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November 05, 2003 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-11-05

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4B - The Michigan Daily - Tipoff2003- Thursday, November 6, 2003
'He believed in me'
Recruits past and present know that Michigan coach Tommy Amaker will stand by them

The Michigan Daily - Tpoff
Seasoned Veteran
Bernard Robinson has experienced it all in his years at Michigan, and he's still here to tell about
By Dan Rosen Daily Sports Writer

In the spring of his junior year of high school,
Rasheed Dunbar's life changed.
Dunbar was a prospect with tremendous
potential. The 6-foot-2 guard from Marist High
School in Bayonne, N.J., was poised to become
one of the great college athletes of his class -
ranked as the top junior in New Jersey by hoop-
scoop.com. His performance against top recruits
in spring leagues in 1999 had college coaches
buzzing with excitement.
Dunbar received several college scholarship
offers during his junior year, including an offer
from then-Seton Hall coach
Tommy Amaker. While he had "The fact that
yet to decide on a college to me in the con
attend, Dunbar's future as a stu- In-feltre
dent-athlete looked bright.
Then, in late April, Dunbar becausel
and a friend were blindsided at intereste
a major intersection in West- (not just) as
field, N.J. While his friend - Rasheea
experienced only minor former AmaA
injuries, Dunbar suffered a
punctured lung, broken ribs, swelling of the head
and a fractured jaw.
In an instant, Dunbar went from being a hot
commodity to being unsure if he'd ever be able
play basketball again.
"There were some schools that pulled back their
(scholarship) offers because they didn't know how
I was going to turn out to be," Dunbar recalled.
Seton Hall wasn't one of those schools. Even
though Amaker knew that this prospect would
probably not play basketball for him, he didn't
give up on Rasheed Dunbar the person.
The Seton Hall coach chose to honor his schol-
arship offer to Dunbar.
"The fact that he ;
still stood by me,
in the condition I
was in - I felt
really good,
because he was
interested in me .
(not just) as

By Daniel Bremmer
a player," Dunbar said.
"I think that's a great example of Tommy's char-
acter and his commitment to people," recalled Fred
Hill Jr., who served as an assistant coach to Amak-
er at Seton Hall for three years. "(Rasheed) had a
scholarship, and he was going to be part of our
family, and we were going to help that young man
get an education and grow and develop as a human
Dunbar ultimately opted not to attend Seton
Hall. He went to Memphis, where he never played
basketball, and is currently attempting a comeback
at Division III William Patterson
e stood by University. But the fact that he had
ition Iwas the opportunity to attend Seton Hall
is a testament to Amaker's character.


early good,
he was
d in me
a player."
d Dunbar,
ker recruit

Vh en coach Mike Krzyzewski
recruits players to Duke, it's
like selling them a pristine convert-
ible. It looked good a few years back,
looks good now and will look good
for years to come.

For Amaker, selling a product like Michigan in
2002 - a former premier basketball school in the
process of rebuilding, but at the time, under
NCAA scrutiny - was like selling a broken down
sports car. Sure, it might look pretty nice down the
road, but in its present condition, it's somewhat of
a gamble.
The NCAA sanctions presented a huge test to
Amaker's recruiting skills - a test he passed with
flying colors.
Even though the program was dragged through
the mud by the Ed Martin scandal, Amaker landed
three top-100 freshman recruits - Dion Harris,
Courtney Sims and Brent Petway - combining for
a class commonly listed in the top 20 nationally.
And none of these recruits decommitted, even after
Michigan was slapped with a post-season ban.
"He's done a great job, especially with all the
stuff that's going on," said Krzyzewski, Amaker's
mentor and former coach. "First of all, he's never
made an excuse; he's handled everything with
class (and) dignity. And he's recruited well, field-
ing a really good team."
As part of his 2003 recruiting class,
Amaker lured Harris, Mr. Basketball in
the state of Michigan, away from Mis-
souri and Louisville. This marked the
first time a Mr. Basketball from Michi-
gan became a Wolverine since Robert
Traylor in 1995. Harris' decision to
become a Wolverine effectively ended
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo's
tyrannical reign over recruiting in
Sims, a 6-foot-10 recruit from
Roslindale, Mass., could have gone
to Syracuse, North Carolina, Con-
necticut or Kentucky.
But Sims chose Amaker. He
chose Michigan.
"If he wasn't here, I probably
wouldn't be here, either," Sims
Senior J.C. Mathis, a transfer
from Virginia, also chose Michigan
because of Amaker.
Amaker unsuc-
cessfully tried to
recruit Mathis to
Seton Hall years
ago, but that did-
n't end their rela-
tionship. They kept
in touch throughout the
years, and Mathis' con-
nection with the coach
was still so strong that the 6-

Daily Sports Writer
foot-8 forward transferred to Michigan last year,
unsure of whether he'd even get a chance to play in
the NCAA Tournament as a Wolverine.
Just playing for Amaker was a reward in itself.
"I trusted Coach Amaker, and that's why I came
here," said Mathis, who is eligible to play after sit-
ting out last season. "I like the fact that he believed
in me, and he's very honest, very truthful."
Harris, Sims and sophomore guard Daniel Hor-
ton also raved about their coach's honesty - a
quality that has been important to Amaker from
his days as a player at Duke to his coaching posi-
tion today. Amaker went through the recruiting
process himself as a prospect more than 15 years
ago and said that, at the time, what he wanted most
out of coaches was for them to "be straight" with
him. Remembering this, Amaker makes sure to tell
all his recruits the truth about the situation they are
entering and their futures at Michigan.
When Amaker traveled to Gary, Ind., to visit
with sophomore Chris Hunter and his family on a
recruiting trip, Amaker got up in the living room
and began to demonstrate defensive stances.
Hunter's parents were so impressed with Amaker's
honesty and passion for basketball that they
became a big influence on their son's decision to
go to Michigan.
"Coach Amaker is the type of coach that doesn't
just deal with the players; he wants to get to know
everybody, whoever encounters the players," said
Andre Barrett, Amaker's point guard at Seton Hall.
"If he knows you, he knows your mom, your dad,
how many sisters you've got, your brothers, where
you live ... he knows everything."
Players and fans alike find Amaker's style
refreshing in several ways. By becoming very
familiar with players' surroundings, the current
Michigan team would seem less vulnerable to
another Ed Martin-type scandal. In the 1990s,
then-Michigan coach Steve Fisher claimed he was
ignorant to his players' dealings while any wrong-
doing had occurred.
By bringing honesty to the table, Amaker
renews his commitment to viewing his recruits as
individuals and not as chess pieces in the game of
basketball. Amaker doesn't want to bring recruits
to Michigan who won't fit in with the program,
and by being upfront about everything, he is able
to avoid doing so.
en Amaker speaks, his words come out so
eloquently it's like he has rehearsed them
beforehand, even if he's just been caught off-guard
with a question.
He's confident, calm and poised at every
moment. When things heat up, Amaker stays cool.
The guy has probably never broken a sweat in his
life, except during his playing days at Duke.
Amaker even stayed cool in 2001, when his
final season at Seton Hall quickly turned from a
promising start into a disastrous finish. After a
lockerroom altercation in which then-freshman
Eddie Griffin allegedly punched then-senior Ty
Shine in the face, Amaker managed to guide the
Pirates through the situation.
While Seton Hall finished the 2000-01 season
dropping nine of its last 12 games, Barrett (a fresh-
man at the time) attributed the team's downfall to
the players on the court, not Amaker's coaching -
something Amaker was criticized for when he first
came to Michigan.
"As far as Xs and Os, and the several plays we
ran - those worked, with people who wanted to
make them work," Barrett said. "You have players
on the team where sometimes they feel like they're
being treated certain different ways. When they
step on the court, and they're rebelling against the
coach, that's when it's no longer in the coach's con-
trol. It's the players, and those players need to be
dealt with."

Amaker advises former Wolverine Chris Young.
Amaker knows that there will always be critics.
He just does his best to prove those critics wrong
on the court, not by defending himself with
"I'm very confident in my (coaching) ability
and the ability of our staff," Amaker said. "Given
what we've done at Seton Hall, and what we've
done here, I think we've proven that we have the
ability to take a program, rebuild it, turn it
around and win."
When Amaker left Seton Hall in 2001 to take
over as head coach at Michigan, many Pirates felt
deserted. It would have been easy for many of
Amaker's former players - including Barrett,
who was close to his coach at the time - to hold a
grudge against any other coach who left them.
But not against Amaker.
"I think there were hard feelings, when you
leave," Amaker said. "But I would've been even
more disappointed and hurt if (Andre) didn't feel
(that way), if we didn't cry together - which we
did. That's when you know you have something
special in a situation. It all comes down to people,
and so I'm very proud of the fact that I still have a
good relationship with Andre and other players
that I've had a chance to coach at Seton Hall."
Not only did Amaker and Barrett's relationship
continue when the coach left the Pirates, but the
two actually became closer.
"Any time that I need help with anything, I'm
always calling him, and I can rely on him to be
there" said Barrett, now a senior. "Anytime where
we're playing, and he sees that I'm playing well, or
anything, if he hears that I'm down, he'll call me
and talk to me."
If not for being deterred by sitting out one sea-
son (as per NCAA rules for transfer athletes), Bar-
rett might even be a Wolverine today.
In addition to Barrett, former Seton Hall guard
Shine also said that his opinion of Amaker didn't
change after the coach left the Pirates. Shine said
that he understood the opportunity that Michigan
presented to Amaker's career.
Forming relationships with recruits and main-
taining relationships with former players only
begin to show what Amaker is all about.
When Amaker looks at a recruit, he doesn't see
just a basketball player. Through all his experi-
ences, he knows that basketball is just a game and
that his players are made of more than just what
they bring to the court - which is why Amaker is
available to his players all off-season as well.
"He's a year-round kind of coach," said Hunter,
Michigan's center. "You can go in and talk to him
about anything, whether it's basketball or anything
else. I think it's good to have a guy like that."

The coach that recruited him was
fired. Almost everyone in his
freshman class is gone. He had
mononucleosis. He was suspended by
his new coach. The University banned
his team from the postseason. He plead-
ed guilty to two counts of misdemeanor
assault and battery. The NCAA banned
his team from the postseason, and then
reversed its decision.
And Bernard Robinson is still here.
The forward has experienced a lot in
his three-plus years at Michigan. This
past summer could have been Robin-
son's chance to gracefully exit and leave
it all behind. With the Wolverines fac-
ing a postseason ban for his final sea-
son, he could have headed for another
school or the pros.
"It never, ever crossed my mind,"
Robinson said.
Instead, Robinson stood up at a team
meeting last spring and was one of the
first Wolverines to say he wasn't going
"He was in a position where he had a
number of different options or things he
could have done," sophomore guard
Daniel Horton said. "He chose to stay
here and to be a leader and help us win.
With him making that decision, I felt
like myself and everybody else couldn't
just bail."
A class depleted, four years later
Two hours into one of Michigan's
draining preseason practices this sea-
son, Robinson takes a lonely jog across
the Crisler Arena floor while his team-
mates shoot free throws.
Coach Tommy Amaker lets the
Wolverines visit the water cooler in
class order. Robinson and forward
Colin Dill are the first two called, the
team's only seniors.
Robinson was one of six freshmen on
the basketball team in 2000-01 - the
second-to-last class of the Brian Ellerbe
era. Today, only Robinson and Dill
remain from that group.
Maurice Searight was the first to
depart, in May of 2001. The guard was
dismissed by Amaker for a "violation of
team policies" after a tumultuous fresh-
man year under Ellerbe.
Jermaine Gonzales also left the bas-
ketball team after his freshman year. He
chose to focus on playing quarterback
and wide receiver for the football team

instead of splitting time between the
two sports.
Center Josh Moore left in December
of that year after being declared aca-
demically ineligible.
Then, at the beginning of last season,
guard Avery Queen was dismissed from
the Wolverines just a day after the team
returned from a trip to the Virgin Islands
for the season-opening Paradise Jam.
Robinson still speaks with Queen and
Moore on a weekly basis.
"Those were good guys, but the
coaches felt that this wasn't the place
for them," Robinson said. "I'm still
here, and I'm glad I still have the oppor-
tunity to still be here on this team."
"I've been through a lot"
It has been a bumpy road for Robin-
son off the court as well.
Before he took the floor for Michi-
gan, Robinson was arrested with Queen
and sophomore Kevin Gaines on suspi-
cion of disorderly intoxication. Gaines
was dismissed from the team and
Queen and Robinson pleaded guilty to
being minors in possession of alcohol.
Then, Robinson contracted mononu-
cleosis the summer before his sopho-
more season. Although he played in all
29 of the Wolverines' games, Amaker
said that he was trying to play catch up
all year because of the time that he
missed in the preseason.
In April, the senior was arrested and
charged with three counts of fourth-
degree criminal sexual conduct. He was
accused of fondling a female student in
a stairwell of West Quad Residence
Hall. He later pleaded guilty to two
counts of misdemeanor assault and bat-
tery. He was sentenced to a year of pro-
bation and fined $850.
Robinson says he's matured from all
of his off-court woes.
"I definitely would have liked for
things not to happen," Robinson said.
"For me to say that I'd want to go back
and change them, it would be unrealis-
tic. Things happen. I just have to face
them and move on and act accordingly."
Wide-open horizon
In September, Michigan won its
appeal of the NCAA's postseason ban.
"It's like getting a new toy," Robinson

Robinson's experience will be a key factor for a team dominated by underclassn

Now, the senior will be a key leader
on a team with tournament aspirations.
"I expect everything from him, and
I'm not going to back off of that,"
Amaker said. "He knows that, and he's
the kind of player that does it all. Hope-
fully, he's going to be able to live up to
that standard that we've set for him to
be that kind of player and that kind of
Robinson's teammates have nothing
but praise for his game. They see his
ability to make plays on both ends of the
floor as critical to the team's success.
The 6-foot-6 forward should improve
on his 11.7 points-per-game average
from last season. His size combined
with his ability to handle the ball will
continue to cause a lot of matchup
problems for Michigan's opponents.
"He's going to have a terrific season,"
sophomore Chris Hunter said. "The
things that he's showing in practice, in
scrimmages and up in Canada, if he can
do those things during the regular sea-
son, the sky's the limit."
Robinson's biggest contribution may
be on the defensive end of the floor,
where he can wreak havoc. He was sec-
ond on the Wolverines in rebounds
(178), blocks (19) and steals (38) last
"He gives us athletic ability, both on
defense and offense, that a lot of teams
don't have," Horton said. "He has the
ability to guard the other team's best
player and come down and make plays
on offense, whether it's to score or pass
or do whatever."
Robinson's three years have also
given him the ability to teach his young
teammates about college life on and off
the floor. The Wolverines have 10

underclassmen on their roster this
son, making Robinson's voice
example that much more important
"(He told me that) we're b
watched all the time, (we're) in the
light," freshman Courtney Sims
"You've just got to always watch
you're doing all the time, even
things that other people might not
trouble for."
"We talk all the time," Horton
"We talk about stuff that happ
before I got here, about the prei
coaches before Coach Amaker gol
and things that are happening now.
just glad he stayed."

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