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November 15, 1991 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-11-15
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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0

0'

1We're on a mission' -Juwan Howard

The FUTURE of
Michigan
Basketball
by Albert Lin

Each year, a college team loses
players, either seniors who
graduate, or athletes who leave for
other reasons. The lifeblood of a
school's program is recruiting -
the ability to replace those
departed athletes with new, if not
better, substitutes.
The college basketball world
has seen great incoming classes in
past seasons. Indiana's class of
1976 - including Tom
Abernathy, Quinn Buckner, Jim
Crews, Scott May and Bobby
Wilkerson - is generally
considered the best graduating
class of all time. These players
culminated their careers by
winning the 1976 national
championship.
Two years ago, Indiana coach
Bobby Knight brought in a class
that threatened to rival his 1976
group. The six players (including
one redshirt)-led by Calbert
Cheaney - were spoken of as
possibly the greatest group ever.
But only Cheaney has developed
into a superstar. Center Chris
Lawson's transfer to Vanderbilt
this past summer ended all claims
that group had to the title of best
ever.
One scant year later, Dean
Smith brought to North Carolina
another group of athletes which
laid claim to the title. With four
players in the top 15, plus one.
more top 50 recruit, there was
little doubt in most experts minds
that this was indeed the best class
ever.
Eric Montross led that five in
playing time at only 18 minutes a
game, contributing six points and
four rebounds per contest. The
other four played sparingly, as
Smith adhered to his 'frosh don't
play' principle. And once again, a
transfer - this time Cliff Rozier
to Louisville - broke up this
potentially greatest-ever class.
But now, Michigan coach
Steve Fisher has assembled a
group experts truly believe will go
down in history as the best single
collection of talent.
Juwan Howard, Jimmy King,
Ray Jackson, Chris Webber, Jalen
Rose.

When Webber and Rose
announced after their respective
state title games that they would
join Fisher's already strong class,
the college basketball world was
stunned. The level of talent
amassed was unprecedented. The
Michigan five was comprised of
four of the top 12 players in the
country, including two of the top
three, and another in the top 100.
There was no doubt this was the
best class of all time. Fisher had
proved he could recruit as well as
THE BEST CLASS EVER?
uwan Howard 6 9

pts.
26.9

rebs.
8.4

Ray Jacksc

pts.
23.0
pts.
25.5

rebs.
9.2

assts,
3.4
assts.
5.9
assts.
4.0

blks.
1.9

blks.
3.0

rebs.
8.4

blks.
3.5

Jalen Rose 671 GIF I

pts.
19.5

rebs.
7.7

assts.
4.6 -

blks.
3.1

from now we will have that same
talk and feeling among the media
and the people that evaluate,"
Fisher said, "that they have
continued to progress and be as
good at our level as they were at
the high school level. It's a
quantum leap for all of them."
U- U U
Chris Webber receives the
most publicity of all the
newcomers. He figures to get
immediate playing time and most
likely will be in the starting
lineup. Street and Smith called
him "an NBA lottery pick
whichever year he chooses."
Jalen Rose is the most versatile
of the Wolverines, and could see
time at three positions. Fisher
considers him a guard - equally
adept at one or two - but he can
also swing into the frontcourt.
"Jalen Rose really knows how
to play," Fisher said. "fle's got
that sense about him. ... He's got
a great feel for how to play. He's
one pass ahead all the time."
Webber and Rose have known
each other since middle school.
They were teammates the first
time Webber played basketball,
on a local AAU team,
Superfriends. Both recall they
were not instant friends.
"When you don't know
somebody, you don't really care to
know them until you find out
what kind of person he is," said
Rose, the son of former
Providence College and Detroit
Pistons star Jimmy Walker.
"We didn't really like each
other," Webber said, "because he
used to talk a lot of junk, and I
used- to talk a lot of junk, and we
used to always try and compete
and see who's better."
But since they played together
during the summer, working
toward reaching the same goal -
winning - they became good
friends. When it came time for
high school, both wanted to
attend Southwestern. Rose did,
but Webber went on to Country
Day. Although they intended to
be teammates in college one day,
"being young, you know, you
don't really mean things like

Rookies
Continued from page 5
"Freshmen teams can't win the
(Qig Ten) title - but they can
win a lot of games.
"You go on the road, and want
younger players to dominate -
you just can't expect that.
Freshmen don't perform
consistently enough to win the
title."
.But most Big Ten coaches feel
that this unit is different. At the
Coaches' Conference, Michigan
was frequently mentioned as the
third- or fourth-place conference
team.
"I think Michigan has the
possibility, if they would click, to
win (the Big Ten)," Illinois coach
Lou Henson said.
Part of the mystique of this
group is the closeness each
member feels for the others.
There are no ego problems, and it
does not appear likely that, like
the classes before it, a transfer will
prevent this bunch from making
its claim in history.
"Our relationship is crazy,"
Jackson said. "I can't explain it,
because we got along so good, so
quick. I don't understand it."
"If you see one, you're going
to see the other," C loward said.
"You usually see two of us
together, if not three or four or

five. And I feel that we all have a
relationship like brothers.
Whenever one's down, we alvY iys
talk to them, keep their spirits
up.
"We could not be any closer,
and when I say that, 4'm not just
exaggerating, trying to give you
something," Webber said.
Fisher has not noticed a clash
of personalities with the rest of
the team either.
"Our freshmen have been
outstanding. They have not sat
back and not competed, but they
have not walked in like they were
everything they were written up
to be," he said. "They're good
listeners, they work extremely
hard, and they fit nicely.
"They're highly touted, highly
recruited, highly publicized, but
above all, they're nice young men
that I enjoy having around."
Only time will tell if this group
of rookies can achieve the status
predicted for it - whether it will
go down as the greatest recruiting
class of all time. The players will
face tremendous pressure every
time they step on to a basketball
court, but they expect that they
will succeed.
"We're shooting for a
(national) title," Webber said.
""That's a realistic goal. If no one
thinks that, just let them stay at
home and watch the game on TV.
"If your goal's not to win the

championship, why play at all?
Everybody wants to win the
championship, all the way from
the Bad News Bears to the
Chicago Bulls, so we just want to
play the best we can."
"You have to have a goal to
win the national championship,"
Rose agreed. "You've got to look
forward to that, or what are you
really playing for? You've got to
play to be the best.
"If you try hard and lose, it's
one thing, but if you're not trying
and you lose -- I can't accept that
for myself."
Fisher is more reserved about
the team's immediate prospects,
but has no doubt his group will
eventually succeed.
"We're hoping that this will
start the decade of the '90s in
great fashion, or get us into the
'90s, where they're going to be
real good," he said.
The future of Michigan
basketball has arrived.

F

Chris Webb

6'9° FIC

pts. rebs. assts. blks.
28.0 13.0 3.3 4.1
Statistics as high school seniors
- if not better than - his
predecessor, Bill Frieder.
"This is the class all others will
be measured by," recruiting guru
Bob Gibbons said.
. "It's the best I've seen in
terms of athletic ability," Dick
Vitale wrote in his new book,
Time Out, Baby!
The Wolverines have been
picked in the top 25 of most
preseason polls, and in many top
20s. With the graduation of last
year's leading scorer, Demetrius
Calip, it is obvious that experts
have placed most of this year's
expectations on the shoulders of
the incoming frosh. Fisher knows
his rookies will have a tough time
living up to these lofty
predictions.
"We're hoping that four years

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