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November 12, 1998 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-11-12

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B -- The Michigan Daily Tipoff '98 --Thursday, Nove ber 12, 1998

After losing gallons of talent from last season, Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe
have to get every drop of talent out of his players Call it a ...
By Rick FreemanF

cing an optimist, Brian Ellerbe would say
that his glass is half full. But most Michigan
basketball fans, steeped in pessimistic tradi-
tion, won't even say the glass looks a third full this
Traylor is gone, they say. There's no frontcourt,
they say. Defenses will collapse on Louis Bullock
and Robbie Reid and Michigan will finish closer to
the bottom than the top of the Big Ten, they say. And
those are the nice things.
"I think the big thing right now is to not draw
conclusions until you've seen the basketball team
play," Ellerbe has said to all of the pundits.
"Obviously, we've got some guys who haven't had
an opportunity to play. That doesn't mean that they

streets of Ann Arbor didn't grow
longer as they ran on them. It justs
seemed like it sometimes.
Especially on the one cold day
in October when not everyone{
made it around their two-mile
road course in enough time.
"Ohhh," Bullock groaned,
"It was rough.'
But there was no avoiding it.
With tired bodies made even
more miserable by the growing
cold, Bullock and his teammates
chased the clock around the course again.
"It was tough, because it seemed like it got a lit-
tle bit colder," Bullock said."The wind started pick-

can't play."
Ellerbe's an optimist, but
he doesn't pretend to know
the future.
He can look in his plan-
ner, and before him, his life
unfolds in sheets of paper.
But what isn't in his plan-
ner, what can't be in his
planner, are all the extra
moments, the ones that fall
through the cracks.
Like the scattered hand-

"I think the big thing
right now is to not draw
conclusions until ou've
seen the basketbal team
- Brian Ellerbe,
Michigan coach

ing up a little more and just
smacking you in your face.
"You're thinking to yourself, if
you don't make this time, he's
gonna make us run again. So
you're trying to give it all you got,
but your body is just at the limit.
But you know, we pushed through
it and everybody made it. You feel
good about yourself after some-
thing like that."
Bullock noticed how good he
too. Drills that used to leave him

ful of time he has when he comes off the floor after
practice at Crisler Arena. He often makes a recruit-
ing call from the phone by his locker. "It's very con-
venient," he said. And recruiting is one of those
things that he can't find enough otherwise lost
moments for.
Even at I a.m., Ellerbe will still be calling
recruits. It's only 10 a.m. on the West Coast, and he
likes to squeeze the most out of his day. Which is a
good attitude to have when you coach a team that
will return only three players with anything more
than limited experience.
Talent gushed from the pores of the Wolverines
of old. Now, Ellerbe will have to squeeze every last
drop he can out of his team.
His first step was trying to to sweat it out of them.
In seasons past, off-season training for the
Wolverines was done at their leisure. Ellerbe decid-
ed that he'd change things just a bit. When his team
returned in the fall, they were going to be in shape
and made spring workouts mandatory.
And hard.
In the thick heat of summer, their hardwood
dreams began to take shape on soft grass and artifi-
cial turf. The Wolverines ran distances on the golf
course, where the cross country team runs. They did
sprints on the field hockey team's home turf. And,
of course, they ran the steps of Michigan
While construction workers added sinew
and flesh to the stadium, the
Wolverines did some renovations
Up, over, down, over and up
again. All the way around in 15
-- minutes -or they had to run it
"Everybody made it," said
senior guard Louis Bullock
"Everybody made it because
nobody wanted to run it again.'
Especially not in a stadium that
grew as they ran in it. But at least the

sweaty Europeans, while not everyone's idea of self-
improvement, seemed to have instilled in the two
sophomores a toughness that as newcomers with
limited playing time, they might have lacked last
"I can definitely tell that Brandon and Josh got
better," Bullock said. "You can see the change in
them knowing that they're gonna have to be on the
floor and they don't have Robert Traylor or Maceo
to rely on to do well in the post, now it's their job.
"You can just tell that their attitudes have changed
knowing that they're going to be on the floor."
And so have their teammates' attitudes toward
them. Last season, they were just freshmen.
Now, they're starters.
"I think Brandon's got unlimited potential and
I'm excited for people to see that," senior guard
Robbie Reid said. "I can see his skills and abilities
The pounding the Wolverines took this summer
was preparation for the rough stuff they'll receive
this season, from both opponents and observers.
Not only Smith and Asselin, but every one of the
Wolverines will be setting screens like a TV factory
working three shifts.
And when it comes to physical play and you're
facing teams with more talent, it's better to give
than receive.
"I felt like one of the most important
w things for us was to get physical-
ly stronger and bigger so that
we can dish out some
things and not be the
recipient of those
sorts of things,'
Ellerbe said.
W e
want to
di s h

some punishment."
But despite such a sunny outlook on the season,
they know the line between the pulverizer and the
pulp in the Big Ten is a thin one. It's fine to talk
about improvement in the off-season and the possi-
bility of surprising some people. It's another thing to
actually do it.
"Do I think we have room to breathe?" Reid said.
"No." 1
"We have a young team, we've got an inexperi-
enced team. And we know that from day one we're
going to have to work and scrap for everything."
Ellerbe's schedule leaves little space - or time
- for breathing. And almost no time for eating. His
days begin only a few hours after the previous one
ends. Usually, coffee and a morning-long meeting
with his assistants starts him off, then practice and
more meetings take him to the early evening.
And that's when the chills come. Like ravens
coming home to roost, they serve as ominous
reminders. They keep him from forgetting the
neglect he's shown himself and his body.
"I get chills a lot, Ellerbe said. "I get chills at the
end of the day, around six o'clock or seven o'clock"
He smiled and shook his head.
"I'm bad. I don't eat right, I know it, he said.
"But I take vitamins.
"Psychologically, I think I'm meeting it halfway.
But it's so much to do. And you want to be there for
the players,"
Especially when the one who had been there for
them for so long is suddenly yanked away - the
way Steve Fisher was when he was fired.
During the turmoil, practice became a refuge for
Ellerbe, a place isolated from an outside world
swirling with rumors and ill will. A place for
"watching the guys work really hard. Watching
them work on something, seeing them execute it
and then watching their faces when they know they
did a good job."
It still is his refuge today. It's still what keeps him
going, what makes all the hungry, shivering night-
falls worth it, as well as all the late nights that follow.
"I'm gonna be up, regardless, this time of year,
because there's so many things swirling in my
mind," Ellerbe said.
And with his planner, he can sort those things out.
In his planner, he can control how the future should
be. He can plan for his team to be the surprise of the
Big Ten. But he can't do anything about the people
who have already relegated his team to a half-empty
- or worse - season.
"We don't need to be prodded by a newspaper
article or a radio show to get us geared up to work
hard. We don't need to be prodded in that way,"
Ellerbe said.
The stairs were enough. Ask Lou.

98 - The Michigan Daily - Tipoff '98 - Thursday, November 12, 1998
By Josh Kleinbaum
rian Ellerbe sits in his office, entertaining a reporter for the emphasized
B millionth time in his team's first week of practice, tension $ slower, half
and stress gripping his fae But the moment the words "3- Haley's con
pointer" escape the reporter's mouth, the stress slips away. At first,1
"Great topic," Ellerbe says, reaching across the table that sepa- and add the
rates him from his inquisitor. His large hand finds a scarlet-and- ed with the
white book and flips through it. He grins, then he points. tried a shor
Right there, under the heading of 'Field Goal Percentage - ~,, tL had a shor
Career' in the Rutgers basketball media guide, Ellerbe's name tops The AC
the list. Thurl Bail
goal percen
N .with it-
coach Ger
Ellerbe was stellar from long range at Rutgers, hitting better than went rema
42 percent of his shots from beyond arc, best in school's historyj3ut
he didn't shoot the bomb that much. "Coaches didn't know how to country bi
take advantage of the line then," Ellerbe explains. inches fron
That won't be a problem for the Wolverines this year. Although"twan
Ellerbe insists that the 3-point shot won't be emphasized this season people. So
any more than in past ones, he and his staff have been working toMh One oft:
"utilize the tools" he has at his disposal. And he has the tools to Michigan
make the trifecta a fixture in the Michigan game.rgt"e
The tools: Louis Bullock, Robbie Reid and Brandon Smith. The redet
three all have the ability to hit from outside, and they pose different Freein,
looks to opposing defenses. oi ,"
"We're such a guard-oriented team, the 3-point shot is going to WARREN ZINN/Daily shoot it."
have to be important," Reid says. "Me, Lou, Brandon, we're all Robbie Reid spotting up for a three will likely be a familiar sight In the f
going to have to hit shots from the outside to bring the guards out for the Wolverines this season. Bradley on
and open np the inside game." Now, Bullock, like Thomas, has a great outside shot, great ball- blanked fr
While Smith, a small forward, can shoot from long range, he handling abilities and complete confidence in himself. The best 3- first four
doesn't do it that much, preferring to drive to the basket. He can point shooter Bullock has ever seen? "Me, on a video tape,' he says. half. In the
still spot up from outside. Regardless, as any of Michigan's oppos- Reid followed one of Thomas' contemporanes, Larry Bird. Bird just 1-for-
ing coaches will tell you, Bullock and Reid are the two to watch. played on a Celtic team with several former Brigham Young players But the
Bullock is an opportunistic shooter. As one of the team's pri- that caught the young Mormon's eye. And once you were watching winning,
mary ball handlers, he utilizes screens and picks to get open the Celtics, you couldn't miss their superstar. NoDoz an
looks at the basket. He also uses his speed, of both foot and Like Bird, Reid has excellent range. And like Bird, if the game is Albeck sa
hand, to get himself open, with moves like a crossover dribble. on the line, Reid wants the ball. Frieder
Reid, on the other hand, is a straight shooter. He waits for "If you hit the shot, you're a hero. If you miss it, you're a zero, that season
the defense to collapse, then gets himself open, taking a Reid says. "I'm willing to take that chance." than 200 i
kick-out from the inside and spotting on a dime for the But a new challenge awaits the bombers this go-round. With the But the
three. He describes himself as a "scrappy" player, and also absence of a proven post game, open looks will be much rarer. people -
says he is very streaky. "When I'm on, I feel great," Reid Defenses won't leave Reid open for the kick-out. Opposing teams By the
says. "But when I'm not ..." won't give Bullock a second to breathe, let alone shoot. Wolverin
Both Bullock and Reid look back to throwback "If I were an opposing coach, I'd focus on me and Lou,' Reid the season
players, the greats of the '80's, for inspiration. said. "They know we're the only returning starters' 1986-87 i
Growing up watching Isiah Thomas play, The Wolverines have a solution to the problem, or at least they took 192
Bullock could relate to the Piston; both were think they do. They've been working on putting more picks and a national
short, playing against guys who were tall. To a screens in the playbook, and of all different styles, too. Set picks,
young Bullock, it didn't make a difference staggered picks, double screens, more screens from the big men, the
that, rather than playing against the NBA sliding screen door to the kitchen...
players Thomas had to face, he was As the
playing his cousins. To Bullock, it interview
was the same thing - his cousins second-ye
were taller. If Thomas could do Somewhere in between talking about picks and screens, Ellerbe tion: El
it, so could he. slips back in time. point con
"He was small and I Basketball was a different game in his day. It was more than a year "As Ion
was small;' Bullock after Ellerbe's 1985 Rutgers graduation that Gary Grant hit the first not on th
says. "He pushed Michigan 3-pointer from beyond the 19-foot-9 line. That's because beat him
me to be the NCAA didn't institute the arc nationwide until 1986. The
e D t better." Atlantic 10 was experimenting with the are, and Ellerbe benefited.
But the rest of the country didn't. As a result, players were much
more skilled from the nine-to-19-foot range than they are
Bullock today. Passing and dribbling were

Position: Guard
Best 3-point shooters ever seen: Pete
Lisicky, Chris Kingsbury, Trajan Langdon and
"Me, on a video tape."
On Ellerbe: "He has a good shot, actually.
But if we went head-to-head, I might only
win by, maybe, two - he is my coach, I
don't want him to take minutes away from
me. But if I wanted to..."
Most memorable 3-point shot: Bullock's first
shot of the game against Duke last year
was a 3-pointer. "I think that got me going,"
Bullock said, "and it got the momentum
going for us.


Position: Guard
Best 3-point shooter ever seen: Louis Bullock
On himself: "The guys always tease me me about my playing
career, so I don't even talk about it anymore. I just
leave the record book out and say, Read it."'
Most memorable 3-point shot: In the 1982-83 sea- a
son at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights were playingr
at Duquesne, trailing by two, with under 10 sec-
onds left when Ellerbe spotted up and hit a game-
winning trifecta. His good friend and former Duquesne coach Jimmy
Satlin still jokes with Ellerbe about the shot.


~.,-- ~-

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