4 - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, December 5, 1994
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By RAVI GOPAL
Daily Basketball Writer
When Michigan women's basket-
ball coach Trish Roberts looked at her
team at the conclusion of last season,
she could hardly have liked what she
A 3-24 overall mark, including an
0-18 conference record.
A team composed of just seven
members, five of whom were fresh-
The imminent departure of the
Wolverines' leading rebounder and
second leading scorer, Shimmy Gray,
since she had just completed her final
year of eligibility.
Yet, Roberts was unfazed.
Secure in the knowledge that an
eight-member freshman class would
enter in the fall, Roberts set about her
work of preparing the team for the
The recruits she has brought to
Ann Arbor this year have provided
the Wolverines with a glimmer of
hope. Ranked No. 11 nationally, the
youngsters give Michigan added
size, speed and most importantly,
The freshmen outnumber the re-
turnees, eight to six. Playing with a
maximum of just nine players last
season, the Wolverines ran out of gas
before most games ended.
But fatigue doesn't look to be a
problem this year. With the number
of bodies on the team, Michigan now
can stay in more ball games. The
Wolverines now can generate more
Freshmen look to give Wolverines hope in new campaign
competition for the opposition, which
translates into more possible victo-
ries for them.
However, don't look for Michi-
gan to improve overnight. The fresh-
men will take time to adjust to the
rigors of the college game. More im-
portantly, last year's starting point
guard, 5-foot-7 sophomore Jennifer
Kiefer, is out for the year. Kiefer tore
her anterior cruciate ligament in her
left knee while playing summer ball,
and has been redshirted for the sea-
'Right now, we're a
much improved team
on last year, A .500
season should be one
of our goals.'
"You get a point guard, and you
think of the experience (Kiefer) gained
last year," Roberts said, referring to
Kiefer's starting at the point for all of
last season. "(The experience) is some-
thing we definitely needed (this year).
Jen will be missed."
Yet, if the young guns begin to
mesh with the veterans, this Michigan
squad has the capability to improve
vastly on its performance of a year,
A position-by-position look at this
year's squad shows that the Wolver-
ine freshmen will press for playing
time, while the returnees look to as-
sume new leadership roles.
Due to Kiefer's absence, the 5-
foot-11 Johnson has been moved
from forward, her natural position,
to the backcourt. Replacing Kiefer's
43.4 percent three-point percentage
(36-of-83) and 133 assists, both tops
on the team, will be tough. But
Johnson's scoring prowess (49 three-
pointers made, 71.3 free throw per-
centage,15.6 points per game) should
help ease the loss. Yet, Roberts rec-
ognized that Johnson might bear less
of the offensive burden this season.
"Last year, Amy looked for her
shot much more than others did,"
Roberts said. "This year, there will
be others (who will shoot the ball)."
Johnson's running mate will
likely be sophomore Mekisha Ross.
The 5-foot-7 sophomore, coming off
a knee injury, is seeing her first ac-
tion as a starter. Seeing only limited
playing time last year, Ross is still
feeling out Johnson's game.
"When I'm healthy, we've done
good out there," Ross said.
Freshmen Semelda Elverton,
Akisha Franklin and Molly Murray
also look to contribute in the
backcourt. Murray has received the
most playing time of the three, pump-
ing in a career-high 12 points against
South Carolina last weekend. She
will be inserted at the point, and
looks to utilize her size (6-foot) to
Elverton was the Most Valuable
Player of the Chicago Public School
League her senior season, and is the
quickest player on the team, accord-
ing to Roberts. Elverton will be as-
signed to defend the opposition's lead-
ing scorer. Franklin is a fellow Illi-
In terms of sheer numbers, the
frontcourt is the Wolverines' strength.
No less than ten players can play in
the box for Michigan. With three re-
turnees - Silver Shellman, Jennifer
Brzezinski and Catherine DiGiacinto
- and a cast of freshmen, the low-
post position promises a battle for
Shellman (11.3 ppg) can hit the
three (21-of-75) and plays hard-nosed
defense, leading the team in steals
(51). Brzezinski looks to rebound from
last season, due to the removal of her
knee brace. Without the brace, her
stats (7.4 ppg, 199 rebounds) will
improve. Roberts already sees im-
provements in Brzezinski's game.
"We played an AAU (Amateur
Athletic Union) team (in a scrimmage
before the season), and she rebounded
very well and played very strongly,"
Roberts said of her junior forward/
.DiGiacinto (8.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg), a
starter at times last season, is compet-
Maritza Du ois
Honorable Mention USA Today Player of the Year in Maryland
All-City Chicago First-Team, MVP Chicago Public School League
Honorable Mention USA Today Player of the Year In Illinois
All-State in Illinois, Chicago Sun-Times Chicago area Top 10 centers
Street & Smith's Honorable Mention All-American, USA Today top
player in Michigan
All-State in Michigan, led team to state championship
Street & Smith's Honorable Mention All-American, Blue-Star Index
15th.-best forward in the country
ing for action with newcomer Tiffany
Willard. A 6-foot power forward from
Plymouth, Minn., Willard has gar-
nered significant minutes recently,
providing a presence in the paint f
Freshmen Maritza DuBois and
Shauna Sikorski will come off the
bench for the Wolverines. Another
youngster, Tennille Caruthers, has
been redshirted for the season.
Although Caruthers was last year's
top player in Michigan as selected by
USA Today, she was redshirted in the
hopes of getting in better shape for
next season, Roberts said.
The only Wolverine listed as a
true center is freshman Pollyanna
Johns. The tallest player on the Michi-
gan roster (6-foot-3), Johns is making
her presence felt as a shot-blocker
and intimidator under the basket. In
just six minutes of action against
Denmark's Horsholm Basketball
Club, she clubbed away two shots a
pressured others. -
"Her talents are very raw," Rob-
erts said. "What she really needs is
the mindset to play in this league. She
already has the tools."
Other players who can play the
position include Brzezinski, Caruthers
This year's edition of the Wolver-
ines can be the best in the three years
of Roberts' tenure. She holds hi9
expectations of the club.
"Right now, we're a much im-
proved team on last year," Roberts
said. "A.500 season should be one of
Considering the Wolverines have
gone 5-49 in Roberts' two years,
her goal is somewhat lofty. But judg-
ing by her quote, this year's, fresh-
man class, with its talent and abig
ties, has given something greater to
Michigan's "Exceptional Eight" Freshmen. From left: Tiffany Willard, Molly Murray, Shauna Sikorski, Akisha
Franklin, Pollyanna Johns, Maritza DuBois, Tennille Caruthers, Semelda Elverton. With the addition of the
freshmen, Michigan doubled the size of its team.
Continued from page 1
a member of the All-Big Ten Fresh-
None of this made Johnson feel
better about the Wolverines' dismal
season. She values team success over
"I'd never gone through that much
losing," Johnson says. Her Ottawa
(Ill.) High School team was 43-11 in
her final two years. "(Last season) we
didn't stop caring, but we were numb
from losing. It didn't hurt as much
each time. We kept trying, but we'd
lost our confidence."
Johnson says the added year of ex-
perience and the addition of seven tal-
ented freshmen will help Michigan re-
bound from last season's disastrous
campaign. "We can get 15 to 20 wins.
Wewanttopaybackthe Big Ten teams."
The Wolverines are already close
to matching last year's win total with
Johnson leading the way. She lit up
South Carolina for 28 points, and
added 23 and 28 in wins over
Georgetown and Georgia State. The
road will be rougher when Michigan
enters conference play in January,
but Johnson is confident her team can
play with the best of the Midwest.
"We're a different team now,"
Johnson says. "We have a different
attitude. Last year, we only had seven
players on our roster. (This year) we're
not going to lose any games in the last
few minutes just because we're too
tired to go on. If we work hard, we'll
Johnson is used to working hard.
When she was nine years old, her
father Mark signed her up for Little
League baseball. He drilled her for
hours in the hot summer sun, smash-
ing ground balls until she learned to
play them perfectly, looping high pop-
ups until she caught each one.
"I was never a Barbie-type girl,"
Johnson says. While the rest of the girls
at school were talking about dolls and
trying on earrings and makeup, Johnson
was hitting line drives up the gap, spin-
ning past defenders on playground bas-
Johnson loved to play outside with
her younger brother, Caleb. "We were
yard apes," Johnson says. When she
couldn't find a game of flag football
to get into, Johnson played in the
to play Big Ten basketball. He ex-
pressed doubts that she would be
able to compete at such a high level
of play, but that only spurred her on.
"I don't like it when people say I
can't do something," Johnson says.
"I want to prove people wrong."
Reardon told Johnson she'd never
be able to break the boys' scoring
record atOttawaHigh School and when
she did, in the middle of her senior
year, she stormed past him toward the
lockerroom and said briskly, "Don't
tell me what I can't do."
Johnson's play at a bevy of bas-
ketball camps before her senior year
had college coaches calling from all
corners of the country. She narrowed
her choices to Michigan and Boston
College. During her recruiting visit
to Ann Arbor, Johnson went to a
Wolverine football game, and the
exuberance she felt standing in the
midst of 100,000 cheering fans helped
her make up her mind. She signed
early with Michigan, again proving
Johnson had some trepidation about
moving to Ann Arbor, but at Michigan
she found a second family. She be-
came close friends with her fellow
freshmen - Silver Shellman, Jennifer
Kiefer, Catherine DiGiacinto and
Mekisha Ross - and was immedi-
all in good fun.
Johnson's quiet, thoughtful de-
meanor off the court belies an intense
on-court persona. "I go crazy when
I'm out there," she says. "Sometimes
my teammates laugh a little because
I'm going so crazy. The coaches say I
play better when I'm loose, but being
loose is being crazy."
Johnson says she uses basketball
to release her aggression. "I always try
to get anger out on the court. I'd rather
take it out on my opponents (than) on
my teammates and friends."
"People mistake my confidence for
cockiness," Johnson says. "Or maybe
I am cocky. But you have to know
you're good when you're out there."
Coach Roberts knows Johnson is
good, and so do the rest of the coaches
in the Big Ten. After Johnson poured
in 31 against Wisconsin last season,
the conference took notice. Opponents
pitted two and sometimes three de-
fenders against her. Roberts has no
doubts about Johnson's offensive ca-
pabilities, but wants improvement on
the other end of the court.
"(Coach Roberts) is always saying
I can't play defense," Johnson says.
"She's always on me, but one day
soon I'm going to play such outstand-
ing defense, I'll prove her wrong. I
can't wait for the day."
est athlete to ever walk the earth,'
She says she would never be able to
contain her joy if she had the chance to
meet Michael. She contrasts her- feel-
ings with those of freshman forward
Jerod Ward, her friend on the Michigan
men's team. "Jerod met Magic Johnson
and said Magic was just another pla r.
Maybe (Ward) was just trying to plJi
off, but it seemed like it wasn't.tpat big
a deal for him. If I met MichaeLJordan,
I would faint. Then I would cry."
Earlier this season, Detroit..iston
legend Isiah Thomas stopped intawatcli
a team practice. Johnson said the ap