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February 03, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-03

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Thursday
February 3, 2005
sports.michigandaily.com
sports@michigandaily.com

PtmidRtS n OWN

01

8A

Carr stuffs roster with top-five

By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer
Having spent almost all of the last month vis-
iting and dining with some of America's finest
high school football players, Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr announced at yesterday's national
signing day press conference that he had come
away from the meetings with more than just a
full stomach. Carr confirmed that 23 high school
seniors had signed binding letters of intent,
including six of ESPN recruiting expert Tom
Lemming's top-100 players.
As expected, headlining the Wolverines'
class - which Lemming rated fifth-best nation-
ally and second-best in the Big Ten - is Kevin
Grady, a 5-foot-ll, 215-pound running back
from East Grand Rapids High School. Grady
holds several Michigan high school records,
including state records for scoring and rushing
yards, and is regarded as one of the top running
backs in the country.

"Everyone in (the East Grand Rapids) commu-
nity had great things to say about Kevin Grady,
both on and off the field," Carr said.
Luckily for Carr, he got an early start on recruit-
ing Grady. Carr has had a longtime friendship with
Grady's uncle, and P.J. Cwayna, the son of Grady's
high school principal Patrick Cwayna, played at
Michigan. Because Grady verbally committed to
Michigan in the fall, he was able to gain some valu-
able experience by practicing with the Wolverines
while they prepared for the Rose Bowl.
"Because of NCAA rules, (Grady) was allowed
to go to Pasadena with us," Carr said. "He probably
got five or six practices in out there. And in a short
time, I think everybody was impressed with his
ability and saw the things you look for in a back."
While Grady and fellow running back Mister
Simpson of Cincinnati's Colerain High School,
will have the mammoth task of competing with
freshman Michael Hart for playing time, the Wol-
verines' four defensive line recruits will be called
upon to make an immediate difference.

With the uncertain status of junior Larry Har-
rison - who faces felony charges for indecent
exposure - and the loss of Alex Ofili to the
NFL Draft, new recruits Marques Slocum and
Terrance Taylor will look to compete for playing
time. Both Slocum and Taylor were named to the
EA Sports All-American football team. In addi-
tion, James McKinney, a defensive end from Lou-
isville, Ky., announced his decision yesterday to
attend Michigan.
"The area we need freshmen to come in and
help us is the defensive line," Carr said. "I think
we have three guys that can do that. Watching film
we thought (Slocum) was a guy that could really
make a difference for us, and I think he will."
McKinney, who could be used on both sides of
the ball, and Slocum also played in the US Army
All-American Bowl with Michigan recruit Zoltan
Mesko, a punter from Twinsburg, Ohio. Mesko
was signed to solidify Michigan's special teams
and replace graduating punter Adam Finley. Carr
was introduced to Mesko at a summer kicking

camp, after Mes
teams coordinat
"We have a k
our regular can
called me up an
kick.' I think tha
as a punter."
Mesko's faim
States from Ror
and company of
American story."
"I went dow
a Monday -i
holiday," Carr s
incredible lunch
ten courses, two
chicken cordon b
this sausage that
ate and ate and a
While other r
up at the dinner
help ease the big

recruiting class
ko's performances caught special after the graduation of Braylon Edwards and back-
or Mike Debord's eye. up Jermaine Gonzales. To help returning starters
kicking camp on a weekend after Jason Avant and Steve Breaston, Carr secured
mp," Carr said. "And (Debord) Mario Mannigham from perennial power War-
d said, 'you've got to see this kid ren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio and
at (Mesko) will be a real weapon Laterryal Savoy from Mamou, Louisiana. After
watching Mannigham play in a basketball game at
ily immigrated to the United Cleveland's Gund Arena, Carr believes that Man-
nania, and Carr enjoyed the food ningham's quickness will help him compete for
a family he described as "a great immediate playing time. Savoy is a bigger receiver
at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and could play with a
'n (to visit Mesko's family) on style similar to Edwards. But before he makes a
it was the Martin Luther King significant impact, Carr said Savoy has to work on
aid. "Mrs. Mesko had the most building strength.
that I've ever had. It was about The Wolverines also signed Antonio Bass from
types of fish, triggerfish, catfish, Jackson, Mich., and Carr was thrilled to secure
bleu, stuffed peppers, potatoes and such a strong in-state recruit. Carr spoke highly
was made at a local place. So we of his abilities and suggested that Michigan fans
te and had a wonderful day." might see Bass in a variety of positions.
ecruits might not have measured "Antonio is one of the great athletes in recent
table, Carr continued digging to memory to come out of this state," Carr said. "He
hit to Michigan's receiving corps See SIGNING DAY page 9A

Low

five

Harris, Sims
held scoreless
as skid hits five
By Brian Schick
Daily Sports Writer
At the halfway point of the Big Ten season, the Michigan bas-
ketball team is close to sliding into oblivion.
The Wolverines (3-5 Big Ten, 12-10 overall) lost their fifth
straight game last night, falling to Minnesota 71-54. Two of
Michigan's biggest offensive threats - guard Dion Harris and
forward Courtney Sims - came off the
bench after struggling of late and were held
scoreless by the Gophers (5-3, 15-6). Guard
Dani Wohl and forward Brent Petway were
inserted into the starting lineup in their places - each of the five
starters failed to score in double figures.
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker indicated that he took Harris
and Sims out of the starting lineup in hopes of finding a solution to
the current losing skid.
"We felt some kids didn't play up to their capabilities in the pre-
vious game, and we were disappointed in that, and so you make
some changes," Amaker said. "We're trying different things to see
if we can ignite our team. Certainly that wasn't the answer tonight,
but we're still going to search and see if we can find things that will
give us a spark."
Harris has struggled to find his shot recently, and last night might
have been his lowest point of the season. The sophomore went 0-
for-7 from the floor and fouled out after playing 27 minutes.
"He's one of our key players and certainly our biggest key on
the perimeter," Amaker said about Harris. "He's not close to being
himself right now in terms of his play."
With guards Lester Abram and Daniel Horton out of action,
Harris has assumed most of the load on offense.
"(Last night) I went out there and tried to put all of the scoring
load on myself," Harris said. "It's hard knowing that guys are out
and how much the team needs you."
Junior forward Chris Hunter carried the Wolverines
with his 17 points, but Michigan's frontcourt was unable to
slow down its Minnesota counterparts. Minnesota center
Jeff Hagen was constantly slipping through the Michigan
defense, hitting all five of his field goals en route to 15 points
and nine boards.
"Jeff was physical and was able to stay out of foul trouble despite
a lot of action down low," Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. "His
offense was efficient, and he had a good feel on defense."
Both teams struggled at times to find the scoring touch, espe-
cially in the second half. At the 11-minute mark of the second half,
both teams failed to score for over two minutes. That could have
been the window for Michigan to erase the 11-point halftime lead,
but the Wolverines only cut the lead to nine.
The Wolverines turned the ball over 24 times, the fourth 20-plus
turnover game of the season. Over the last two games, Amaker has
stated that he believes his team is showing good effort but hasn't
been able to execute its gameplan. With the next three games fea-
turing a road trip to Colombus and a homestead against No. 1 Illi-
noia and No. 12 Michigan State, the Wolverines will need to find
out what is wrong in a hurry.
"Guys just aren't sharp right now," Hunter said. "We have to find
some kind of way to sharpen it up mentally and be more focused
for long periods of time and make smart decisions."

Blue

's

psyche appears

to be a realfixer-upper

TONY DING/Daily

Minnesota's Vincent Grier scored 14 points against Michigan last night.

MEGAN KOLODGY
Megology 101
After last night's 17-point loss to
the Golden Gophers, it's time for
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
and the rest of the Wolverines to take a seat
on the proverbial couch for a little bit of psy-
choanalysis.
At this junction, it's obvious that Michi-
gan is hurting. Five straight losses, a pleth-
ora of injuries to both critical and backup
players and the suspension of a star will do
that to you.
But despite the fact that the Wolverines
have everyone but Daniel Horton and Lester
Abram, who is out for the season, in the line-
up, they've still suffered huge defeats in the
last two games. Last night, Dion Harris, who
previously led the team in points per game,
had zero points and fouled out. Michigan's
balanced scoring, which is typically its sav-
ing grace, was nowhere to be found.
As I watched both dedicated fans and
Maize Ragers alike leave with 15 minutes to
go in the second half, the problem became
abundantly clear - this team's problems are
not due to its physical deficits. They can be
solely attributed to a damaged, now extraor-
dinarily difficult to repair, psyche.
Now, in most situations, I would be quick
to chastise fair-weather fans, especially those
who are supposed to be supporting a team
that is currently swimming in dire straits.
But with Michigan down by 11 at halftime,
I couldn't really blame them - the Wolver-
ines have not once come back after being
down at halftime this season. That's right
- never. Not when they were losing by just
two points at UCLA or even when they were
down by six at home against Boston Univer-
sity did they come from behind to win.
This trend begs the question, what hap-
pens to this team when it gets into a tough
position?
Answer: At this stage of the game, it
simply does not seem to have the confidence
or psychological strength to overcome the
mental roadblocks that accompany all the
tribulations that it has undergone.
This is not to say that it does not have the
talent or the strength, or that it doesn't put in
sufficient effort to win. With a few excep-
tions, the Wolverines do and have. But for
some reason, once they're down, they're out.

There could be numerous reasons for this.
Our most recent example - last night's wal-
loping at the hands of a decent Minnesota
team - would indicate that it might have
something to do with a self-fulfilling proph-
ecy. Sophomore Courtney Sims and Harris,
two of Michigan's most prolific scorers, were
not announced in the starting lineup. Neither
scored a single point.
As per team tradition, Harris and Sims
learned that they would not take the floor an
entire day before the game. That's one day to
ruminate on exactly why you're not starting
when, statistically, you probably should be.
One day to wonder what you did wrong.
In certain situations, this could be a
productive practice, and this was certainly
Amaker's intent.
Yesterday marked Michigan's 14th unique
starting lineup of the season. Evidently,
Amaker is trying to crack the code - find
the right combination - to get the Wolver-
ines out of their funk and "ignite" the team.
While this has allowed players such as
freshman Ron Coleman, sophomore John
Andrews and junior Sherrod Harrell a
chance to mature and gain confidence, the
lack of faith in Michigan's true starters,
particularly Sims, has proven to be counter-
productive.
Of course, it is a coach's prerogative to
send whomever he sees fit into the game, but,
to the average observer, it appears as if Sims
and Harris are playing down to the role of
benchwarmer or crumbling under the pres-
sure of having to perform well in the decreas-
ing minutes they spend on the court.
And when Sims and Harris don't play up
to par, it brings the rest of the team down
to where they were in the second half of
yesterday's game - looking as if they were
playing in a fog and not clearly seeing what
was going on or anticipating what would
happen next.
While he might not have the answers,
Minnesota coach Dan Munson sounds as if
he's willing to lend a sympathetic ear while
the Wolverines work through their troubles.
"I've been on the flipside the last couple
years, and I really feel what Michigan's going
through," Munson said. "As I told (Amaker)
before the game, 'There are very few people
who understand what you're going through,
and I think I'm one of them.' "
Maybe Munson could help. His Golden
Gophers are currently 5-3 in the Big Ten,
and, afterall, he's been there.
Hopefully for Michigan, a time comes
when it can say the same.

0]

Megan Kolodgy can be reached at
megkolo@umich.edu.

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