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September 03, 1997 - Image 71

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-09-03

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

obert Traylor s
adership lies
at the heart of
team s' strength
LM ightning nearly struck the
Michigan basketball team twice
in early May. After weathering
a storm of NCAA rules violations
and Hurricane NIT, Michigan bas-
kjtball coach Steve Fisher found
himself standing three feet high in
water in the Amazon during rainy
season without so much as an
umbrella.
The Wolverines' NIT title in
March was all Fisher could be proud
of by the first week in May. After a
*appointing season, where he had
to boot then-sophomore swingman
Albert White, one of Michigan's
brightest stars, off the team, Fisher
was staring at dismal sights.
Already one big man short after
senior-to-be Maurice Taylor decided
to take his 12 points and six-
rebounds-per-game to the NBA,
Fisher just watched Michigan's best
player and most
adept leader
walk out of his
office, ready to
follow Taylor to
the benches of
the NBA.
Robert Traylor
-OHN ta ehad blown
JOHQev erybody's
LEROUmind, especially
Out of Fisher's, decid-
und ing -after say-
ing he was
"I 10% sure" he
wouldn't join Taylor in jumping ship
- that he would leave Michigan and
declare himself eligible for the NBA.
A press conference was scheduled.
Nobody could believe it, but who in
the world except for Peyton Manning
holds a press conference to announce
that he is staying in college.
Ahe Detroit News got ahold of the
s ry two days before Traylor's press
conference. I wouldn't blame Fisher
if he leaked it himself. Traylor's
home in Detroit was flooded with so
many phone calls and inquiries from
family and friends in those two days,
that Traylor, a perceived target for
sone of the NCAA's investigations,
ultimately decided to stay at
Michigan.
Now Fisher at least has Traylor as
t umbrella. An awfully big
umbrella.
The Wolverines may be losing
some respect because of NCAA
rules infractions, some of which
involved Traylor. They may have lost
even more when Fisher offered a
scholarship to a community college
star from Flint, then revoked it when
they discovered he had plead no con-
to sexual assault almost a year
tier.
Fisher may be losing his recruiting
touch after a second-straight class
that is in the bottom third of the Big
Ten. The Wolverines may have lost a
terrific recruiter when assistant
.coach Scott Perry left to take the
head coaching job at Eastern
Kentucky.
They lost 12 points a game in
.lor, their starting power forward

season. But if the Wolverines lost
aylor, they would have surely lost
their sanity.
Amazingly Traylor, barely 20
years old, a man who still cries after
tough losses, a man who chose
Michigan in part because it was so
close to home, a man who isn't very
well spoken with the media, is the
glue that holds this team together.
Taylor's loss is relatively easy to
lover. He never became the star he
should have been. Some nights he
didn't even looked like he tried very
hard. One game the 6-foot-9 245-
pound Taylor was outrebounded, 9-1,
by Iowa reserve point guard Ryan
Luehrsmann, a 6-1 165-pound fresh-
man.
Taylor's best games came against
Northwestern and some exhibition
team from Australia that wore prac-
e uniforms for their scrimmage
Wainst the Wolverines. Those were
the only two games in which Taylor
scored more than 20 points this year.
Traylor's numbers were better: He
played better in the NIT (26 points
and '13 rebounds in the title game
against Florida State earned Traylor
the tournament MVP) and he is con-
stantly improving his game. He's
developing a good outside jump shot
d he is a phenomenal passer, with
amazing quickness for a man who
tips the scales at 300 pounds.
But Traylor is more to the
Wolverines than just numbers. He is
Michigan's only true leader. He was
a Michigan co-captain as a sopho-
more, a spot usually reserved for
inninrs or seninrs He never gives unn

BASKETBALL

The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 3, 1997 - 3F

Disappointments dunk'97
By John Lerol shadowed by questions about a 1997 Chevrolet The Dec. 8 victory over the then-No. 10 Blu
D l ,Cnt S A t d_ __!t- .1 .,__ _ _._

ue

aiy -)ports~ Eitor
Albert White: gone. Maurice Taylor: gone. Scott
Perry: gone. NCAA tournament: missing. Shane
Battier: never got here.
Robert Traylor: still here. Steve Fisher still here.
Controversy over NCAA violations: still here.
Michigan's basketball program underwent of its
most volatile and dramatic season since Fisher took
over for Bill Freider just days before the 1989
NCAA tournament and led the Wolverines to the
national championship.
The 1996-97 season ended in similar fashion. A
coach left - assistant Scott Perry took the head
coaching job at Eastern Kentucky after the season -
and the Wolverines flew back to Ann Arbor with
another championship, this time the NIT title.
The NCAA tournament's snub of Michigan
rocked the program almost as much as the
NCAA rules infractions the University admitted
to in early March. Since the report came out,
more disturbing news has surfaced, much of it
involving sophomore center Robert Traylor,
whose spectacular season on the court was over-

Suburban and his relationship with Detroit-area
booster Ed Martin.
Traylor decided to skip his last two years of eligi-
bility and head to the NBA, but changed his mind
the morning he planned to announce he was leaving
Michigan.
And all of this came after a season where junior
forward Maurice Taylor left for the NBA and Fisher
kicked sophomore swingman Albert White off the
team for violating team rules, before the Wolverines
even played a game.
Fisher fell out of fans' favor after landing his sec-
ond-straight sub-par recruiting class. The Wolverines
lost the best player in the state when Detroit Country
Day's Shane Battier choose Duke over Michigan and
Syracuse.
It was an interesting year to say the least.
Michigan (9-9 Big Ten, 24-1 1 overall) began the
season on a tear. Ranked as high as No. 4 in the
nation, the Wolverines were undefeated after an
improbable win over ACC champion Duke in
Durham, N.C., and an overtime squeaker against
eventual national champion Arizona.

Devils was the most amazing. Michigan was down
by 12 with 10 minutes left. Taylor had fouled out.
Duke was 103-1 against non-conference foes since
1983 on its home floor. Things looked bad.
But the Wolverines battled back behind a relent-
less defense that held the Devils without a field
goal over the games' final 10 1/2 minutes. All
Duke could muster was three free throws from
Trajan Langdon.
The 300-pound Traylor, who had shattered a back-
board in the Wolverines' first regular season game,
gave Michigan its first and only lead on a dunk with
six seconds left.
"We knew we could win all along," Traylor said
after the game. "This team has one huge heart. We
play together no matter what. When we were down
we all picked each other up.
"This is a unique team."
Traylor's statement proved prophetic. The
Wolverines stretched their record to 8-0 before enter-
ing the Maui Invitational as the tournament's only
top 20 team.
Michigan's season went downhill from there. The

season
Wolv erines dropped the tourney opener to unranked
Memphis, and squeaked by Washington State before
fallirg to lowly Pitsburgh.
And the disaster in Hawaii, which Fisher blamed
on young men playing in the sun more than on the
court, got worse. Michigan next let Ohio State walk
out of Crisler Arena with a 73-71 win to start the Big
Ten season.
Think that's bad? Michigan had No. 2 and unde-
feated Minnesota beat with 10 seconds left when
Louis Bullock coughed up the ball that allowed
Bobby Jackson to shoot crucial free throws. The
Wolverines lost that one, 55-54. A win would have
almost assuredly put Michigan in the NCAA tour-
nament.
Instead, the Wolverines, staring straight into the
face of the NIT, ruined their last shot of making the
big dance, blowing a 17-point lead at No. 21 Illinois
only to lose by 29.
Fisher closed the lockerroom after that game, just
as he did after the debacle versus Minnesota. Junior
point guard Travis Conlan was the only Wolverine
that had much to say: "When the crowd started
chanting, 'NIT,' it hurt."

A

BITTERSWEET

VICTORY

M' wins NI

after

missing NCAA bid

By Alan Goldenbach
Daily Sports Editor
NEW YORK - In a season that was as bit-
tersweet as any, Michigan used a sugar coat-
ing for the finishing touch.
Getting axed by the NCAA tournament
committee was not what the Michigan bas-
ketball team had in mind at the outset of the
season. But the Wolverines played the hand
they were dealt and felt somewhat vindicated
after taking home the NIT championship
March 27 with an 82-73 victory over Florida
State at Madison Square Garden.
"Nothing is more sweet than the smell and
taste of victory," Michigan coach Steve Fisher
said, "and we have that and we have it in fine
fashion."
The postgame talk centered around proving
the NCAA tournament committee wrong for
leaving Michigan out
of the 64-team field.
"Now some people N"
are saying that we Quill
should have been in m
the NCAA tourna-
ment," junior forwards
Maurice Taylor said.
"It's good to grab
something and put ito
back in their faces.
"Our goal was to Michigan be
be a champion. We
didn't know we'd be
in the NIT, but anything is better than noth-

season-high 28 on the offensive glass. Traylor
paced the the Wolverines' onslaught with 13
rebounds,
"They literally manhandled us around the
basket," Florida State coach Pat Kennedy
said. "I don't think I've coached a team in all
my 17 years that has been so physically
imposing as they are."
Michigan took control of the game late
in the first half on the heels of a 10-2 run
to go up 32-19 after a Louis Bullock 3-
pointer. The teams pretty much traded bas-
kets for the remainder of the half, and
Michigan went into intermission with a 41-
31 lead.
But the Wolverines came out of the locker-
room on fire, scoring the first eight points of
the second half on as a result of four Florida
State turnovers.

IiA
'4a
asi

SARA STILLMAN/Daily
Above: Brendan
Hughes dodges
past a member of
the Florida State
squad, en route
to the
Wolverines' 82-
73 victory.
Right: Forward
Maurice Taylor
moves to grab
the ball. Taylor
scored nine
points in the
NIT's champi-
onship game.

ing. We wanted to come home with some
kind of championship."
After beginning the season with an eight-
game winning streak, Michigan crashed and
burned once it hit the Big Ten season, going a
mediocre 9-9.
But ending the campaign winning seven
straight was all that this team could have
asked for, given the circumstances.
"We had our ups and downs throughout the
season," tournament MVP Robert Traylor
said. "But for the most part, we stuck togeth-
er as a team and just fought through the bad
times to be successful in the end."
Traylor equaled the career high he set
against Notre Dame earlier in the NIT, with
26 points against the Seminoles. For the tour-
ney, the sophomore center averaged 18.2
points in the five games.
The title somewhat broke the dark cloud
that hung over the Wolverines, which
stemmed from reports of NCAA violations
that surfaced when the tournament began.
"(Winning the NIT) shows a lot of charac-
ter of our team," Taylor said. "We didn't put
our heads down, stick in our tails and go
whining. We came out here to win the NIT
and we're playing our best ball of the season
down the stretch."
Michigan won the game on the boards, out-
rebounding Florida State, 47-28, including a

After Michigan went
up 54-37 less than six
- minutes into the half,
91 S Kennedy went to a
-h nhalf-court trap which
initially gave Michigan
fits. The Seminoles
were able to run off 12-
r!straight points over the
next 2:14 to cut the
- Steve Fisher deficit to only five
ketball coach points.
"The thing that
brought us back was
the half-court trap," Kennedy said. "We
couldn't defend them one-on-one around the
basket."
Michigan adjusted, although the Seminoles
did cut the lead down to two, 68=66, after a
pair of Corey Louis free throws at the 4:46
mark.
But the next few possessions sealed the
Seminoles' fate. Traylor came up with a hard-
fought layup to extend the lead to four.
Florida State then committed a pair of
costly turnovers, giving Michigan some
breathing room. Louis threw the ball over
guard Kerry Thompson's head, turning it
over to Michigan with 3:29 to go. Despite
stopping the Wolverines the next trip
downcourt, Traylor came up with the
defensive gem of the game, knocking the
ball out of Thompson's hands and off his
foot out of bounds, giving Michigan the
ball.
That possession culminated with a magnif-
icent alley-oop pass from Travis Conlan to
Taylor from behind the three-point arc.
Michigan was up by six with 2:26 to play and
Florida State's hopes were crushed.
Fisher gave a philosophical take at season's
end. "This is going to be two books. We're
closing the book on 1996-97, and we're start-
ing 1997-98. It gives us a jumpstart on next
season and makes us feel good about our-
selves."

Taylor leavmg M' for NBA asprations

By John Laro
Daily Sports Editor
Michigan basketball player Maurice Taylor
confirmed April 11, what most fans suspected
for quite some time - he gave up his final
year of eligibility at Michigan and entering the
NBA draft.
Surrounded by family and friends, Taylor
said at a news conference at Crisler Arena that
it was time to pursue his life-long dream of
playing professional basketball.
"Achieving a dream is somethina you can't

Fisher that he should stay because, in Taylor's
words, "I wasn't ready from the neck up'
But this year the conversation was a bit dif-
ferent. Taylor thought he had matured consid-
erably since the beginning of his junior season.
Fisher agreed but still encouraged Taylor to
stay. The two mulled over Taylor's decision
over Whoppers at Burger King.
"He drove and he bought," Fisher said. "I
said I want to talk first and I said, 'I don't want
you to go. Now let's list reasons why you
should stay' So I took out a nad and I said.'You

it didn't hurt that the Wolverines won the tour-
nament title in his last game.
"Winning the NIT title played into my deci-
sion because I played so well," Taylor said.
"There is a saying that you're only as good as
your last game, and now everybody can say
that Mo Taylor went out a champion"
Taylor, the fourth Wolverine since 1993 to
leave school early, said he expected to be one
of the top 15 picks in the NBA Draft.
Taylor's teammates said the team supported
his decision to enter the draft. Michigan co-cap-

, __

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