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January 30, 1995 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-30

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 30, 1995 - 3

Former Michigan NCAA champion
0 talks about his return to the NBA

Forrest Fires

Banner team

eeps fans

waiting for banner year

Sean Higgins is back in the NBA
with the New Jersey Nets after a year
overseas playing in Greece.
In a career that has been a series of
peaks and valleys, Higgins hopes his
return to the NBA will be the first step
on the path to the success thathe felt as
* memberofMichigan.'s 1989 Champi-
onship team.
Higgins, who was one of the start-
ing members of the 1989 Champion-
ship team that beat Seton Hall 80-79 in
overtime, has had an inconsistent ca-
reer since leaving school after his jun-
ior year.
Although he was selected by the San
Antonio Spurs with the last pick of the
econd round, Higgins was unable to
stick with a team for an extended pe-
riod, and has had stints with the Or-
lando Magic, the Los Angeles Lakers,
and in Greece.
Recently Daily Sports Writer Tim
Smith talked to Higgins about his re-
turn to NBA, his memories of the 1989
Championship, andhisdecision to leave
school early.
Daily: How do you like playing
*ith the Nets so far?
Higgins: I like it pretty much. We
have a talented teamand I fit in well
here because one thing they needed was
an extra scorer, someone who could
knock down the outside jump shot.
That's what I do, so I like it here.
D: Why did yoU decide to come to
the Nets after playing in Greece for a
H: The main reason was that (Nets
4eneral Manager) Willis Reed showed
a lot of interest in me. When I was over
in Greece he showed a lot of interest in
me and kept on top of me. He kept up
with my progress when I was over in
Greece for one season, so it made it
easier and I came in and it worked out
forhim, so that's oneofthereasons why
I came to New Jersey.
D: What did you think of the com-
*etition in Greece after spending a
couple of seasons in the NBA?
H: To tell you the truth, they sur-
prised me over there. The competition
is a lot better then I expected. There are
a lot of guys over there who can score,
so I had achance to work on my defense
a little bit.
The experience culturally was great
for me, to get away from America and
eally get into myself a little bit.
D: Doyou think youhave thepoten-
tial to be more than a role player in this
H: If my minutes were greater, and
I had the opportunity to do that, no
question, because I have had big games
in this league before.
D: What role do you see yourself
playing with the Nets this season?
H: Right now I'm just trying to do
What the team wants me to do, what
coach (Butch) Beard wants me to do,
and just try to take pressure off our big
men when they get double-teamed down
low they can reverse the ball.
D: After not being able to establish
yourselfas well as you might haveliked
so far in the NBA, do you regret leaving
Michigan after your junior year?
H: In a way I regret it, but I'm the
*ypeof person where Idon't really look
back on lost time. You never know
what could have happened my senior
year at Michigan.
That's not anything I'm concerned

with now. I've fulfilled my dream- I'm
in the NBA. I'm making a comfortable
living. I don't really regret it. It's not
really about the money right now, it's
just basically doing what I always
wanted to do and that is to play basket-
ball at this level.
D: What was your initial reaction
being drafted so low after being pro-
jected as a possible first rounder?
H: I went down to a Chicago pre-
draft camp and a lot of people were
telling me that I was going to go in the
top 20.Iplayed well down there. I came
out rated as one of the best guards down

you can go back to school which they
didn't have when I came out. That was
a little unfair for my years, but like I've
said, you can't look back on time.
D: Since you were the last pick in
the second round in 1990, would you
have used this new rule had it been in
effect at the time?
H: No question I would have come
back to school if they had that rule then.
D: What were your fondest memo-
ries of the 1989 Championship season?
H: I think my fondest memories are
just playing with all the great players
we had on our team. That's what I

Glen Rice was on fire too, you can't
forget about that. He was like a fire-
cracker. -
D: What were you thinking when
Rumeal Robinson went to the line trail-
ing by one withonly a few seconds togo
in the game and the championship on
the line?
H: He shot like 56% from the line,
so I was crossing my fingers when he
went up there. But he went up there like
he should have and hit the two free
D: Did anybody say anything to
him before he went to the line?
H: No, no, that's the worst thing
you could do. I had confidence in him,
but we didn't want to do anything to
break his concentration, so we just left
him alone.
D: What were some of your best
memories from the game other than the
game-winning foul shots?
H: Just the intensity of it. It was one
of the most intense games that I've ever
been involved in.
D: What was your opinion of Seton
Hall going into the game?
H: We had respect for Seton Hall. I
mean, they were in the championship
just like we were. They won five games
just like we had so we had to respect
them. They were able to take us into
overtime and wehadagreatteam, so we
respected them a lot.
D: Are you still close with the guys
from the 1989 team?
H: No question. Just like tonight I
played against Terry Mills. We have
probably the most guys from the Uni-
versity in the NBA right now. I run into
guys from the team just about every
D: Have you followed the team this
year with the new group of acclaimed
H: Yeah, I watch them. They're
young. They have a lot of high school
All-Americans on the team, but they're
D: Do you think Fisher will be able
to get these guys ready by the NCAA
H: If he doesn't get them ready by
the end of the year, they'll be good next
year. Coach Fisher is a good coach. He
just needs time to work with them.
D: Do you think the 1989 team
could take on one of the most highly
touted freshmen classes ever, the Fab
Five, if you were ever to go head to
H: No question. I think if we got
together in the summer time with no
spectators, no referees, and just tossed
the ball up it would be a good game, but
I think we would get them. Too much
D: Have you worked at all to finish
your degree requirements?
H:I went back after my rookie year,
but I still have some more hours to go.
I'm going to go back. The NBA is
going to setup some things for me to do
it through correspondence.
I'm doing sports marketing, because
I want to get involved with an NBA
club after I retire, maybe do some man-
agement work.

T alk about a paradox.
Michigan has won the most national titles of any college hockey
program, yet has not raised a banner in 30 years.
However, over the past four-plus seasons, Michigan has
reestablished itself as a top-level team. The Wolverines made it to the
NCAA semifinals in 1992 and 1993, and were ranked No. I nationally
most of last year. Coach Red Berenson has clearly placed his team in a
position to end the interminable drought.
Could this be the year?
"We're going to win one," Berenson says. "It's just a matter of when."
But the task is not an easy one.
The Wolverines never should have beaten Wisconsin in the 1992
NCAA tournament. Maine lost just one game in 1992-93, the season it
beat Michigan in the national semifinals. Last year Michigan beat Lake
Superior State four times before succumbing in the NCAA quarterfinals
to the eventual titlists.
And all of those Michigan squads had talent-laden rosters, with no
fewer than nine players from the past three teams currently playing pro
hockey. Still, after gathering what seemed like all the right pieces, the
Wolverines couldn't fit them together.
"There was always something missing," senior forward Mike Knuble
says. "We'd get one thing on one night and not get it another night."
If not for a couple bounces, Michigan should have beaten Maine.
And as Wolverine alum David Oliver says, "We played well enough to
win the game against Lake State."
But the Wolverines' desired outcome eluded them and now the
pressure to win a national title continues to mount, as evinced in the
team's dressing room.
Michigan hangs a collection of priorities in its lockerroom and all
the commonplace, mundane goals are always listed: win the Great
Lakes Invitational, win the CCHA regular season title, win the CCHA
tournament. This year, though, the seniors put their hopes for an NCAA
title in writing.
"When you see it every day, it reminds you what you're working
for," Michigan captain Rick Willis says.
But are they hurting themselves? Hockey players have been known
to lean on superstition and ritual and this would seem to go against their
Perhaps this set of Wolverines is different, having the perspective
gained from big-game experience and heart-wrenching loss.
"We're careful about getting ahead of ourselves," Knuble says. "I
daydreamed (of winning the NCAAs) in the past - especially last year
when we ripped through the league. But I learned not to set myself up
for that."
Berenson sees nothing wrong with a little dreaming.
"It could happen this year with a younger team than last year," he
says. "It could happen three years in a row."
If it does, don't expect Knuble's mother to be there. She has a time-
share in Florida the first two weeks in April. Last year she canceled a
trip to see the team in the final four in St. Paul, Minn. After Michigan's
quarterfinal loss to the Lakers, though, she was stuck in the cold.
This year, Knuble says, Mom is headed for Florida. If Michigan
does make it to Providence, R.I., the site for this year's championship,
look for her to change the itinerary. Such superstition.
But in this weekend's home games, a 2-2 tie with Western Michigan
and a 5-4 overtime win against Illinois-Chicago, Michigan hardly
looked worthy of that eastern tour.
These mid-season contests against unranked opponents are the kind
the Wolverines must plainly endure. When it comes time for the
NCAAs, they'll be prepared.
But relax. Even if they don't win it all in 1995, there's always next year.


there, so I don't know what happened.
I do know what happened, actually, but
I prefer not to talk about it.
' D: So what did you think when you
were finally drafted by the Spurs with
the 54th pick?
H: It was a big disappointment for
me. You can't dwell on those things.
You have to go on and live your life and
keep on moving. I'm a survivor.
D: Do you think you have been able
to survive the rigors of the NBA so far?
H: Well, to be honest, it hasn't
really been that tough. That's part of
the business. You see guys who went
in the first round and they bounce
around the league. I've been on three
different teams, but I think that's been
an advantage for me financially be-
cause I've had a guaranteed contract
with all the teams I've played for, so
it's been an advantage for me.
D: What do you think of the con-
tinuing trend of college players leaving
earlier and earlier for the NBA?
H: One thing I have to say to guys
who leave early is to make sure they get
good advice. I got some good and some
bad advice. Now they have arule where

remember most, and what I always
remember about being at Michigan,
and then the shot I hit against Illinois in
the Final Four to put us in the Champi-
onship game.
D: What were you thinking when
you took that shot?
H: It was just like a rush of electric-
ity went through my body after I hit it I
was like gone. I can' t even explain.
D: What was the team's initial reac-
tion when coach Bill Frieder was fired
and assistant Steve Fisher was hired
right before the start of the tournament?
H: It was basically a situation
where we had to stick together. That's
basically what won us the champion-
ship, because we were a family dur-
ing those six games of the tourna-
D: Did Fisher say or do anything
special to motivate you before the tour-
H: Coach Fisher did exactly what
he should have done. He put us all in
a position to succeed and said, 'Hey,
don't stop doing what you're doing,'
and we went out there and played

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