The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, February 7, 1994 - 3
The former Michigan center talks about
the Wolverines and life in the NBA
After a solid basketball career at
Michigan, where he participated in
games and was a member of the 1989
Championship team, Eric Riley has
moved on to the NBA as a member of
the Houston Rockets. The 33rd player
selected by theDallas Mavericks in the
second round of the draft last year,
Riley was tradedtoHoustonforPopeye
Recently, Daily Sports Writer Josh
Karp spoke with Riley about his days
as a Wolverine and his future in the
Daily: The NBA is a lot tougher
competition than in college. What is
the biggest adjustment you've had to
Riley: Justbeing quicker. Trying to
be much quicker with my moves and
just running up the floor. You could be
a little lazy in college and still make a
ploy, butyou can't be lazy in the NBA.
Y D: Do you feel you have enough
size for the NBA?
R: Rightnow thesizeis alright.I'm
about the same size as. Hakeem
(Olajuwon, Houston's All-NBA cen-
ter).AllI needto work on is my strength
andgetin the weight room and tone my
D: The Rockets got off to an amaz-
ing 15-0 start, and continue to hold the
togspot in the Midwest Division. Do
the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah
Jazz have a chance of catching you?
R: Yes, no doubt. Those teams are
god too. They're right on our tail and
arjust a few games behind. It's gonna
be tough, but I think we're gonna be
able to keep the lead on them because
we have a better team.
D: Which teams scare you the most
come playoff time?
R: In the west so far, Seattle is right
there. They have abetterrecord than us
right now. No doubt they scare us the
most in the end.
In the East, it'sprobably theKnicks
and the Bulls. We lost to the Bulls in
Chicago, which was a tough loss. At-
lanta also is a good team. They beat us
bad (133-111, which was Houston's
firstloss) when we went down there so
I think we owe them a thing or two.
D: Do you believe the theory that
the East is a tough, hard-nosed confer-
ence and the West is more of a finesse-
R: This yearit seems like it changed
up.a little bit. From years before, it
looked like it was that way, but this
yearI see better teams in the West right
now. This year, it's not as rough as it
(used to be) in the East. (The East) is
notlike that anymore.
D: In practice, you are matched
against Hakeem Olajuwon. What's it
like covering him?
.R: It's hard, no doubt. He's a great
player. He'smaking mebetterby check-
inghim because most centers can't
move like him. Most centers can't do
20fakes and take a hook shotor a fade
away. So, he's helping my game out a
lot by checking him every day.
,D: Whatdoes Hakeemhelpyouout
with the most?
R: My moves. I'mjust trying to get
down some of his moves. He has some
ofthebest moves I've ever seen and he
works on them every day.
That's what I'm doing. I'm work-
ing with him every day, trying to copy
some of his moves. If I get one of two
of his moves, that's all I'll need.
D: In the future, do you see yourself
playing somewhere else, or do you
think you can grow and mature with the
R: I think I can grow with them.
Hakeemis 31 now, and he'll be out of
here pretty soon and hopefully I can
step in and fill that spot. If I can't, I'll
move on, but I can definitely play a
backup center somewhere. The game
is imple and it comes pretty easy to
meI know I can learn all the moves
and NBA tricks, so definitely I think I
cAh'play in this league for a while.
D: You were originally drafted by
Dallas,which was 11-71 lastyear.Then
yoawere traded to the Rockets shortly
afterwards. What were your thoughts
when Dallas selected you?
R: My thoughts about Dallas were
that I was just happy to be drafted and
to get a chance to be in the NBA. I
didn't have much of a chance to think
about Dallas because I was traded 10
minutes later. Jimmy Jackson had called
me right after I got drafted and I would
have been happy to play with him be,
cause we knew each other and we
could have helped the team improve.
D: If you weren't traded, you would
probably have gotten more playingtime
with Dallas. Do you think this would
have been better for you or is learning
from Hakeem better for your future?
R: Definitely down the road, (my
present situation) is gonna help me.
I've learned so many things from
Hakeem already that I never would
have learned in Dallas. There are no
veteran players there, so I'm glad that
I'm in this situation right now.
D: What do you think of Chris
Webber's performance so far this sea-
R: He's been playing great. I ex-
pected him to play this way because
he's a good basketball player. He'sjust
gonna get better and better.
He's playing, he'sgotagoodcoach
(Don Nelson), and he's always on the
floor so that's gonna make him better.
D: Back in your sophomore season,
you were second in the Big Ten with
8.6 rebounds per game. The Fab Five
arrived the next year, and you started
coming off the bench. What were your
thoughts originally and how did you
adjust to this?
R: It was tough for me, because I
definitely wanted to start. I thought of
transferring, but I decided to hang in
there and make the best out of my
situation, and I think I did. If you don't
start in college, you most likely won't
get a chance to play in the NBA.
But there's still another side of that
coin, because if I would have trans-
ferred, I may have been drafted higher
this year. This year's draft won't be as
deep as last year's draft was.
D: In yourjunior season, the Wol-
verines went to the championship.
During that great NCAA tournament
run, you stepped up and had a huge 15
point, 10 rebound effort versus Okla-
homaStatein the Sweet Sixteen. What
did this say about your ability?
R: I knew Icoulddo it. Ijust finally
got the opportunity to play over 15
minutes. Iwasjust happy I had a chance
to do it. I don't know if Fisher knew I
could play.-(It seemed like) he just
didn't want to put me in the regular
D: In the championship game
against Duke, you guys were up 31-30
at thehalf, but the Blue Devils came out
to play after intermission and won eas-
ily 71-51. What were your thoughts
going into the lockerroom at halftime,
and after the game had ended?
R: I thought we had that game
going into the half. The experienced
team just stepped up. Duke was the
more experienced team, and they just
took over the game. We couldn't do
anything about it.
D: In 1992, when Michigan went to
the Final Four, its slogan was "Shock
The World." Last year, the Wolverines
were ranked No. 1 in the preseason,
and the team had the slogan "Us Against
The World" because it seemed like
everybody was out to get you. How did
the team handle all the pressure and
R: You just take the negative pub-
licity and work it towards you and say,
"Everyone's against us so we have to
go out and prove that we can play." So
that's what we did. We didn't win a
championship, but I still think we had
apretty good season.
D: In the tournament last year,
Michigan was the top seed in the West-
ern region, but in the second round, it
ran into some trouble versus UCLA.
Down by as many as 19 points, you
prevailed, 86-84, in overtime. Do you
feel the comeback victory showed that
the team was more mature?
R: Definitely. That proved that we
had a good team and our maturity level
was rising. Other games earlier in the
season, we probably wouldhave given
up or started arguing with each other.
But we pulled together instead of tear-
ing apart, and that was a great win for
D: Going into your Final Four
matchup against Kentucky, the
oddsmakers favored the Wildcats. They
had already walloped their previous
four opponents heading into the game
with Michigan. Did that game more
than any other prove how good Michi-
R: Oh yeah, no doubt. We were
underdogs for the first time in a while
so we just turned that around and said,
"We'rehot gonna let this team beat us
and definitely not blow us out." They
weren't a better team. From top to
bottom, we had more talent.
Our defense stepped up too. We
had a really good defense, but most
people didn't talk much about it.
D: In the championship game
against North Carolina, Michigan was
up late, and then everything went cold.
What was the difference in the game
for the Tar Heels?
R: Donald Williams really won
that game for them. He hit two three-
pointers thatjust buried all ourhopes of
him most of the credit for beating us.
D: Chris Webber's timeoutcall will
forever remain in the heads of Michi-
gan fans. Was it known that there were
no timeouts left, and how did you and
the other players console Chris when
the game was over?
R: I don't really know if (Coach
Fisher) said there were no timeouts, but
it was a mistake. He was 19 years old.
Everybody has mistakes. They'rejust
not always on national television.
We consoled him and took him out
with us. We told him that if it weren't
1002 NTiAC TR.
for him, we wouldn't have been there.
That helped him out a lot.
D: Who needs to perform well for
Michigan to continue its success this
season, and how far can the team go?
R: Leon (Derricks) has to step up a
little bit. He's been playing good, but
needs to step it up a notch or two. And
(MakhtarNdiaye) has the talent, but he
needs to get more comfortable with the
system. As soon as he gets more com-
fortable, (the team) is gonna be able to
make it back (to the Final Four) and
hopefully win it this year. They have a
real good chance of winning both (the
Big Ten and national championship)
D: Everybody talked about the loss
of Chris Webber affecting the team,
but now everybody is beginning to see
how vital you, James Voskuil, Rob
Pelinka, and Michael Talley were to
the team's success. Do you think people
now realize how important you guys
were to the team? ,
R: You know how it is. You don't
get appreciated until (you're gone).
Michigan still has a good team, but the
bench isjust young right now.
I'm not gonna say that the loss of us
hurt because Chris (contributed) 19
points and 10 rebounds pergame. That's
a lot to lose too. Our (collective) expe-
rience is mainly what they lost. They
really don't have a scorer coming off
D: Rumor has it that Jalen Rose and
Juwan Howard are packing their bags
for the NBA after this season. Do you
think they should leave?
R: It's hard to say. That's a per-
sonal decision. It's hard to pass up the
money. They can always come back
and finish their degree a year later.
No doubt it would be best for them
to stay in (school) to get more experi-
ence. Another year (at college) would
help out in the long run. Just getting
more experience on the court is gonna
Some players come out early, and a
lot of players did it this year and got the
experience from being in the NBA
(such as Anfernee Hardaway and Jamal
Mashburn). It's your choice. You
could get your experience in college
or you could get it in the NBA. Either
way, it wouldn't hurt them because
the NBA scouts like both of them.
The R.H. Factor
One question remains
in hoops controversy
I think I can speak for most of the fans that follow the Michigan
men's basketball team when I say that this three-letter word has
been uttered more than once this weekend (followed by a couple of four-
letter words). After hearing the news that Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and
Chris Fields had been suspended for allegedly stealing multiple cases of
beer from a convenience store in early January, what other response is
Why did you do it?
Yet no person must be shaking his head in disbelief more than Steve
Fisher. Everything finally seemed to be going right for his Webber-less
Wolverines. With road wins against Iowa, Illinois and Purdue, it seemed
Michigan was coming together as a team for the first time since the NCAA
tournament a year ago, or arguably longer.
Then this, another problem crashing into Fisher's lap, blindsiding the
48-going-on-75-year-old coach like a Glenn Robinson pick.
When Michigan's basketball coach awoke and heard the news last
Wednesday that two of his heralded Fab Four were in trouble with the law,
one could imagine the sick feeling he had. Worse than any heartburn or
ulcer he might have had in the past.
Unfortunately for Fisher, this feeling is nothing new. Around this time
last year news broke of Jalen Rose being in the wrong place at the wrong
time, charged with loitering in a Detroit crackhouse.
So once again the questions are surfacing. With all that talent, with all
that potential, why go and screw it up? Why do we have to hear about
players' antics in court rather than their accomplishments on-court?
Yet while Rose's charges were dropped, there is a very real chance that
King, Jackson and Fields will not meet the same fate. As the police
continue to investigate exactly what took place on the night of Jan. 12, it
seems that a fine and community service are very likely - at the least.
What makes the incident so peculiar is the fact that the cashier working
that night at the Dairy Mart actually let King, Jackson and Fields take the
beer. Questions remain: Is it stealing when the employees at the store allow
you to leave without paying? While not necessarily condoning the action,
wouldn't anyone else in a similar situation do the same thing?
Alas, this was not just anyone. Like it.or not, when any member of the
Fab Four does anything, it's magnified twenty-fold. That's the price one
pays for being Fab.
And that's the price Fisher must pay for being a coach instead of a
It seems that that is all one hears about in Ann Arbor these days. Should
Tyrone Wheatley decide to stay in school or go pro? Should Rose or Juwan
Howard jump ship themselves?
Yet what will make this whole incident really interesting - not that it
isn't already - is the decision Fisher will be forced to make between now
and 7:30 tomorrow night when Michigan's greatest on-court hurdle comes
to Crisler, complete with its red Starter sweater and 1970s red-and-white
Can Steve Fisher afford to let King, Jackson and Fields sit out another
For all their talent, for all their finesse, for all their God-given skills, the
Michigan Wolverines have only defeated Indiana once in the Fab era. With
each successive head-to-head battle between these two Big Ten powers, it
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