February , 2005
- - ------- ---- -
Amaker: Effort not
"in question in loss
Hard to know who
to blame for season
By Eric Ambinder
Daily Sports Editor
After Michigan's 64-53 loss at Michi-
gan State on Jan. 28, Spartans coach Tom
Izzo pulled Michigan coach Tommy
Izzo told Amaker how impressed he
was with the effort of his players. He told
Amaker that he was proud.
But what about the Wolverines' effort
in Saturday's 84-55 train wreck at Purdue
- a team that has won just one of seven
Big Ten games?
"I don't think there is anybody that
watched our game that felt that our kids
stopped trying," Amaker said. "We had
kids on the floor with a loose ball with 14
seconds left in the game."
Amaker benched three starters -
freshman Ron Coleman, guard Dion Har-
ris and forward Courtney Sims - for a
majority of the second half and opted to
play four walk-ons, who, to their credit,
have matured significantly this season.
"We are going to play the players that
we think will give us the best chance to
win the ball game, and that's what we
did," Amaker said after Sunday's game.
But even while Harris - the last of the
three starters to go to the bench - sat mid-
way through the second half, Purdue pro-
gressively increased its lead. Michigan's
best offensive option seemed to be perim-
eter jumpers from forwards Chris Hunter,
Graham Brown and Brent Petway.
So what do the Wolverines (3-4 Big
Ten, 12-9 overall) need to improve on
before they host Minnesota (4-3, 14-6)
tomorrow night at Crisler Arena?
"Well, we have to get better at every-
thing," Amaker said.
Specifically, he mentioned boxing out,
limiting opponents' second-chance points
off offensive rebounds and, perhaps most
importantly, becoming more efficient on
"We just haven't been able to have an
offensive rhythm," Amaker said. "We
need to get better at that - have more
confidence in that. You need to have some
success to have confidence, and, right now,
we haven't had a lot of success recently."
Guard Daniel Horton's absence on the
court and in practice has noticeably hurt
the Wolverines. Harris has had trouble
finding open shots when he draws the
opponents' best defender. And with teams
applying traps and full-court man-to-man
defense, Michigan's biggest weakness -
ball handling - has been exposed.
"We are hoping to get better at handling
the ball," Amaker said. "That's obviously
been an area that people have attacked us.
And probably rightly so ... I'm sure that is
what (teams) are going to continue to do."
KYAN WEIlNE R/Daily
Guard Dion Harris has struggled in the absence of backcourt teammate Daniel Horton.
Horton remains suspended indefinitely
and his return to the lineup is uncertain.
The guard was arraigned on misdemeanor
domestic assault charges in a Washtenaw
County court on Jan. 24. Amaker stated
yesterday that there haven't been any new
developments regarding the junior's avail-
"I don't have any other information to
add to my previous statement," Amaker
said, referring to his official statement
released on Jan. 25. "I don't have anything
else to share to give any indication one
way or another in terms of a timetable. We
have no timetable for (his return)."
Horton is healthy enough to play
against Minnesota tomorrow night. The
junior injured his right knee in the waning
moments against Wisconsin on Jan. 22.
Amaker said Horton underwent extensive
testing on the knee after that game, and
the injury wasn't serious.
Garden State of Mind
Before the season, the Michigan
basketball team was expected
to do decently well in confer-
ence play - probably not contend for a
Big Ten title with teams like Illinois or
Michigan State but be just behind them.
The Wolverines were expected to earn an
NCAA Tournament bid but probably as a
mid- to lower-seed.
Now, take the two best players off of
that Michigan team, and what do you
expect to happen?
You can't blame Tommy Amaker, like
many students and fans are doing, for
failing to reach what have become unre-
alistically lofty goals this season.
At the same time, maybe some of it is
But no matter what you think about the
future, don't forget about what Amaker
has already done to help erase memories
of a dishonorable past.
The Abram and Horton situations are
the root of why Michigan has floundered
this season, yet people continue to take
their absences too lightly and place the
blame squarely on Amaker's coaching.
The Wolverines have played nearly all
season without Abram, arguably their best
and most consistent player from last sea-
son. Abram may have been a role player
when he got to Michigan, but, last year, he
proved that he was much closer to a star
on the team than just a role player.
Horton's injury and legal issues have
been a huge blow to the team as well. But
people try to play off the Horton struggles
like they're no big deal. They say that
Horton hasn't been playing well anyway,
so what's the point whether or not he's on
the floor or suspended indefinitely.
But Horton meant a lot more to Michi-
gan than points or assists could represent,
namely with his defense and leadership.
Making matters worse are all of the
other guys who missed multiple games
due to injury - Chris Hunter, Brent Pet-
way, Graham Brown and Dani Wohl.
Amaker is often criticized for his in-
game coaching. Even I'll admit that I
second guess him in certain situations,
like when he's slow to call timeouts while
opponents make runs.
But the fact is that he was able to guide
his depleted, role-player-laden-with-few-
real-stars team to win its first three Big
Ten games - as part of a larger six-game
winning streak - despite the surround-
ing circumstances. That says something
about his coaching, even if the team has
now lost four straight.
You can argue that, if Amaker had
more and/or better players around to
begin with, the team would be in less
trouble after losing Abram and now Hor-
ton. Recruiting - which has always been
considered to be one of Amaker's strong
points - is something that might have
Michigan fans worried.
Amaker was highly touted as a great
recruiter when he took the helm of the
Wolverines, just a year after he brought
one of the top players in the country,
Eddie Griffin, to Seton Hall. And in his
first recruiting class at Michigan, he man-
aged to bring Horton - a McDonald's
All-American - to the University,
despite the fact that the program was
under NCAA scrutiny and faced possible
Fast forward a few years. Michigan's
current freshman class - namely Ron
Coleman, because he's the only mem-
ber - has played well recently, but he
isn't having nearly the impact that a
top-tier freshman might have made at
other schools. And for Amaker's sake, it
doesn't help that two players that he near-
ly landed - Kentucky's Joe Crawford
and Oregon's Malik Hairston, both from
Detroit Renaissance - are both playing
well at big programs.
As for Crawford and Hairston, you
can't blame Amaker for sticking to
his guns and not making promises he
couldn't keep. Both players seemingly
wanted similar assurances - a starting
spot and/or guaranteed minutes - while
gaining face time for a run at a rising
NBA Draft stock. That's even before you
consider the three-ring recruiting circus
that both of these guys held before corn-,
mitting. Both players will likely leave
college after this season (or next season,
See BREMMER, page 10
By Ian Herbert
Daily Sports Editor
Even the best cente
of their faceoffs. So
In the third period
ern Michigan, the M
why once again. Wil
the draw in the Mich
back to junior Jamie
past Montoya, who n
Losing faceoffs in
ous, and, in January,I
off defensive-zone fa
"We really want t
junior center Andrev
end of your season, It
it a lot. So we justv
stretch and into the p
Ebbett leads the
improving oft the draw
at 56.6 percent. He said that winning faceoffs is about
stick placement and reading your opponent. Michigan
coach Red Berenson, who played as a center in the NHL
rs in the NHL only win 60 percent for 18 years, added that there was a lot more that goes
why is so much attention given to into winning the draw.
"It's a little bit of technique, it's a little bit of tenacity,
of Saturday's game against North- second effort, being ready, watching the referees hand,
lichigan hockey team was shown knowing what the other player is going to do, or hav-
dcats forward Kevin Gardner won ing an idea about what he's going to do, and then going
igan zone. The puck made its way against him," Berenson said.
Miliam, and he fired a slap shot Michigan actually wins more than half its faceoffs as
ever saw it. a team, and the Wolverines' regular centers - Ebbett,
the defensive zone can be danger- David Moss, T.J. Hensick and Chad Kolarik - all win
the Wolverines gave up three goals more than their opponents. Kolarik, a freshman, moved
ceoffs. to center over Thanksgiving weekend after playing the
o bear down come playoff time," first few months of the season at right wing. Berenson
w Ebbett said. "That could be the said that he wanted Kolarik to get some experience in
's happened before, and we've seen Michigan's system before moving to center. Kolarik, who
want to stress that right down the is a small center at 5-foot-li and 175 pounds, said that he
layoffs." needs to be more consistent with his faceoff attempts.
Wolverines in faceoff percentage See FACEOFFS, page 10
Forward Chad Kolarik faces off during
Michigan's win over Northern Saturday.