4B - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, February 19, 1996
By Brent McIntosh * Daily Sports Ed
hoot. Shoot. Shoot.
They scream it at him with religious fervor. Shoot:
the sacred act of the religion called basketball.
Shoot: the mantra of fans who, for one obscure
reason or another, just don't like Dugan Fife. Shoot: that
which Fife loves to do, but is chastised for not doing
Shoot: what Dugan Fife would gladly do to you when you
ask him about his shooting hesitancy.
> "I'm just going to play my game regardless of what
people say," Fife said. "If the shot's there, I'm going to
shoot it - if it's the right situation."
- The right situation? Like making his first start in a month
and a half, in hostile Columbus, with his - as Michigan's
senior captain, they are truly his - Wolverines in a three-
game skid? The right situation: Fife calmly nailed two long-
range bombs to grab an 8-2 lead. The Wolverines never
Fife doesn't look back much either. Especially not into
the Crisler stands, where a vocal
nminority of Michigan "fans" insist on
shouting "Shoot!" whenever he gets the
ball. Dugan Fife has little respect for
"A lot of people go to the games - I
shooting percentage falls.
It might even drop to a level where
John Q. Gymrat thinks he can take you.
"I hear things, like people say, 'What's
Dugan doing on the court? I could do
that,"' Fife said. "Maybe they could: I
don't have the most talent in the world -
but I do a lot of little things.
"If you've played with me at the CCRB
or the IM, you'd be able to tell I'm going to play hard no
matter if it's in my backyard or in front of 15,000 people. I
don't think a lot of people understand the game enough to see
That's what happens when you're the frat boy on the
basketball team, when you're the high priest of hustle on a
squad of dunk kings. Every pickup game, no matter how
inconsequential, becomes a war in your opponent's mind:
time to prove Dugan's not so special.
"You play at the IM or the CCRB and someone makes a
shot on you, they're going to make sure you know it, they're
going to come tell you about it," Fife said. "You might be at
a party two weeks later, and they're going to say, 'Remember
me? I made that shot over you at CCRB.' You come to
Why do they come after you? Because you're the ap-
proachable one. The one with the least raw talent. The one
who looks like a hundred other guys on campus. The one
everybody sees in the library. You're the kid next door.
Dugan is the kid next door, right?
Sure - except that the kid next door
wasn't recruited by Michigan to play
point guard. Or to play quarterback, for
that matter. The kid next door wasn't
part of the "Fab Four and Fife." The kid
next door's dad wasn't also a former
Michigan basketball captain.
Dugan's father, Dan, was. He played
two seasons beside now-Houston Rocket
coach Rudy Tomjanovich; then in 1970-
71, Dan Fife led a 19-7 Michigan squad.
"When Fife has the ball," then-coach
Johnny Orr told the Michigan Daily in
1971, "we've got a basket."
"(He's) quarterbacking the offense
with greater proficiency," the Daily said
about Dan. He averaged more than 12
points per game before going on to pitch
big league baseball and work as an
assistant coach for Michigan basketball.
Nice heritage for "the kid next door."
It was, too, a maize and blue heritage.
Dugan calls Michigan "the only place I
seriously considered." Which was no
I was coming to games," Dugan said. "I'd come watch them
practice and shoot after practice. I knew all the players
growing up. When I'd play in the backyard, I'd be a different
player, like Eric Turner or something like that. I basically
grew up here."4
He grew up well, under the tutelage of Dan, who served as
both father and varsity basketball coach. In his senior year at
Clarkston High, Dugan scored 2,083 points. And passed for
1300 yards and 17 touchdowns. And batted over .300 while
playing shortstop. And was All-State in both basketball and
football. And chose Michigan.
The much-heralded freshman arrived in Ann Arbor on the
heals of the Fab Five, basketball's most lauded recruiting
class. He was ready to step in and contribute, to help take the
Wolverines back to the Final Four. So Fife, who as a senior
averaged 27.7 points per game and once hit for 49, came to
Crisler and scored ... exactly zero field goals. Zero-for-nine
from the floor. The kid who could nail it from anywhere in
high school played only eight games.
So he got frustrated. That's only natural, going from star
starter to bench boy, even if the five guys ahead of you are a
world-famous bunch of 19-year-olds who had only last
season done the unheardof, advancing to a national champi-
onship game with five first-years starting.
"We tried to talk with him along that line: 'You're going to
be fine - don't worry. Hang in there. Your day will come,"'
Michigan coach Steve Fisher said. "And he knew that."
What he didn't know, though, was what Dugan Fife's role
was in the greater scheme of Michigan basketball.
"When I came in, I really didn't know where I fit in," Fife
said. "There were so many good players, I was kind of in awe
for a while.
"The first time we played pickup ball, there were 10 guys,
and then me and Leon Derricks didn't even get in the game.
We just sat on the sidelines and I was basically a fan. I
couldn't believe how good these guys were. I look back on it
now, and I was just so young and immature."
Young and immature - and afraid to shoot.
"I'd be in the game for five minutes at the most, and I'd
see Rob (Pelinka) or James (Voskuil) get in the game and
shoot it, and if they missed they got pulled," Fife said. "So I
wasn't going to shoot it. I don't care. I could have been wide-
open. That's not the way to play."
The year wasn't a total loss for Fife, though. He got to go
to Hawaii, and among the only five contests his team lost was
one national championship game. Dugan became close with
Rose - which, he admitted, "I wouldn't have expected;
we're totally different people" - and he began to fini his
place at Michigan.
But the once-prolific scorer's only tallies came at the free
throw line. To understate, he was not the most attractive
candidate to take the lineup opening created when supersoph
Chris Webber decided to get paid for dunking.
Fisher, though, called Fife "the man of the moment" - not
exactly a ringing endorsement, but as much as the kid next
door can expect. Sure enough, Fisher's first lineup featured
Fife, Rose and Jimmy King in a three-guard set.
"Before the Georgia Tech game,
Jalen was looking at a
hear them in the stands - and they have
no idea what's going on," Fife said.
"They might play, but they've probably
never played organized basketball in
their lives. The people that call in to the
talk shows? They have no idea. It was
upsetting last year, but I could care less
what people say about me this year."
Last year was not a good one for Fife.
After shooting .422 from behind the arc
as a sophomore, 1994-95 found Fife
hitting only 27 percent of his bombs.
And with good reason: Getting open
looks at the hoop is a good deal easier
with an NBA-draft quality guard driving,
drawing the defense, and hitting a wide-
open you for the trey. Then Jalen Rose
joins the Denver Nuggets, and your
he said, 'Dugan, you didn't score last year?"' Fife said.
"Then I came out and hit the first shot of the season."
Welcome to the starting lineup.
Little did he know he would start every game for the next
two years. Little did he know that he would score 16 points
and grab six boards at Minnesota. Little did he know that his
contribution would be critical in wins over Michigan State,
Purdue and Illinois, all in his sophomore year.
Maybe it's going to work out. Maybe I'm going to be the
consistent three-year starter Dad was.
Little did he know about the miserable junior year he
would suffer. Little did he know that his streak of 65
consecutive startsr- two whole seasons! - would be
snapped during his senior captaincy, when he was relegated
to a sub's role in favor of 6-foot-5 sophomore Travis Conlan
Then, as he sat during tipoffs, a funny thing happened.
Dugan Fife became a leader.
"He's started when Jalen was here and now he's not
starting," freshman and sometimes-starter Albert White said.
"But he plays hard. He sets screens. Guys like Dugan are
guys you have to learn from."
Conlan called him "the action guy": he leads by hustling,
by playing smart, by being there for freshmen when they
need the counsel of an elder.
"From day one, he's helped me out with coping..."
freshman and oftentimes-starter Louis Bullock said. "There
have been times I went to him with questions or the way I
was feeling, and he would quickly help me out or cheer me
up or whatever was needed to get me back on track."
Fisher is obviously proud of his senior.
"He's developed the responsibility that a captain and a
fourth-year player in a program should have," Fife's coach
said. "He has become a leader when by nature that's not his
style. He has become more a vocal, outward leader of this
team - and he's been a delight to have. He's a winner; he
makes everybody else a little better. He will give you
everything he has everyday."
Like Dan Fife, perhaps? Reread that paragraph, then read
"He's a tremendous leader," Fife's coach said. "Every
game he's playing up to his capabilities. He practices the
same as he plays, with a great deal of enthusiasm and desire.
He's a super competitor and this wears off on others. He
affects the way the whole team is playing. He controls the
offense and makes the whole team go. He's extremely
unselfish on the court and would sacrifice anything for the
That's Johnny Orr, in February 1971, talking about a gutty
senior captain named Danny Fife.
But now it's a quarter-century later, the same month but
1996, and an organizational sciences major named Dugan
Fife is preparing to graduate. Will he follow Dan into
coaching? Dugan says no: "too many problems." Get a job?
He says he's been working on his resume and might consider
consulting. Grad school? Maybe at Michigan? He's leaning
that way, but he says he doesn't want to think about it until
basketball's over. Playing basketball in Europe?
"I've gone to Europe, and I've played in Europe against
some of Europe's best players," Fife said. "I liked playing
there, but I wouldn't want to live there."
It's almost too perfect: It's a nice place to visit, but I
wouldn't want to live there, says the kid next door. I'm
comfortable right here, thanks.
Where will Dugan Fife be next year? The
answer isn't available yet, but the safe bet
is that he'll be right here, somewhere
down the street. After all,
Michigan's in his blood
-he's the kid next
From the earl
liest time I can
By Barry Sollenberger * Daily Sports Editor
he Iayup drill.
It's one the Michigan men's basketball team has done a thousand
Before games, coach Steve Fisher might give the familiar yell, "All right
...two lines ... layups!" and everyone will file into position. And it begins. Right-
handed layups and then left-handed ones. A drill as old as the game itself.
In fact, the routine has become such a habit that Fisher probably doesn't even
need to tell his team what to do before a game. Every Wolverine will go through
the drill the same way.
With the exception of one - freshman Louis Bullock.
At first glance, his pregame warm-up does not appear to differ from anybody
But it does.
You see, the hand-slap is also an important part of the layup drill. After the
players make their layup, they generally give everyone five as they get back in line.
Bullock, too, always slaps. But he does it only with his left hand.
His right hand - his shooting hand, the hand that got him here - remains
I must have started doing it back in the sixth grade," Bullock said. "I got that
from one of the guys who used to come into the gym. I used to try to do everything
that he did."
So what's the guy's name?
"Uh ... Danny ... Danny Bird," Bullock said.
- Bullock no longer keeps in touch with Bird, but the habit has stuck.
"That's something that was always ... like a 'why are you doing it?' sort of
thing," said Joseph Childress, the cousin of the Portland Trail Blazers' Randolph
Childress, and Bullock's best friend since the two were high school teammates at
The Canterbury School in Accokeek, Md. "He'll even reach across his body to
-smack your hand, instead of letting you touch his shooting hand."
* As silly as this superstition may seem, you can bet that no current Wolverine
wants to violate it. After all, the owner of that right hand is Michigan's only
outside shooting threat.
Fisher doesn't get carried away when talking about his freshman guard.
"I "ois Rullock can shoot the basketball." Fisher likes to say about three times a
He has been working on his shooting touch ever since he was ... oh ... about three
"Every time we would go to the toy store, I would ask him what he wanted,"
Bullock's mother Mary said. "He would always find one of those little nets and a
"So we had one of those (nets) downstairs ... and in the bedroom ... and we put
them up in different places. That's really the way he entertained himself since he
was three years old."
He has been burning the nets ever since.
As a junior at Canterbury, he was named All-State after averaging 26.5 points
per game on 55-percent shooting from the floor and 86-percent shooting from the
He then transferred to Laurel Baptist for his,senior season when Canterbury
decided to de-emphasize basketball. After playing off-guard at Canterbury,
Bullock moved to the point at Laurel for coach Chris Chaney.
The switch in position did not hurt Bullock's shot.
He finished his senior season averaging 25.7 ppg on 61-percent field goal
shooting. He also hit 90 3-pointers, making 59 percent of his attempts from beyond
"His shot is so key to his game," Chaney said. "People are so afraid of the 3-
The list of Bullock's high school accomplishments goes on and on.
He was a 1995 McDonald's All-American and won the 3-point shoot-out at the
game in April. He also set a single-game record with 40 points in the Capital
Classic High School All-Star Game.
But high school success only means so much.
Sophomores Jerod Ward and Willie Mitchell dominated high school competi-
tion, only to struggle during their first two years at Michigan.
Bullock is a different story. He has already been a major factor at this level.
"He's very comfortable that he can score and he should be," Fisher said. "If he
gets an open shot, it's like an open shot in high school. You don't get as many,
because of the players you're going against. But when he has an open look, he
shoots it the same way he did a year ago."
Coming out of high school, Bullock was regarded by recruiting expert Bob
Gibbons as the best 3-point shooter and the No. 15 high school senior in the nation.
When it came time for Bullock to choose a college, his short list included
Florida, Maryland and Michigan. Bullock eliminated the Terrapins early because
he would have ridden the bench this season behind an experienced senior
That left Florida and Michigan.
And mom knew where she wanted him to go.
"I did like Florida, myself," Mary Bullock said. "I really wanted him to go to
Florida. That was my choice. But I wouldn't let on until he made his decision."
On his recruiting trip to Michigan, Bullock was so sold on the school he was
Bullock has had
as big of an impact as any Wolveri.
Sure, forward Maurice Taylor is the'
go-to guy, but Bullock has been as
impressive and consistent as anybody.
He is also a strong candidate to be
the second straight Wolverine (after
Taylor) to grab the conference's Big
Ten Freshman of the Year award.
"He's very confident and unafraid
and I like that about him," Fisher :
said. "He steps to the free throw lire
and you're shocked if he doesn't
"To be able to shoot the ball the
way he does, that's not a dimension
that many kids have."
"l cIt's tough to argue with Fisher.
But Bullock's game still needs to
While he can tickle the twine with the best of them, he is not a machine from the
outside. His 1-for- I1 shooting from the field against Iowa last Tuesday attests to
"There have been times this year where I've missed some shots I've been
accustomed to making," Bullock said. "But instead of getting down, I've got to,
keep just playing the game."
Bullock also does not scare anybody with his muscle. You could almost fit two
of Bullock (165 pounds) inside teammate Robert Traylor (300).
"Physically, he doesn't have the maturity yet to come in and dominate," Fisher
said. "So he's got a lot of improving that should take place when he starts to add 4
Bullock's current situation mirrors Maceo Baston's.
Baston has been one of Fisher's most consistent players this season, averaging
around 11 points and six rebounds per game. But truth be told, the sophomore isn't
much better than he was last season when he chipped in about eight points and six
boards per game as a freshman.
Part of the problem is his size.
Baston is 6-foot-9 with lengthy arms, but he could still fit through a crack in the
wall at 210 pounds. He was expected to bulk up this past summer and emerge as a
It hasn't happened.
Bullock himself will need to hit the weights this summer to reach that next leel.
"Louis is a guy that a year from now, with added strength and maturity and