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Depth in backcourt key to Blue scoring attack
Talented veteran guards must lead the way in quest for conference title
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How deep isMichiganat the guard
Let's put it this way -
Buckingham Palace and Fort Knox
probably don't have as many guards.
True, the Wolverines feature five
players listed as guards on their official
roster, but probably have more who are
capable of playing the position.
In fact, coach Steve Fisher's lineup
is so versatile he speaks not of guards,
but of perimeter players.
"We'regoing tohave, justbyplay-
ing ourbest team, fourperimeterplay-
ers," Fisher said. "I don't do a lot of 1,
2, 3, 4, 5, either numbering them or
labeling them guards, centers and for-
And with the Wolverines' obvi-
ous lack of size, that perimeter play
will be crucial in a more wide-open,
up-tempo style of play.
Leading the charge, of course, is
arguably the most talented backcourt
duo in the nation in juniors Jalen Rose
(15.4 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Jimmy King
Rose, at 6 feet 8, is taller than most
guards he faces, and thus is able to see
passing lanes that others cannot. But
more importantly, Rose is the Wol-
verines' most versatile player. Fisher
has already said he will likely use
Rose at all five positions, possibly in
King brings athleticism and anice
shooting touch to the table, and has
proven that he is capable of playing
both theone- and two-guard slots. The
6-foot-5 swingman is also the Wol-
verines' leading returning field-goal
shooter, at 50.9 percent.
Newcomer Bobby Crawford, a
McDonald's All-American in high
school, will battle with sophomore
Dugan Fife for the fifth starting spot
Crawford and Fife are capable of
playing both guard positions as well,
though they will more likely see play-
ing time at the point. Crawford proved
he had the skills in high school and
should make an immediate impact for
Fife, who saw limited action last
season, handled the ball well when he
did play, but was hesitant to shoot.
This year, his shot is much improved
after making a few technical changes
over the summer.
"(Assistant) Coach (Jay) Smith
and I worked on my shot and changed
it a little bit," said Fife, who failed to
make a field goal last season. "I tried
to get a consistent jump shot so that,
when I shot itI had apretty good idea
that it was going in."
Shooting will be especially im-
portant for the Wolverines this year,
with the lack of size in the middle. In
order to free up Juwan Howard, pe-
rimeter players will have to keep de-
fenses honest with consistent shoot-
ing from outside.
With Rose, King and lone senior
Jason Bossard, capable shooters do re-
turn for Michigan. However, others
willneedtocontribute, particularly with
the loss to graduation of shooting spe-
cialists Rob PelinkaandJames Voskuil.
"Someone's going to have to step
upandbeable to hit the three from the
outside, or they'rejust going to double
Juwan every game," Fife said. "If he
can't score, it's going to be tough on
us as a team."
-- Tim Rardin
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