Some high fives, some
laughter, and a lot of smiles
showed up at Crisler Arena last
Saturday. Steve Fisher decided to
throw a little postgame tailgate
party for the football crowd,
holding a team scrimmage after
the Northwestern game.
So a festive group of
approximately 8,000 wandered
out of the cold and into the
usually somber Michigan
basketball venue to see what all
the fuss was about. Excitement
on the heels of a 14-15 basketball
season? Enthusiasm after
finishing eighth in the Big Ten -
especially after the graduation of
that squad's leading and
sometimes only scorer? Come on.
Well, the unsuspecting were
This is fun. This team is exciting.
Did you see that dunk? And these new
guys, wow, they are really good!
Now, for some, this was the
second installment of the
revelation that Michigan
basketball is back on track.
Midnight Madness, the first
official practice of the year back
on Oct. 15, drew nearly 3,000 fans
and helped most of them forget
last year's derailment. The 1990-
91 campaign is now a distant
memory, and for the Wolverines,
the decade begins a year late.
"We're hoping that this will
start the decade of the '90s in
great fashion, or get us into the
'90s," Fisher said. "where they're
really going to be good."
Rebounding takes on new
meaning this year. Sure, the
addition of Chris Webber and
Juwan Howard will help a
stronger Eric Riley fight under
the basket for missed shots.
But on a larger scale, the new
youth will help the team, as well
as the fans, rebound from a
lackluster season. A season that
put fans to sleep in their seats,
and one that often sent those who
stayed awake home shaking their
heads. Statistics aside, the five
rookies are still a godsend,
because of the excitement they
have sparked and will continue to
"It's lifted the attitude of the
coaches, I can tell you that,"
Fisher said. "We're feeling a lot
better when we walk off the
However, we do get the
Fisher and his Young Guns
aim for quick return to glory
that isn't often employed by
sports fans. While no sane
individual expects a
championship from this talented
group immediately, that will
probably change. How soon
remains to be seen.
Disappointment is caused by
expectations, nothing more -
regardless of whether they are
valid or fair. So expect not the
best, but rather their best. Surely
then, no one will be disappointed.
statistics. We get the rebounds, the
points, the assists. Oh, and the
dunks, too. Webber slams one
home seemingly every time he
gets the ball. And Jimmy
King can jump tall buildings, so
the 'Michigan dunk' he performs
is only a preview. Gametime for
the Wolverines is fast becoming
Showtime, much to the delight of
We also get
John the hustle, the
and the spirit
with them to
level" that he
sees in them.
And he gave
* an example:
practiced the other day, and
(assistant coach) Jay (Smith) came
up, and he said, 'Fish, you know
what's going to make us better?' I
thought he had a new play. I said,
'What?' and he pointed to Webber
shooting free throws at the other
Fisher is caught in a bit of a
bind, though. The best recruiting
class ever is now under his
command. And once you win a
prize, it's yours to keep. Certainly
this is a problem any coach would
gladly endure, but attention is
often followed closely by criticism.
The first of Fisher's worries
probably dealt with acceptance.
The Young Guns, as the five frosh
are being called, came riding into
town with more media exposure
than any other recruiting class.
Ever. With this group we are often
drawn to absolutes.
The fact remains, however, that
11 players were already here. And
the circus that accompanied
Webber, Howard, King, Jalen
Rose, and Ray Jackson, stood to
alienate those veteran players.
Would there be ego problems on
this Wolverine team? The
immediate answer seems to be
"I think what's helped is that
Chris and Jalen and these kids
didn't come in carrying their
press clippings under their
arms," said assistant coach Perry
Watson, Michigan's other
newcomer. "They get out on the
floor and they play hard."
That being said, who will
start? This question has been
following Fisher around like his
shadow, and will continue to do
so throughout this season.
"I said that (no freshman
would start) with a straight face,
somewhat meaning it, because
we haven't put a team together,"
Fisher said. "But I'll be shocked
if we don't have a freshman, or
two, or three in the starting
lineup when we tip it off."
Webber and Howard have
shown that they are ready for the
banging of Big Ten play under
the basket. Jackson and King are
tremendous leapers that enable
them to take their game inside as
well. Meanwhile, the 6'7" Rose
is getting a workout at guard, and
don't be surprised to see him
getting time at the point.
However, the regulars aren't
just laying down. Michael Talley
is the only definite starter, at
point guard. But Riley, Kirk
Taylor, and James Voskuil are
Voskuil, with the added
experience of touring Europe on
the Big Ten All-Star team under
his belt, and Sam Mitchell, who
added 20 pounds over the
summer, have made great strides
from last year, according to
Taylor finally has a chance
now to show what he can do. A
knee injury kept him out for all
of 1989-90 rehabilitating. When
he returned last season, he was
forced to play the forward
position, and at 6'3" this usually
posed matchup problems for
There is competition at every
position. Young players trying to
make an impact, and older players
asserting themselves. All in all, a
But all this leads up to Fisher's
and Michigan's final new problem
eakta 1991-92 e
The pressure is on Steve Fisher and his Michigan team now. The highly
touted recruiting class has brought the attention of the national media.
- expectations. And.with each
success of this promising young
team will come more
The pressure hasn't phased
the group, though. In fact,
Webber and the other rookies
seem to thrive on it, talking
brashly of their high aspirations.
Talk will not earn them an
NCAA tournament bid - but
behind the quotes it is apparent
that this team understands that.
The competition in practices, and
the constant talk of family unity
on this squad underscores a new
attitude for the Wolverines.
Whether Michigan fans will
adopt a similar attitude is unclear.
Patience is a virtue, albeit one
For one thing seems readily
apparent, this incoming class is
ready and willing to give its all.
And they have a lot to give.
Midnight Madness signalled a
turning point in the Michigan
basketball program. New faces,
new attitudes. And even a new
seating arrangement. That night
Fisher took the microphone and
welcomed Maize and Blue
supporters to the unveiling of the
new look Wolverines.
"You are part of what this is,"
he said. "This is Michigan
basketball and we want you to
come and be proud of what you
And what you see is what
T A B L E OF C O N T E N T S
The Future of Michigan Basketball
Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber. Has coach
Steve Fisher assembled the best recruiting class of all time?
Blame It On Niyo
With the new talent comes lofty expectations. Can Steve Fisher successfully direct
Michigan's return to prominence?
.. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4
............. ............... - ............... .............
I.9... MICHIAN B
Nov. 21 Athletes in Action*
Dec. 2 at Detroit
7 at Cleveland State
9 CHICAGO STATE
12 EASTERN MICHIGAN
16 CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Red Lobster Classic, Orlando, Fla.
28 vs. Brigham Young
30 vs. Florida
or Virginia Tech
21 at Indiana
29 at Michigan State
T H E
T E A M
at Notre Dame
at Ohio State
G u a rd s ...................................................................................... ....1 1
F o rw a rd s .......................................................................................12
Ch ris V1
Last season's mo
prep player is ta
basketball by stc
Albert Lin, John Niyo
Daily Basketball Writers
Matt Dodge, Albert Lin, John Niyo,
Brian Cantoni, Kristoffer Gillette,
Special Sections Coordinator
or 15 ILLINOIS
777777 :*: '.,-::
Home games are in ALL CAPS
*held at the Palace
1 -::::: ": ::..-.:S
Howard, Rose - by Kristoffer Gillette
Jackson, King, Webber - by Kenneth Smoller
November "15",1991 WEEKEND