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March 04, 2003 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-03-04

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0

Tuesday
March 4, 2003
michigandaily.com
sportsdesk@umich.edu

SPORTS

8

Aloha means

Beer Pong: College's
competitive outlet

Hometown boys saying
good-bye to Ann Arbor

By Naweed Sikora
Daily Sports Editor

Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan
seniors LaVell Blanchard and Rotolu
Adebiyi couldn't wait to become
Wolverines. Now they wish they didn't
have to leave.
The two seniors, along with Michi-
gan's third senior Gavin Groninger,

will be playing
their final two reg-
ular- season games
for Michigan this
week. And with the
self-imposed sanc-
tions in effect, their

off"
B °

Michigan careers will end after the Big
Ten Tournament.
"This season means a lot to LaVell,"
said Adebiyi, who is finishing his fifth
season with the team. "I've known him
since the ninth grade, we grew up in
Ann Arbor together; and we played
together all the time, and basketball is
very important to him."
Adebiyi says the two haven't talked
about post-graduation and what awaits
both of them in the future.
"We know it's going to come, so we
just leave it alone," said Adebiyi.
"Right now we are just trying to focus
on basketball."
Living in Ann Arbor, Michigan bas-
ketball was always a big part of the two
players' lives. Besides playing in high
school, they loved watching the Wolver-
ines compete on the court.
"Growing up here, you see it all the
time," said Adebiyi. "I was good friends
with (former Michigan coach Steve)
Fisher's son, so I was always around the
atmosphere and we were always cheer-

ing for the team. To say I was a part of it
and a captain is special for me."
Since arriving on campus four years
ago, Blanchard has been Michigan's
most dependable player. Even though
his years at Michigan were during tough
times for the program, Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker feels his captain's devo-
tion has helped build a strong founda-
tion for the future - even though he
won't be here.
"It's LaVell's team," Amaker said.
"He's played outstanding basketball for
us all season. He's been part of some
significant wins this season, and I'm
proud of his development here.
"I think the freshman look to him and
respect him. He really likes the younger
players in terms of friendship, and I
think he sees himself in them."
Blanchard, who has been considered
a candidate for the All-Big Ten Team
and Big Ten Player of the Year, was
quick to praise his coach for how
much he has improved.
"He's taught me so much," Blanchard
said. "Before, I was mainly a scorer and
a rebounder, but he really emphasized to
me that you have to play the whole
game. He's a great person, and he's done
so much for me."
Blanchard also said that he hasn't
focused on life after school and basket-
ball just yet.
"Right now, I'm focused on being in
college and enjoying my life, because
it's getting down to just a few weeks
now, Blanchard said.
ON THE LOOSE: Michigan freshman
Lester Abram has found his rhythm, and
it shows. Abram has averaged 15 points
over his last four games, and is becom-
ing the consistent producer that he was

DAVID KATZ/Daiy
LaVell Blanchard, along with fellow Michigan seniors Gavin Groninger and Rotolu
Adebiyi, is playing in his final two regular season games this week.

JEFF PHILLIPS
Ramble on

supposed to be. The freshman credits his
success to being more aggressive with
his shot and finding scoring opportuni-
ties during games.
"During the 13-game winning streak,
everything was working so I wasn't
looking for my shot as much," Abram
said. "But as soon was we lost a couple,
I realized that I could be more aggres-
sive on offense and take my defender to
the basket more often."
Amaker says that Abram has had an
outstanding freshman season, and his
toughness on the boards down the
stretch has been instrumental for Michi-
gan's success this season.
RONALD SAYS No!: Incoming freshman
Dion Harris, who is a candidate for Mr.
Basketball in the state of Michigan, was

left off the McDonald's All-American
roster. Both Blanchard and freshman
Daniel Horton were McDonalds All-
Americans.
Abram, who played against Harris
growing up in Michigan, found the deci-
sion surprising.
"It was strange, because I thought he
was the best player in the state," Abram
said. "He might be Mr. Basketball,
which means he would be the best play-
er in the state, but get left out of the All-
American game."
Two Michigan high schoolers,
Brandon Cotton (St. Martin Depor-
res) and Olu Famutimi (Northwest-
ern Edison) made the roster. Cotton
will be attending Michigan State
next season.

Joe Louis Arena crowd welcomes back Kaleniecki

By Dan Rosen
Daily Sports Writer

Michigan freshman Brandon Kaleniecki came back
to the lineup this past weekend against Michigan
State, and while he made his official return on Friday,
he was truly welcomed back on Saturday.
The Livonia native hit the ice for the first time in

three weeks and a row of his family
members were perched in the upper
reaches of Joe Louis Arena to cheer
him on. His younger relatives even
brought out signs proclaiming their
love for "The Pitbull."
"I've got a lot of cousins and

$0°11

with a wristshot early in the third period. The tally put
the Wolverines up 5-3 early in the third period and
proved to be the eventual game-winner in the 5-4 vic-
tory. He is now in a three-way tie for second on the
team with 12 goals.
"He'll add some offense to our team, definitely,"
Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "He's playing
hard; and it was good to see him score a goal on
Saturday."
Kaleniecki, who skated Monday with a small group
of others, was relieved that he didn't take too much
flack from his teammates for the fan club.
"They don't really see the signs too much, so that's
kind of good," Kaleniecki said.
STILL HOBBLED: Sophomore Milan Gajic suffered a
knee injury Friday night in Ann Arbor, and he was
forced to watch Saturday's game from the stands. His
status for this weekend's duel with Ohio State is still
up in the air.
"Right now, he'll probably skate (on Tuesday),
but I'm not counting on him (for the weekend),"
Berenson said. "I don't know that if he's healthy by
the middle of the week, whether I'd take him (to

Columbus) anyway."
Gajic has been paired with fellow sophomores
Jason Ryznar and David Moss for one of Michi-
gan's most consistent groupings this semester. On
the season, Gajic has 18 points on nine goals and
nine assists.
DOWN BUT NOT OUT: While other media publica-
tions have written that Ferris State has clinched a
share of the CCHA regular season title, Berenson
pointed out that there can't be a tie.
The Wolverines now trail the Bulldogs by four
points in the standings. If Ferris State was to lose both
games at Bowling Green this weekend, that would
open the door for Michigan to pull even.
According to Berenson, the first tiebreaker would
be overall conference wins, which would be even
between the two teams. After that, it would go to the
head-to-head series, which the teams split. Then it
would move to the number of goals that each team
scored during the head-to-head series. The Wolverines
hold a slight edge in that category, with a 9-8 lead.
"That would be a longshot," Berenson said. "But it
still is a possibility."

en I blew out my knee in
January, I thought my days of
college competition were over.
All my dreams of an IM basketball,
mini-soccer or another softball champi-
onship were down the tubes. My friends
told me I should come watch and cheer
them on, but that's like being invited to
Thanksgiving dinner and instead of eat-
ing, you're tortured by your family's life
updates while your stomach acid eats
away at you. No thanks.
Luckily, my competitive fire was
revived when I was informed of the
greatest thing to happen to Mondays
since Monday Night Football: Beer
pong at Touchdown's. My favorite
part about tailgating finally found a
home during the offseason. It is the
great equalizer amongst men (and
women, who have been doing quite
well). No matter how big or how
small, how athletically gifted or inept
the players are, they can still be com-
petitive. For me, the game combines
all of my skills (drinking beer and
throwing ping pong balls into cups)
into one perfect game.
Everyone has their own house rules,
and in case you are curious, I will
briefly break down those at Touch-
down's. If you and your partner both
make the ball in different cups, you
get them back, and those two cups are
removed. If you make them in the
same cup, then three cups are
removed, but you don't get the balls
back. You re-rack cups when six, four
and two cups remain.
Inside, the setup is incredible. It is a
32-team, single-elimination tournament,
played on the main floor on eight tables,
with a T-shirt going to the quickest fin-
ished game and a gift certificate to
Jimmy's Sgt. Pepper's to the winner. All
this goes on with tailgate music blaring
(meaning ample amounts of AC/DC
and Guns 'N Roses). Even if beer pong
isn't your thing, you can still have fun
downstairs, where another tailgate
favorite, flip-cup, takes over for the los-
Season can
still have
meaning for
youthful 'M'
BY DANIEL BREMMER
ON WOMEN'S HOOPS
The 2002-03 season has been an
embarrassment for the Michigan
women's basketball team. But heading
into the Big Ten Tournament on Thurs-
day, some positive things still remain for
the Wolverines to play for.
Looking back on Michigan's confer-
ence season, there are some moments
that exemplify its shameful season. Fol-
lowing losses to Penn State and Michi-
gan State, Michigan proceeded to drop
decisions to two beatable teams in Wis-
consin (5-14 overall at the time) and
Iowa (3-6 in Big Ten play at the time).
After four straight losses, seeing
Northwestern - a team that had lost 10
straight games - on the schedule
should have been a relief for Michigan,
which headed into Evanston on Feb. 9.
But to Michigan coach Sue Guevara's
dismay, her team managed just 12 first-
half points - a total which would've
been just nine if not for a 3-pointer to
close the frame -- andallowed the
Wildcats to string together a 31-0 run in
the process. The result: 67-38 loss to a
team that had been the laughing stock of
the Big Ten for years.
When it looked like things had hit
rock bottom, they only got worse.

Michigan's sixth-straight loss came to
Wisconsin on Feb. 13, and then Michi-
gan State came to Ann Arbor on Feb. 16.
In front of more then 4,400 fans at
Crisler and a national audience, the
Wolverines came out sluggish and were
easily dominated. The score was 32-6
before you could even spell the word
embarrassment and the team never irot

ers of beer pong.
In the first week, we crashed and
burned in the second round - it wasn't
pretty. But the week after our shocking
exit, we came back with a vengeance.
We began with my partner, Andy,
again making about 90 percent of the
cups in the first two rounds, and with
me crying about how the cups were too
stiff, small and red. By the next round,
though, we were on. Andy no longer
needed to carry me, so I took the brace
off his back and began making cups. We
had so much momentum that our easi-
est matches were our final two.
Sadly, those two matches were
against our friends. I would have been
happy just to have one of us win, but I
was even happier that we won. I repaid
Andy by actually making the cups at the
beginning, and he nailed the final ones.
This was teamwork in the truest sense
of the word. I wish I could go back and
rewrite those high school athletics
essays with this in mind.
With the victory, I have changed my
resume and sent updates to the graduate
schools I've applied to. The congratula-
tory letters are no doubt currently en
route to my house. I'm petitioning the
IM department to print "2002-03 Beer
pong champions" T-shirts. If the IM
department comes through, my family
will need to cut it off my body before
I'm buried with it.
Surprisingly, the University has yet
to ask us to speak at graduation. Still,
we have the responsibility of being
marked men. Every game we play, peo-
ple want to take down the champs. I
used to wonder why NBA players never
go play street ball in the summer, but
now I know. There is no incentive to
win other than to save face. It's not like
I'm going to stop playing outside of the
tournament, but I'm sick of hearing
things like, "We beat the champs!" and
"You only won because (fill in the
blank)."
I'm not too concerned though. After
two weeks of competing, we have our
ring, and there is nothing anyone can do
about it. I expect to form a Duke-like
dynasty and by the time you finish
reading this, I am confident that we
have pocketed our second consecutive
championship.
-Jeff Phillips would like to thank Colin
Fowler for making all of this possible. Jeff
can be reached atjpphilli@umich.edu.

01

they know that I don't like that, but they do that
just to spite me," Kaleniecki said jokingly.
The forward suffered a high-ankle sprain on Feb. 7
against Northern Michigan when Wildcats' goalie
Craig Kowalski fell on him. He had tried to make it
back for the Feb. 21-22 series with Nebraska-Omaha,
but his ankle didn't recover quickly enough.
The freshman made his presence felt this Saturday

0

get into a real

ALYSSA WOOD/Daily
Forward Jennifer Smith will look to help
Michigan salvage its season on Thursday.
three of those four games, its safe to
say that even pride is out the window,
along with almost all chances of a
post-season berth.
A WNIT bid is now out of the ques-
tion, because the Wolverines would need
to win four tournament games in a row
to pull its record above .500, which
would mean winning the Big Ten Tour-
nament and therefore an automatic
NCAA Tournament berth. True, that
scenario is possible, but highly improba-
ble, that Michigan would be able to beat
first-round opponent Illinois on Thurs-
day, then Purdue on Friday, and still have
to win two more games against the likes
of No. 14 Penn State, No. 13 Minnesota
or Ohio State, all of which have beaten
Michigan twice this season.
But instead of looking at the season as
a complete loss and giving up at the Big
Ten Tournament, the Wolverines need to
look at the tourney and wipe the slate
clean. The team needs to forget about
the embarrassing end to its regular sea-
son and focus on making something out
of nothing. And while they may not be
able to win the whole tournament, com-
ing home with a victory would still ben-
efit the team just the same.
Winning a game or two would mean
more to the team than just a 'W' in the

9

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