November 5, 2003
Burnett makes ho-hum debut
Let'sfocus on Cavs'wins,
not James'windmill dunks
By Josh Holman
Daily Sorts Writer
Cheryl Burnett made her first
game appearance on a court as the
Michigan women's basketball
coach last night, but not to much
hoopla - it was just an exhibition
mat chup AT9 EESZN CT"N =
against MIlHIGA - 78
in Action. The Wolverines won,
78-71, and Burnett insisted she
wasn't nervous about her first
"I really look at it like prac-
tice," Burnett said. "I wasn't real-
ly very nervous."
There certainly was no
pageantry to usher in the Burnett
era, but the 1,002 in attendance
could tell that something had
changed. Athletes in Action
opened up with a zone defense
that Michigan had barely pre-
pared for, and that defense stifled
the Wolverines for much of the
But for an eight-and-a-half
minute span in the second half,
the Wolverines showed what they
might be capable of Burnett style.
Burnett turned on her scramble
defense, and Michigan began
pressing players and cutting off
passing lanes with great urgency.
The run-and-gun defense led to
I I steals and coast-to-coast buck-
ets by speedsters like juniors Sier-
ra Hauser-Price and Tabitha Pool.
"Today I was trying to get a
feel for it," Hauser-Price said. "I
wanted to push it more than I
actually did, so I'm looking for-
ward to improving in the next
Senior center Jennifer Smith
even took a steal cross-court. She
missed the layup, but Pool
cleaned up the rebound.
Smith led the team with 29
points and 12 rebounds. She also
posted 36 minutes, a sign of
some worry in a defensive
scheme with so much movement.
If she continues to run the break,
it might take a lot to keep from
"I'm ready for it," Smith said.
"I stayed here all last spring and
summer conditioning myself and
trying to get stronger."
Pool posted 22 points and 12
rebounds, although the most
memorable moment of her night
may have come on a botched
behind-the-back pass to Hauser-
Price that earned her a spot on
the bench next to Burnett.
"She said, 'Make a better deci-
sion,' and I know it was the
wrong decision to make," Pool
said. "I just had to redeem
myself and go back out there and
Burnett tried to laugh off the
play with Pool on the bench, not
wanting to ruin such a jovial mood
so early in the season. In fact, that
mood was best exemplified bythe
informal meet-and-greet the play-
ers hosted after the game.
"I told my players to go in the
stands and tell everyone, 'Thank
you for being here,' " Burnett
said. "And tell them, 'Next time
bring ten with you."'
Michigan's Tabitha Pool brings the ball upcourt in last
night's 78-71 exhibition win over Athletes In Action. It
was Cheryl Burnett's first exhibition as head coach.
Netters ready to defend Varsity Tennis Center
By Jamie Josephson
Daily Sports Writer
Some of the nation's best female ten-
nis players are headed this way.
This weekend, the Michigan women's
tennis team will end its fall season by
hosting the 2003 ITA National Indoor
Tennis Championships for the first
time. The tournament will take place at
the Varsity Tennis Center after being
held at Southern Methodist for the past
As the host, Michigan gets two wild-
card entries. Coach Bitsy Ritt chose
freshman Liz Exon for singles and the
doubles tandem of Michelle DaCosta
and Leanne Rutherford.
"Our goals are to be prepared and
perform well," Ritt said. "It's an out-
standing challenge and opportunity to
play great competition at home"
Exon (9-2) already has a tournament
win, from the Wolverine Invitational on
Oct. 5. She posted the Wolverines' best
performance at the ITA Midwest
Regional Championship, defeating
three foes before a quarterfinals loss.
A humble Exon explained that she
has no expectations entering an event
with such challenging competition.
"These are the top tennis players in
during the past two years in every dual
match and tournament.
the nation," Exon said. "I
want to represent Michi-
gan the best I can, and
who knows what can hap-
pen. It is just an amazing
The junior duo of
DaCosta and Rutherford
comes into its wildcard
position having split a
pair of doubles matches
ITA National Indoor
Varsity Tennis Center
"Leanne's play at the
net and my big serve will
help us," DaCosta said.
The other competitors
qualified for the tourna-
ment with wins in ITA
events, including the ITA
where Michigan came up
short in individual play.
The 32 singles players
and 16 doubles teams
Goin' to work
think I finally figured out why I
haven't jumped on the LeBron
No, it's not jealousy
OK ... it might be a little jealousy.
But the main reason that I haven't
rushed out to buy that horrendously
overpriced James jersey, or why I could
care less if James' Cleveland Cavaliers
are on TV, is that James has become
bigger than the game.
And I hate that.
It's one of the biggest reasons I never
got behind Michael Jordan, and why I
can't bring myself to root for the Shaq
and Kobe (and Karl Malone and Gary
Payton) show in L.A.
Heck, it's one of the reasons the NBA
is at the bottom of the list when it
comes to the professional sports
leagues that I get interested in.
All last year, we sat and watched in
astonishment at the things James could
do. The phenom playing against aver-
age-talent high school kids looked like
the scene from "Billy Madison" where
a fully grown Adam Sandler dominates
a group of first graders in dodgeball.
He was that much better.
So everyone sat on the edge of their
seats waiting for James to make the
jump to the pros. And he hasn't disap-
pointed now that he has hit the NBA -
there's little question that this teenager
has incredible amounts of talent, espe-
cially for someone his age.
Every night on "SportsCenter",
there's five minutes of James' high-
lights. He's got endorsement deals,
league-leading jersey sales and sky's-
the-limit potential. But what always
seems to get left out is that he's also
(GASP!) got teammates. For whatev-
er reason, no one likes watching good
teams play anymore.
The Detroit Pistons got some of the
lowest TV ratings in the league last year
because they don't have any superstars.
The Anaheim Mighty Ducks-New Jer-
sey Devils matchup in the Stanley Cup
Finals last season had NHL executives
pulling their hair out because no one
wanted to see good, defensive hockey.
Why watch the Florida Marlins or
Minnesota Twins play baseball when
you could flip the channel and watch
Jason Giambi or Barry Bonds hit the
ball out of the Earth's orbit?
Call me old-fashioned, but when it
comes right down to it, I'd much rather
see a team pull out a difficult victory
than see James throw down 10 dunks in
a Cavaliers' loss.
That's why so many people prefer
college basketball instead of the NBA.
Those late-season games from confer-
ences you've never heard of like the
SWAC or the Patriot League can turn
out to be some of the best contests of
the year, because you don't have to
worry that every extra. second of TV
time will be spent showing one player,
like NBC loved to do when the Jordan-
led Bulls were playing.
Like I mentioned earlier, the over-
whelming media attention was one of
two reasons I never could get behind
Jordan when he was around (the second
being that the Pistons should be every-
one's favorite team). It didn't matter
how good of a year Scottie Pippen was
having or how many 3-pointers John
Paxson managed to hit - when the
Bulls were on, all eyes were focused
squarely on Jordan.
Honestly, do you think that as many
people watched the Bulls in that brief
span that Jordan played baseball as after
he came back?
But, I'm sure you're thinking, why
would we watch when Jordan wasn't
there? He was exciting-hecould
make shots from every spot on the court
and defy gravity when he dunked. And
the Lakers are fun to watch because
Shaq and Kobe are so dominant. And
James is a freak of nature.
Fine. I understand. You're never
going to hear me dispute the talent of
any of these athletes (except maybe
Shaq). What these athletes can do is
absolutely beyond belief sometimes.
But the NBA is closing in on not
really being a league anymore. It's get-
ting to be James, Shaq, Kobe, and then
Sure, there are great players in col-
lege, but when it comes right down to
it, it's North Carolina, Michigan or
Duke. People watch 'those games
because they have a vested interest in
who comes out on top.
In the current NBA, just like when
Jordan was around, the result isn't near-
ly as important as how LeBron did.
It's probably not going to change. So,
enjoy watching LeBron dribble behind
his back and throw down dunks.
If you don't mind, I'll just keep
This doubles tandem played together
include top seeds from California,
Northwestern and Vanderbilt.-
"Competition doesn't get much better
than this," Rutherford said. "It is a huge
honor to play at home for Michigan."
Ritt told the players to approach this
event as a challenging opportunity. She
noted that the girls have a better chance
of playing well if they are relaxed going
into the tournament.
"We just want to go out there and
have fun," DaCosta said. "But we can
compete, and we deserve to be in this
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