard to spend a season on the
sidelines. "Since I was little, I've always been playing
and always been starting, so it 's tough not to play.
But I guess you've got to just wait for your turn and
just make the team better in practice."
Even when he's eligible to play next season, there's
no guarantee that he'll see playing time, since several
scholarship athletes will be ahead of him on the
Wolverines' depth chart. Wohl, age 19, understands
the realities, but points out that Michigan "started a
walk-on last year."
Indeed, three walk-on players started at least two
games apiece for Michigan last season. One, Mike
Gotfredson, started 20 of 29 games.
Whatever happens on the court, Wohl is primarily
concerned with what happens in the classroom. A
student in U-M's College of Literature, Sciences and
the Arts, he is pondering switching to kinesology —
human movement — and studying sports medicine,
sports management or physical therapy.
His chief college goal is "to get that Michigan
degree and figure out what I want to do. I'm not
really sure what I want to do with my life yet, but
definitely something with sports, hopefully basket-