10B - The Michigan Daily - Tipoff'99 - Thursday, November 11, 1999
o Leon ones
6-foot-4, 195 pounds
Will they be good?
A first look at new Wolverines, new strategy
and the real question on everyone's mind
10 Darius Taylor
6-foot-4, 195 pounds
21 Ramal Hunter
6-foot-3, 160 pounds
22 Herb Gibson
6-foot-4, 189 pounds
By Mark Francescutti
Daily Sports Writer
It has a weird ring to it: 12-19.
Last season, Michigan stumbled
to its worst record in 18 years as a
lack of depth tired out the aging
Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe
will try to return his team back above
.500 and prove that last year was an
aberration, as he begins his third year
with the Wolverines.
Michigan adds five talented fresh-
men, all of whom can make an
instant contribution. The group led
by Ann Arbor prep star LaVell
Blanchard, marks Ellerbe's first
But the new faces aren't the only
addition to the Wolverines this sea-
son. New uniforms and a new style
of play give Michigan a look never
seen by the nation.
Ready to run - the motto devel-
oped for this season - will give
Ellerbe's quick freshmen the oppor-
tunity to run the floor and transform
Michigan games to a faster pace.
"We feel like we want to play up-
tempo basketball," Ellerbe said. "By
no stretch of our imagination are we
a power basketball team. We'd like to
extend our defense and our offense,
play a more of an up-tempo style,
because it's more conducive for the
personnel we have."
Blanchard will probably start,
because of the loss of junior
Brandon Smith to injury. With last
year's starting backcourt duo of
Robbie Reid and Louis Bullock
gone, freshmen guards Jamal.
Crawford and Kevin Gaines - both
Coach: Brian Ellerbe (third
Last season: 5-11 Big Ten
(T-9th), 12-19 overall
Key returners: Sr. C Peter
Vignier, Jr. F Josh Asselin
Losses: G Louis Bullock,
G Robbie Reid (52.6
percent of offense)
Nonconference tests: at
Georgia Tech Dec. 3, Duke
Make or break: Can five fresh-
men lift 'M' to a NCAA berth?
interchangeable at the one and two
positions - might also see a starring
Three freshmen in the starting
lineup might remind fans of the last
time so many freshmen got the start-
ing lineup nod - when the Fab Five
ruled Crisler Arena.
But while that era of Michigan
basketball is history, youth will again
highlight the Wolverines.
"We definitely lost two great play-
ers (in Bullock and Reid) last year,"
senior Peter Vignier said. "But the
freshmen have so much talent and
great skills for (guys) coming in."
The newcomers will have plenty
of help, especially in the frontcourt,
as the Wolverines return Vignier and
Even Chris Young is looking for a an answer as to whether the Wolverines
will return to prominence this season.
forwards Josh Asselin and Chris
Asselin broke out last year, adding
almost nine points and six rebounds
a game. Vignier will start at center
with Young providing the spark off
After struggling through the
toughest schedule in the nation last
season, the Wolverines take a bit of a
break, facing only a handful of tough
Michigan still plays Duke and
goes on the road to battle Georgia
Michigan also has more depth
than in past years. Freshman guard
Gavin Groniriger has a tremendous
three-point shot. The 6-5 guard,
along with the 6-6 Crawford and 6-4
Gaines, gives the backcourt a
tremendous height advantage over
smaller Big Ten rivals. The
Wolverines also can use Leon Jones
on the wing, especially with Smith
out until the Big Ten season.
Freshman Leland Anderson, a
strong 6-8, 245-pound forward, will
back up the frontcourt.
New is the word for Michigan,
but whether or not new is the answer
will only be seen on the court.
' ' 25 Josh Asseltn
treat III Basket
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6-foot-11, 230 pounds
34 Brandon Smith
6-foot-7, 200 pounds
Smith hopes to return
for Big Ten campaign
A'm isk *%-k Mk 41-,,
45 Chris Young
6-foot-9, 220 pounds
By Jacob Wheeler
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan basketball fans hope that
Brandon Smith's modeling appearance
before the Maize and Blue scrimmage
this past Saturday wasn't a career move.
While the 6-foot-7 forward certainly
looked like he was enjoying himself as he
strutted through a tunnel of cheerleaders
to unveil Michigan's brand-spanking new
uniforms, his natural role in Crisler
Arena is on the court, playing basketball.
Unfortunately for Michigan, an
injured right knee suffered during a pick-
up game over the summer will keep
Smith out of action at least until January.
"I definitely want to play," rather than
redshirt, said the junior, who enjoyed a
breakthrough year last season. "That's
the bottom line. As soon as they release
tie, I'll be ready to go. The knee won't be
a big problem, it's the question of how I'll
be able to contribute."
Smith may return for, or early in the
all-important Big Ten season, which
begins on the road against the Minnesota
on Jan. 5. But he may not be capable of
playing at full strength right away. And
that's a concern for this young, inexperi-
enced and guard-dominated Michigan
Until Smith returns, big men Josh
Asselin and Peter Vignier and reserve
Darius Taylor are the only players with
more than a year of experience in a
Michigan uniform. So his leadership on
the court will be clearly missed.
There is a small chance that, if Smith's
right knee doesn't recover in time to sal-
vage a substantial portion of the season,
he will redshirt his junior year and come
back healthy next season.
But Ellerbe and the coaching staff have
Jan. 1 circled in their calendars as the
return date for Smith. He is not yet play-
ing at full speed. but the Michigan brain-
trust is confident his recovery is moving
according to schedule.
"It's getting better," said Smith, with
optimism in his voice. "I've started
sprinting and shooting, and I go to the
football field to run because of the soft
surface there. I can slow down without
coming to a complete stop."
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55 Peter Vignier
6-foot-11, 255 pounds
Brandon Smith's knee injury this past summer left Michigan
with only three bonafide veterans on an inexperienced team.