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November 05, 2003 - Image 13

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-11-05

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-The Michigan Daily - Tioff2003- Thursday, November 6, 2003

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The Michigan Daily - Rooff2003-

The P,-" --Di. l noff 20v-

THE
MICHIGAN
DAILY
BASKETBALL
WRITERS'
PRESEASON
PICKS

Daniel Bremmer

Chris Burke Bob Hunt

Michigan regular season record

19-8

18-9

20-7

20-7

Big Ten eonference ampion Wisconsin Michigan StateI
Big Ten second place Michigan State Illinois

Wisconsin Michigan State
Michigan State Michigan

Big Ten third place Wllcblgan Purdue Michigan llinois
Michigan finish 3rd 4th 3rd 2nd
Michigan Player of the Year Daniel Horton Bernard Robinson Daniel Horton Bernard Robinson
Michigan Freshman of the Year Courtney Sims Courtney Sims Courtney Sims Brent Petway
ig Ten Tournament Champion indiana Michigan State Mch.g:R Wisconsin
Big Ten Player of the Year Dee Brown (Ill.) Bracey Wright (Ind.) Daniel Horton (Mich.) Chris Hill (MSU)
Nattanal Player of the Year Ray Felton (UNC) Ric~y Paulding (Mizzou) Hakim Wrick (Sy .) Emeka Okaf r (UConn)
National Coach of the Year Bill Self (Kansas) Tom Crean (Marq.) Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) Roy Williams (UNC)
Best conference ACC Big 12 ACC Big East

I

Surprise team

Xavier

Most disappointIng team Missouri
Best mascot Syracuse
Worst mascot Notre Dame
NCAA Final Four Connecticut
(champion in bold) Duke
Kansas
Michigan State

Bradley
Western Kentucky
llinois
Connecticut
Duke
Michigan State
Missouri

Southern Cal.
Aubumr
Syracuse
Tennessee
Duke
Florida
Gonzaga
North Carolina

Marquette
Texas
Gonzaga
Stanford
Arizona
Connecticut
North Carolina
Syracuse

By Bob Hunt Daily Sports Writer BRETT MOUNTAIN/Daily

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This season, J.C. Mathis is going
to be a leader. He'll be a player
who speaks up in practice, a
player who scratches and claws for
every rebound and a player who stays
upbeat in even the most trying times.
He'll walk onto the floor as a Michigan
captain.
And yet he's never played a regular-
season game as a Wolverine.
The 6-foot-8 forward was never sup-
posed to put on a Michigan uniform.
After playing for his father at John F.
Kennedy High School in the Bronx,
N.Y. Mathis decided to play at Virginia
in the ACC, a conference he had
watched on television since he was
young.
At first it looked as if he was going
to star there. Mathis played in every
game his freshman year and put in a
season-high 24 minutes in the Cava-
liers' one-point loss to Gonzaga in the
first round of the NCAA Tournament.
He was named the team's most
improved player.
But as his sophomore season went
on, Mathis' spot in the starting lineup
dissolved as his future in the eyes of
coach Pete Gillen began to fade. So
much so that he believed that transfer-
ring was the only way that he was
going to see major playing time, even if
he had to sit out a year to do it because
of NCAA transfer rules.
"I didn't know where I was going to
go," Mathis said. "I just knew I wanted
to go somewhere else."
It was made official that May. Math-
is was released from his scholarship,
hoping that someone would give him a
chance. One of the coaches that gave
him that chance was Tommy Amaker.
Amaker had recruited Mathis when he
coached at Seton Hall, and he figured
that Mathis could add experience to a
team that didn't have much.
"He's a communicator," Amaker said.
"He's very intelligent, very bright, very
aware. Those are things that I have
always liked about him as a player."

There was a catch, however, as
Amaker didn't have any scholarships to
give. He did promise Mathis he would
grant him a scholarship for the follow-
ing year. Mathis eventually decided
that playing for Amaker was worth
having to pay his own way.
So Mathis came to Ann Arbor and
had to sit on the sidelines during the
self-imposed sanctions, the six-game
losing streak, the 13-game winning
streak, the end-of-season deterioration,
the NCAA sanctions and the appeal.
But during it all, Mathis was there to
support his new teammates.
"Whenever we came back from an
away game, whether we won or lost
and everybody's sore and tired, he'd
always be ready to go," sophomore for-
ward Graham Brown said. "He'd be
yelling, and he'd always get us ready to
come to practice."
Mathis found his role most trying
during the Wolverines' defeats.
"It's difficult sitting on a bench dur-
ing a game and thinking maybe I
could have helped in that situation,"
Mathis said.
Mathis got through the situation with
the help of his teammates and his fami-
ly. He is close with his former coach
and father, Johnny, as well as his broth-
er, Jarrett, a senior at Berkshire Acade-
my in Massachusetts.
"In a perfect world, (my father)
would still be my college coach too,"
Mathis said. "I enjoyed the experience
that much."
Johnny Mathis still tries to see as
many of his sons' games as possible, as
he was in attendance for the Maize and
Blue Scrimmage. Jarrett is currently
considering many Eastern schools,
such as Rutgers, Villanova, Princeton,
Fairleigh Dickinson and Columbia, but
J.C. is unable to see his games.
"I try to help him as much as I can,
he really wishes I could see some of his
games," J.C. Mathis said. "It's really
hard after he's had a really good game,
and he's trying to describe plays to me.

It's really difficult."
When Michigan discovered that it
won its appeal with the NCAA and
would be able to qualify for the post-
season, Johnny and Jarrett were the
first two people he called. But like
many situations J.C. has come across
lately, he had to wait. He got both of
their answering machines. That, howev-
er, took little away from the moment.
"It sounded too good to be true,
because no one really kept us up to
date on how the appeal was going,"
Mathis said. "They didn't tell us how
strong they thought our chances were,
or how strong our case was. A lot of us
didn't want to get false hope, wishing
that we could get it and then get
crushed."
Now Mathis is anxious to finally
play in an actual college game after an
18-month layoff. He was named cap-
tain along with senior forward Colin
Dill.
"J.C really knows the game of bas-
ketball well," Dill said. "We often talk
about what we have to do together as
captains to make sure our team is play-
ing as well as (possible)."
Mathis will be just one of three
upperclassmen on this year's team, and
the only Wolverine to ever play in an
NCAA Tournament game.
Mathis strengthens a frontline to a
team that was playing just seven deep
last season. He may compete for a job
in the starting lineup - he started the
second game of the Wolverines' pre-
season Canadian tour - and will help
develop the team's younger post play-
ers.
"I'm hoping that he can be the
rebounder that we really need to anchor
that frontline and lead the way, whether
he's starting or not starting, for our
younger players on how to do things
the right way," Amaker said.
One player that has benefited from
Mathis' presence is Brown, who aver-
aged 20 minutes a game last year as a
freshman.

"J.C. plays the game like me,"
Brown said. "He doesn't have the
jumper that a lot of other guys do. He
just knows you have to be crafty out
there when you're shooting, so he's
shown me what he's learned over the
years. He's always such a positive play-
er out there, and he's always such a
great leader out there."
His experiences have made an
impression on everyone.
"He's had to sacrifice a lot to be
here," Amaker said. "When you look
around our lockerroom, all our players
can recognize that we have to sacrifice,
and probably no one has sacrificed
more than J.C. to be at this school."
But for now, Mathis just wants to get
on the court.
"I've been playing so long with an
empty gym," Mathis said.
His coaches and teammates are
happy he won't have to wait much
longer.
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