The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday,_January 10, 1994 - 5
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Wolverines look to ease growing pains
Roberts searches for positives despite inexperience, lack of depth
By BRENT McINTOSH
DAILY BASKETBALL WRITER
If all news were good, life would
be rather mundane, right?
Just the same, the Michigan
women's basketball team could use a
little good news once in a while; most
of what it hears is about as negative as
Need an example? How about this
one: the Wolverines tallied only two victo-
ries during the entire 1992-93 season.
Or how's this: only two current
Wolverines had any college basketball
court time prior to this season-the rest
are straight off the high school courts.
Want more discouraging news?
Michigan women's hoops has an all-
time record of 74-208 against the
teams they face this season.
Still not deterred? What do you
make of the fact that the Wolverine
roster now consists of a paltry seven
players - yes, seven, as in more than
six and less than eight?
You're still not discouraged? Nei-
ther is Michigan coach Trish Roberts.
"We're going to have to wait and
see, but I'm optimistic," Roberts said
at the beginning of the season, before
her Wolverine squad beat three non-
conference foes to chalk up more vic-
tories in its first 10 games than last
year's team did the whole year.
So now Michigan is 3-8, but that
doesn't necessarily mean there are
many more victories in the making.
The weaknesses still loom large, and
most of them are lacks: the Wolver-
ines lack tradition, they lack experi-
ence, they lack height, they lack depth.
Of the teams Michigan takes on this
year, only one has a losing series record
against the Wolverines:Eastern Michigan
is only 6-11 all-time against Michigan.
Of course, few current Wolverines
have participated in any Michigan history
at all. Only junior Shimmy Gray and
sophomore Jennifer Brzezinski return,
with, neither having played a full season.
But Roberts still isn't discouraged.
Since 1992-93 was her first year
coaching Michigan, even the experi-
enced players on last year's team were
operating in a new and different sys-
tem. This year's ample freshman class
provides Roberts with a chance to
drill her system into virgin minds,
more center Angie Mustonen. With-
out Mustonen, the tallest Wolverines
are Gray, Brzezinski and freshman
Catherine DiGiacinto;all 6-foot-1.
Mustonen and Jokish's departures,
along with those of sophomore
Tannisha Stevens and freshman Sonya
Mays, leave only seven Wolverines.
And while Roberts maintains that a
team needs only five players, a small
roster has certain drawbacks. Injuries
and foul trouble can be disastrous, and
fatigue is also a factor.
"We've gone to playing more zone,
but whenever we get a fast break,
we're going to take it," Roberts said.
"We can't slow that down.
"We're going to try to run. I think
we've got a point guard that can do that.
We're a little bit quicker - our perim-
eter players are definitely a lot quicker
and a lot stronger."
Roberts finds a benefit in the lim-
ited roster, though: she says the lack of
numbers will force the freshmen to
learn fast, a bonus in future seasons.
The Wolverines are led by Gray,
who averaged 7.9 rebounds and 7.8
points per game last year. A natural
small forward, Gray has been forced
by the Wolverines' rebounding prob-
lems to play at power forward.
"Shimmy has kind of been forced into
that role[of captain]," Roberts said. "She's
taken it upon herself to be a leader. Her
game has really elevated. For us to be
successful with so many young players,
she needs to be in that role."
Brzezinski is the other player with
experience, but hers was limited by a
season-ending knee injury nine games'
into last season. She will be counted
on to provide a rebounding and shot-
The freshman class, which Rob-
erts called "probably one of the best
recruiting classes Michigan has ever
had," is highlighted by 5-foot-11
shooting guard Amy Johnson.
"She's an all-around player. She
can shoot. She can dribble-she's the
total package," Roberts said. "I think
she's going to be a leader this year."
Johnson has proven Roberts right
so far this season, complementing her
guard skills with nearly six rebounds
The other rookie standout is for-
ward Silver Shellman, who Roberts
calls "a great athlete."
"She played mostly inside at 5-
foot-11 in high school, but she knows
she can't play that spot in the Big Ten,
so she's refined her game and come to
the outside, and is shooting very well,"
The starting spot at point guard
belongs to 5-foot-7 Jennifer Kiefer, the
top Wolverine in assists, but 5-foot-7
Mekisha Ross has also seen time off the
The only center on the team is
DiGiacinto, who has put in some solid
minutes while starting every game.
Those seven players are the clay that
Roberts will mold; the weaknesses have
led Roberts to a modest goal, one that
the Wolverines can probably realize.
"The goal that we set has to be to
improve on last year's season," Rob-
erts said. "All of our kids know what
last year was about and so if we can
win 10 ballgames I think that's going
to set the pace for this recruiting class."
With three wins already, Roberts
has got to be encouraged.
free of all but high school schemes.
"They're very young, very inexperi-
enced," Roberts said, "but I've always
been told that experience is the best
teacher, so they'll learn very quickly.
"We're much farther ahead at this
point than we were last year when I
came in as a new coach even though
we had more experienced players."
Last year's team was not only more
experienced than this year's bunch, it
was also taller. With 6-foot-3 Trish
Andrew graduated and 6-foot-2
Rhonda Jokish out for the year with
shoulder problems, the Wolverines are
"Where we lack depth is in our
post position: we're short. Our tallest
player is six-two, and she's a walk-
on," Roberts said prior to the depar-
ture for academic reasons of sopho-
ammered by Detroit-Mercy's Faith Cyr during the Wolverines' 79-69 defeat
d both games this past weekend but has already won more games (three)
OURT Rebuilding Michigan searches for
RESS pieces to the elusive victory puzzle
orth Atlantic Conference champi-
nship. A rocky first year at Michigan
as quite a change for Roberts.
"With so many experienced play-
rs - five seniors - I really felt the
. me of last season would have
era lot better," Roberts said.
As the tipoff of season No. 2 for
oberts approached, she had a new
atch of recruits to keep her busy.
ith only tworeturning players on the
urrent roster of seven, the Wolverines
ere slightly short-handed. But, in spite
f this fact, they have already topped
st year's total victory mark of two by
efeating Oral Roberts, Dec. 29,72-58
!*ir third win.
It was a great confidence booster,"
oberts said. "At the time, that was one
four goals: to improve upon last year's
cord. It really helped us going into the
ig Ten (play) with that victory."
The current ranking of 11 in the
ig Ten, however, illustrates the huge
hallenges still lurking in Michigan's
loset. How then, is such a struggling
ream able to recruit any quality
layers to help turn around their win-
er three games since returning. At
e same time, she continues her role
steam leader, encouraging the
eshman to play through their
"I just wish there were more
pperclassmen on the team so that
uld sit there and tell them you
have it a lot easier compared to
ow we had it last year," Gray said.
wish they could have us talking
out good experiences, but they
n't. All of them overwhelm me
d it makes my job as captain a lot
It is tough for Gray to sit on the
delines as her injury heals, but it's
e ay her career has been at
gan. She has endured three
sing seasons, been suspended from
e team, had a recurring knee
jury, yet her will to succeed has
ot been deterred.
"I haven't really been pleased
ith any of my years at Michigan.
,A r .T..
loss record, like Gretzky did?
"Academically, it wasn't hard at all,
but we've really harped on the fact that
they can come in and they can make an
impact right away," Roberts said.
"These kids go and visit the other
schools and they see two and three
players with experience that are there
at those schools that play their posi-
tion," Roberts said. "They come to
Michigan and they see that we may
only have one player at that position
and their chances (for playing time)
are going to be a lot greater at Michi-
gan than any other place."
Now that's a pretty decent argu-
ment on behalf of Michigan, but was
that really the reasoning behind the
players' decisions to don the Maize
and Blue? Just what was it that enticed
the athletes to Ann Arbor? The balmy
weather? Well, not exactly, as fresh-
man guard Amy Johnson explains.
"I had a lot of confidence in Coach
Roberts," Johnson said." In weighing
Michigan against the other schools I
was choosing from, Michigan seemed
like the better school. I liked it here
and I liked the coach."
Obviously, the process of rebuilding
a losing program cannot be completed
in one night. It's the baby steps and
patience that are key here. Slowly but
surely, things will start turning around.
Winning the national championship
might be setting goals a bit high, espe-
cially for a team like Michigan this
season, but there are other ambitious,
but more realistic targets to aim for.
"I feel that we are in a much better
place this year at this time, with the
freshmen, than we were last year with
those seniors," Roberts said. "They
are freshmen and they are hungry.
They came to Michigan knowing our
record and they came to Michigan
knowing what kind of program we
have. So their outlook is a little more
positive because they feel they can
come in and make a difference.
"We expect to win a few games,
and we haven't given any specifics,
but there is a need to improve on last
year's team," Roberts added. "All of
our kids know what last year was all
about, and if we can win 10 ballgames,
I think that's going to set the pace ..."
As anyone who has ever been part
of a lackluster team knows, the ab-
sence of overwhelming fan support
does not help increase team morale
"In the beginning, it was disappoint-
ing," Roberts said. "But then, the more
we lost, I'd go to the games and I'd look
up in the stands and we still had those
die-hard fans and those fans, who con-
tinued to come and see us play, knowing
that we were having a really bad season,
really made me feel good.
"It lets me know too, that if we ever
got a winning program at Michigan, I
know that the fan support would be
there. It's an old saying from that movie
'Field of Dreams': 'If you build it, they
will come.' That'swhatI'mlooking for.
They will come, because people like to
be associated with winners."
Only time will tell if and when
Michigan's dream will become a real-
ity. But the Wolverines are taking a
few steps in the right direction. And
let's not forget who won the race, the
tortoise or the hare?
Freshman forward Silver Shellman is one of five rookies making up the 1993-
1994 Wolverine squad. Shellman has led the team in scoring in four games.
Continued from page 1
ing to a 47-20 halftime lead with nu-
merous uncontested layups off fast-
break opportunities. Forward Shirley
Bryant headed the first half effort with
8-for-10 shooting and 16 points.
"We get a lot of baskets in transi-
tion, we use our speed, we run the
passing game, we set a lot of back and
down picks and then we are a good
FQ FTEE OBi
MIN *-A M-A O-T A FPM
Gray 31 3.6 0-0 2-702 6
Shellman 29 3-9 3-6 1-3 4 3 9
DIGiacinto 31 6-10 0-2 2-7 0 2 12
Kiefer 36 0-3 00 00 1 2 0
Johnson 40 &23 3.4 3-7 3 2 22
Brzezinski 18 3-4 3.5 1-5 0 1 9
Ross 15 0-1 0-0 0.1 0 3 0
Totals 200 23-56 9-17 13-36 815 58
FG%: .41. FT%: .529. Threepolnt goals: 3-13,
.231 (Johnson 3-7, Kiefer 0-2, Sheliman 0-2,
Brzezinski 0-1, Gray 0.1). Blocks: 0. Turnovers:
22 (Kiefer 9, DiGiacinto 4, Sheliman 3, Brzezinski
2, Gray 2, Johnson 2). Steals: 4 (Gray 2, Johnson
2). TechnIcal Fouls: none.
perimeter shooting team, " Izard said.
"I think we did an excellent job of
taking advantage of things they
The second half was more of the
same, although the Wolverines, be-
hind Amy Johnson's 20 points, went
on a somewhat sustained 11-8 run
midway through the half. Johnson hit
three three-pointers in the contest while
collecting seven rebounds.
"She really is going to be a good
player," Izard said. "She's even better
then I thought."
Indiana's frequent press proved
troublesome for Michigan, forcing the
Wolverines into 22 turnovers. Hoo-
sier senior point guard Kris McGrade
was particularly tenacious on Michi-
gan point guard Jennifer Keifer, forc-
ing the freshman into nine giveaways.
Wolverine Mekisha Ross did pro-
vide some relief at point guard, how-
ever, giving the team some sharp play
and effectively averting the full-court
pressure with no turnovers in 15 min-
utes of play.
"We thought we could hurt them
with changings of defenses," Izard
said. "We have a lot of speed and it is
just really hard to get the ball to the
correct areas and make things happen
with the basketball. That was what
they were having problems doing."
Yesterday's game against Detroit
Mercy was one Michigan literally let
slip away. The Titans' pressure defense
forced the Wolverines into committing
26 turnovers, including 10 steals from
junior guard Amira Danforth en route to
a 79-69 Titan victory.
"I really felt that this was a game we
could win," Roberts said. "I think their
spirits are down and they have a right to
Trailing 58-50 in the second half,
the Wolverines cut the Titans' lead
down to 58-57 on a Shimmy Gray layup,
but two three pointers from Autumn
Rademacher and Ann Shaw propelled
Detroit Mercy to a lead it would never
For the Wolverines, it was certainly
a case of missed opportunities. Michi-
gan hounded U of D on the boards,
outrebounding the Titans 56-40, but
they couldn't convert those rebounds
Michigan shot a dismal 33 percent
for the game, and freshman Amy
Johnson, who had scored 22 points
against Indiana and poured in 20
against Purdue, went cold in a 1-for-
14 shooting effort.
Gray had one of her best games of
the year, finishing with 20 points, 10
rebounds and three steals. Silver
Shellman and Catherine Digiancito
had 17 and 12 points respectively.
With the two loses, the Wolver-
ines' record dropped to 3-8, 0-2 in the
Big Ten. Their next game is Wednes-
day when they face Michigan State.
MIN M-A M-A OT A F PTS
Gray 36 9-17 1-2 3-10 2 4 20
Shellman 40 6-16 4-8 6-11 3 3 17
DiGiacinto 21 4.7 4-7 3-8 0 2 12
Kiefer 38 2-4 2-2 0-3 9 2 7
Johnson 26 1-14 2-2 2-5 2 3 5
Brzezinski 23 1-5 2-4 6-11 0 2 5
Ross 16 0-5 3-5 36 22 3
Totals 200 23.68 18-30 23-561818 89
FG%: .338. FT%: .600. Three-point goals: 5.13,
.384 (Gray 1-1, Brzezinski 1-1, Kiefer 1-2,
Johnson 1-3, Shellman 1-4, Ross 0-2). Blocks: I
(Brzezinski). Turnovers: 26 (Kiefer 7, Gray 5,
Ross 5, DiGiacinto 3, Shellman 2, Johnson 2,
Brzezinski 2). Steals: 9 (Gray 3, Kiefer 2,
Brzezinski 2, Ross 2). Technical Fouls:none.
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