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November 14, 1996 - Image 28

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-11-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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

AT A GLANCE

The Michigan Daily - Tipoff '96 -1

FEATURE

3
RYAN DEKUIPER
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 200 lbs.
Class: Senior
Position: Guard
Hometown: Freemont

4

Is

he

back?

BRANDUN HUGHES
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 180 lbs.

Two injury-plagued years have dropped Jerod WardfroM
malorfiop. Can he become the player everyone thought

2

1,

Class: Junior

Position: Guard
Hometown: Peoria, Ill.
County Community College, Kan.)

1995-96 Statistics
G-GS FG-FGA Pct. PPG APG TO St.
14-0 3-6 .500 0.6 - 1 0 0

1995-96 Statistics (Barton

G-GS FG-FGA Pct. PPG RPG APG Bk.
26-26 271-572 .474 28.2 2.9 6.5 N/A

LOuIs BULLOCK
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 170 lbs.
Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard
Hometown: Temple Hills, Md.

TRAVIs CONLAN
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 190 lbs.
Class: Junior
Position: Guard
Hometown: St. Clair Shores

Jerod Ward stood on the sidelines all by
himself. Even at 6-foot-9, he looked
helpless, even awkward, chewing at his
fingernails, watching his teammates
practice.
After missing a huge chunk of the past two
seasons, Ward still hasn't gotten accustomed to
being off the court - even when he's just tak-
ing a five-minute breather.
That's good news to the Michigan basketball
program. Because with the losses of Albert
White and Willie Mitchell, the Wolverines need
Ward to play a larger role than he has so far in
Ann Arbor.
The only problem is that nobody knows what
Jerod Ward can do. He's looked as uncomfort-
able on the court as he has off it in his short,
less-than-spectacular career.
So when this starts - Ward's junior year - it
is only natural for the fans, the media, even
Ward's own coaches, to wonder what is going to
become of Jerod Ward.
Everyone knows his story. Sidelined with two
different knee injuries in both of his first two
seasons, Jerod Ward has been a no-show for the
Wolverines.
Ward was recognized as the best prep player
in the nation his senior year at Clinton High
School in Mississippi. And when Michigan
coach Steve Fisher landed the No. 1 recruiting
class in 1994, Ward was the headliner.
Expectations were awfully high. Everything
came easily to Ward in high school. He was big.
He was agile. He could shoot the lights out
from behind the arc, and he could even play
center.
Everybody loved him. Especially Fisher, who
once thought Ward could be as dynamic a play-
er as Chris Webber.
You'd be hard pressed to find people who
think that any longer.
Most fans are frustrated. It would be easy to

1995-96 Statistics
G-GS FG-FGA Pct. PPG APG TO St.
32-29 132-332 .398 13.5 54 56 31

1995-96 Statistics
G-GS FG-FGA Pct. PPG APG TO St.
32-30 45-138 .326 4.5 155 85 47

By John Leroi
label Jerod Ward a bust if he had only shown
such futility in a full season. If only he had let
the Todd Lindemans and Jaime Feicks of the
Big Ten push him around for a couple of sea-
sons. If only the oft-maligned Willie Mitchell
had won Ward's starting position, then the fans
and the critics would be satisfied enough to call
Ward a failure.
But even though Ward hasn't looked very
sharp in two shortened seasons, his high school
credentials and very brief flashes of brilliance at
Michigan breathe wind into Ward's career - at
least in the eyes of outsiders.
Ward looked rather sloppy and intimidated in
his first season as a Wolverine. He averaged a
paltry six points per game and managed just
under 3.7 in nine Big Ten games. Last season
wasn't much better.
Both, of course, ended abruptly with knee
injuries - first, torn meniscus in his right knee,
then a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left.
It's impossible to blame Ward for his injuries,
and yet, so many people feel let down. Ward
feels about as uncomfortable talking about his
injuries as he does playing through them.
"I don't even pick up magazines and newspa-
pers anymore," Ward says. "I try to satisfy my
own goals, not other people's. I have to live life
for myself. I can't please other people."
The effects of multiple knee surgeries still
linger. Physically, Ward's knees still ache on
occasion. Mentally, and more significantly, he is
a bit hesitant on the court.
It's been a difficult process to overcome.
Surgery and rehabilitation can have their ill
effects, but to endure the agony twice in two
years to a basketball player is devastating, espe-
cially to a player of Ward's caliber.
"I'm not bitter," Ward says of his seemingly
bad luck with injuries. "It's upsetting and frus-
trating - I admit it - but I'm not bitter.
Everything happens for a reason. God must
have wanted me to become stronger off the
court."
But even though Ward says he can ignore all
of the outside pressure, it's not difficult to see
that the criticism takes its toll.
While expectations were lofty when he came
to Michigan, they are at least as high now.
Fisher is forced to rely on Ward to deliver the
scoring punch that many think he's lost.
Without White, Ward has no backup. When
he's off the floor, Fisher must resort to a three-
guard lineup or toss all three big men on the
floor at once.
The fans certainly won't let up. They can
read. They've seen Ward's statistics from high
school. They know the Naismith Award is no
chintzy hunk of metal. When Dick Vitale
speaks, fans around the country listen.
Ward hasn't had it easy from the start. Even
Webber didn't have to deal with pressure of
being a prep player of the year. He also had
Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard to relieve what-
ever strain there was. And while Maurice Taylor
and Maceo Baston are excellent players, neither
is as extraordinary as either Rose or Howard.

23
MAURICE TAYLOR
Height: 6-foot-9
Weight: 250 lbs.
Class: Junior
Position: Forward
Hometown: Detroit

Ward, a quiet kid from Mississippi, whose
parents are both ordained Baptist ministers, was
left to handle all the pressure by himself.
"He had a lot hype to live up to," says Ward's
frontcourt teammate Maurice Taylor, who has
enjoyed far more success as a Wolverine. "I was
lucky not to be under that sort of pressure."
It was no secret that Ward wasn't content in
Ann Arbor. He never criticized Fisher or his
teammates, but rumors often floated that Ward,
uncomfortable at Michigan, wanted to transfer.
In actuality, he had few thoughts of doing so.
And he isn't going anywhere soon. That
would mean giving up - something Ward
hates.
Still, Ward, conservative and quiet, is
a bit out of place in Ann Arbor during
parts of his first two years. His team-
mates are bold and brash. The town is
eccentric. Michigan is cold.

The bc
appointe<
doesn't h
All-Big 1
piece of t
A poor
doom foi
and prof<
fault that
his talent
"All I
ents," W

24
RON OLIVER
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 175 lbs.
Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard
Hometown: Little Rock, Ark.

It's even harder to fit in when you
haven't played in half your team's
games. Sure, Ward was often at
practice, but he was riding a
bike, shooting set shots or
rehabbing off the court.
Ward has friendships
with the other Wolverines,'
but he certainly doesn't
have a tight bond with any
player this year. His best
friend last season, who has
since departed, was student
manager Asher Stoller.
Ward even stuck around "
Ann Arbor this summer to
hone his skills and work at a
local law firm, but never once
did he step on the court with
his Michigan teammates.
"We all have our little cliques
off the court," Ward says. "I
guess I really don't click with
anybody. I'm just the kind of
guy, who, if you need me, I'm
there for you.
"I'm friendly with everyone
and they have all accepted the way
I am, just as I've accepted them way
they are. If we're going to win togeth-
er, we have to.
Whether Ward can help the
Wolverines win still remains to be seen.
It's hard for anyone, including Fisher, to
know what to expect. Even Ward says he
doesn't have the answers. He only wants
to get through the 1997 conference season
unscathed.
All Fisher knows is that another injury
would be devastating to the Wolverines.
Other than that, he is just trying to tap
Ward's potential, something that hasn't been
done since he arrived at Michigan.
"Jerod Ward has to have a big year," Fisher
says. "He ought to. He's healthy. He's
regained his confidence. We expect a lot."
Ward does too, but he knows others
may be disappointed with his perfor-
mance. He says that won't bother him
anymore.

1995-96&Statistics
G4S FG-FGA Pct. PPG RPG APG Bk.
32-32 194-380 .511 14.0 7.0 42 25

G-GS FG-FGA Pct. PPG APG TO St.
22-0 2-10 .200 0.3 2 4 2

> ..
Oki '

FILE PHOTO/Daily
Jerod Ward gets helped off the court after tearing
miniscus In his right knee his freshman season.

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