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208 - The Michigan Daily - Tipoff '96 - Thursday, November 14, 1996

BIG TEN

PosmON PREVIEW

The Michigan Daily - Tipoff '96 - TI

Gophers' season could be Golden

Big things expected of big Blue's I
Taylor, Baston,- Traylor bulk up, slim down to become Big Ten's top fr<

By John Lxroi
If history meant anything to
Minnesota coach Clem Haskins last
season, it sure doesn't now.
The NCAA Tournament selection
committee made the Golden Gophers
the first Big Ten team ever to be snubbed
with at least a 10-8 conference record.

That shouldn't happen again. The
Gophers should be better than 10-8 and,
barring any freak bus crashes, they will
make a tournament appearance.
In fact, don't be surprised if
Minnesota wins its first Big Ten title
since 1982. The Gophers return five
starters, four of which were second-
team All-Big Ten picks, and 10 of their

top 11 scorers from last season. Six-
foot-nine, 265-pound center John
Thomas wears opponents down with
his size and has the post moves to take
advantage of his strength.
Sophomore Courtney James is also a
bruiser at 6-foot-8, 265 and is a better
passer than anyone his size should be.
Mark Jones and Quincy Lewis provide
ample backup.
Minnesota is rough inside and can
afford to take fouls with six centers or
power forwards on its roster
In fact, nobody in the Big Ten has as
much talent, flexibility and depth up
front - not even Michigan.
But the real prize of the Gophers is
swingman Sam Jacobson, an outstand-
ing leaper and legitimate scoring threat
from behind the arc and in the paint.
Jacobson is on the verge of being an
All-Big Ten pick. If he plays like he did
at the end of last season, the Gophers
will be difficult to beat.
"If we are to achieve our team
goals, (Jacobson) needs to take his
game to the next level," Haskins
said. "He has all the tools to be an
elite player."
In the backcourt, Haskins has an
experienced senior scorer in 6-foot-I
Bobby Jackson, who averaged over 13
points per game last season.
Outside shooting is Haskins' only
major concern, especially when
Jackson is at the point.
But if Jacobson can hit threes consis-
tently and still play inside, Minnesota
may have a Big Ten Player of the Year
and a Big Ten championship.

Keady will need deep bag
of tricks to win 4th title

By John Leroi
No Big Ten team has won four
straight conference titles.
Then again, no Big Ten team has
Gene Keady - except Purdue.
The six-time Big Ten Coach of the
Year is more the reason for the
Boilermakers' success than anybody.
Recognized as a national coach of the
year for the third consecutive season,
Keady led Purdue to its third confer-
ence title after being picked to finish
fifth.

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So although it looks as if the
Boilermakers will finish fourth or fifth
this year, that might be as stupid a pick
as choosing Bob Dole to win a conge-
niality contest.
Purdue boasts the league's top-rated
incoming class as well as 6-foot-2
guard Chad Austin, who dropped in 13
points per game last year, and 6-11 cen-
ter Brad Miller.
Austin is the Big Ten's top 3-point
gunner, and Miller is more athletic than
he looks.
The only problem is the Boilers lost
four starters and three other lettermen,
including their entire front line of Justin
Jennings, Roy Hairston and Brandon
Brantley, who comprised the most well-
rounded frontcourt in the Big Ten.
Also gone are guards Herb Dove and
Porter Roberts, leaving a gaping hole at
the point-guard position.
Keady expects the freshmen to step
in immediately, especially small for-
ward Michael Robinson, a long-range
magician, who will compete for a start-
ing spot on the perimeter.
"I'm excited, because I think we'll
be able to run a lot," Keady said.
"We're going to score some points this
year."
The biggest points may be scored by
Keady himself. He lost Glenn
Robinson and spurred his squad to a
Big Ten title. Then Cuonzo Martin and
Matt Waddell left, and Keady managed
to take Purdue to the top of the league
again.
Keady knows his team is inexperi-
enced, and he's willing to work with his
player's strengths. Instead of experi-
ence, he's got athleticism.
If Austin has the year he did last year,
and Miller plays like he did when he
won a starting spot in his freshman sea-
son, Keady will have all the ingredients
he needs to work with.
And remember, this is exactly the
position Keady wants to be in: picked
to finish fifth and without his top guns
from a season ago.
So, while Purdue looks mediocre on
paper, somehow, Keady always makes
things work.

By Alan Goldenbach
Jenny Craig might be as valuable a
coach for the Michigan frontcourt as
Steve Fisher.
The theme this summer for
Michigan's returning big men -
Maurice Taylor, Maceo Baston and
Robert Traylor - was weight, both the
loss and the gaining of it.
The result of this flab-bergasting
summer for this trio should transform it
into the Big Ten's top frontcourt and one.
of the nation's best, if not the meatiest.
But the three do know that they are
the go-to guys on this team and will be
counted on during crunch time.
"In order for us to be successful this
year, we have to play within ourselves,"
Baston said. "We're the cornerstone of
the team."
At the base of that cornerstone is
Taylor. The 6-foot-9 junior was a second-
team All-Big Ten selection last year and
this season is a preseason candidate for
the Naismith Player of the Year Award.
One of the knocks on Taylor last sea-
son was that he needed to fill out his
NBA-size body. Over the summer, he
took huge steps in getting to that point,
bulking up to a Karl-Malonesque 250
pounds, and is beginning to look more
like the prototypical power forward.
Taylor showed solid progress in all
statistical areas last year, improving his
scoring (14 points per game), rebound-
ing (7 rebounds per game) and field-
goal percentage (51 percent). But much
bigger numbers are expected of him
this season.
The biggest attribute that Taylor will
be expected to assume is the role of team
leader, something he learned a great deal
about from playing on the under-22
Junior National Team over the summer.
Among his teammates were Wake
Forest's Tim Duncan, Stanford's Brevin
Knight and other top collegians. His
opposition included the Olympic Dream
Team which remembers him most for a
sensational dunk over Shaquille O'Neal
on national television.
"(Playing on the Junior National
Team) was a tremendous learning expe-
rience," Taylor said. "It's something that
I'll bring over to my teammates here."
For the time being, Fisher hasn't
named a permanent team captain. In
fact, Fisher himself will carry that role
until someone "wrestles it away from
him." However, he hopes that someone
does that before the season gets too far
along. Taylor should take on this role
before the start of the Big Ten season,
which comes after the new year.
Also hitting the weight room this
summer was Baston, who significantly
upgraded his upper-body strength. Yet
it still doesn't show when he steps onto
the scale, as his weight still teeters
around 210 pounds --not enough for a
6-foot-9 power forward in the Big Ten,
and certainly not enough if he has plans
for the NBA.
"(Baston) bulked up, but not nearly
enough," Fisher said. "Maceo is small-
boned to start with. He's going to be 25

before he's big.
"But he is a lot stronger. Even though
he may only be six or seven heavier, he'll
be able to take a lot more pushing. He
has to use his quickness over strength."
It will be his quickness that will take
Baston to the next level as a player.
Already an accomplished defensive
player and one of the conference's pre-
mier shot-blockers (he secured three
Michigan victories last season by swat-
ting away last-second shots), Baston
needs to work on his low-post moves,
which will make him an equally talent-
ed offensive player.
"I have to play within myself,"
Baston said. "I have to keep myself
within the flow of the offense."
In his first two years at Michigan,
that hasn't been much of a problem.
Baston is the Wolverines' all-time
leader in career field-goal percentage
at .679. However, a good chunk of his
scoring comes as a result of layups and
thunderous dunks. He will need to
establish some sort of an outside game
to become a more complete player.
Traylor's weight has gone in the oppo-
site direction than Taylor's and Baston's.
He's "slimmed down" to 300 pounds,
which makes you wonder what he was
playing at last year. The weight loss has
made it a lot easier for him to get up and
down the court, giving Michigan a much
more agile center.
"(Traylor's weight) is a whole lot bet-

ter than it was a year ago," Fisher said.
"But he still needs to pare down, firm
up, and burn some more of that body fat.
"But in the same breath, the stamina
that he's had in practices so far is much
greater than he had a year ago. So I'm
very happy
about that.'
Traylor will BIG J
be one of the
more eager Np. Playr
Wolverines to 23 M urie Tyloir
get this season 30 Mac> Bastor
going. He 54 Robert Traylo
missed the final 55 Peter Vignler
eight games of
last season after <
sustaining a bro-"
ken arm in the4
infamous
recruiting-trip-
gone-wrong car
accident in
March.:
"I'm real:
excited to get out
on the court;'
Traylor said after one of the final presea-
son practices. "I think me, Brandun
(Hughes) and Pete (Vignier) are the most
excited to get the season going."
Freshman Peter Vignier is the team's
project for this year. The 6-foot-I11 cen-
ter won't be counted on to contribute
much right away, but he will rather
learn from the likes of Taylor, Baston

and Traylor. His talents are very raw,
but he is regarded by the coaching staff
as a quick learner and possesses a
strong knowledge of the game.
At Teaneck High School last year, he
only averaged 11.2 points and 8.4
rebounds, so big
numbers shouldn't
be expected any-
time soon. But
Yr. lt. wt. Fisher has liked
Jr. 69 250 what he has done
Jr. 69 210 in practice by
So. 6- 300 banging bodies
Fr. 611 235 with Michigan's
other big men.
"Pete has occa-
sionally shown me
a glimmer of 'Boy,
I like that,"' Fisher
said. "He's going
through a baptism
by fire."
However, with
Albert White's
departure and the
transfer of Willie
Mitchell, Michigan's big men, Taylor and
Baston, in particular, may be asked to
share some of the small forward duties.
While many may consider this an
unnecessary burden, Baston sees a sil-
ver lining in White's exit.
"We have to pick up the job that Albert
did for us," Baston said. "That may mean

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FILE PHOTO/Daily
Junior forward Maurice Taylor Is expected to grab the leadership role and guide the
Wolverines past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A preseason All-Big Ten
selection, Taylor is considered one of the premier power forwards in the nation.

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