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4B - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Wednesday, November 8, 2006 --The Michigan Daily- 5B
By Daniel Bromwich I Daily Sports Writer
eet Courtney Sims No. 1.
He's the senior center of the Michigan basketball
team and the Wolverines' best low-post scoring option.
Several coaches and players think he has the potential to be not
just the best big man in the Big Ten conference, but in the nation.
In Michigan's most recent exhibition game against Division II-
Michigan Tech, he scored 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting and had a
game-high six rebounds. Makes sense so far.
Meet Courtney Sims No. 2.
Although he's usually the tallest player on the floor, he can also
be the hardest to find. He disappears from the action, sometimes
for stretches lasting the entire game. If things don't go his way
early, he stops looking for his shot
This year's exhibition opener was against Wayne State, a
Division II team that lacks a player taller than 6-foot-5. The 6-
foot-11 Sims scored five points on 2-of-4 shooting and had two
Will the real Courtney Sims please stand up?
Meet Dion Harris No. 1.
He's a senior guard for the Wolverines. He came to Michigan
as the second-best shooting guard in the country not named LeB-
ron James. His performance during his final high school season
earned him the title of Michigan's Mr. Basketball. The Wolver-
ines expected him to score points immediately.
And he arrived on campus with a splash, averaging double fig-
ures in scoring during his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Harris's 14.3 points per game led Michigan during his sophomore
Going into hisjunior season, he was expected to team with star
point guard Daniel Horton to create one of the best backcourt
tandems not just in the Big Ten conference, but in the nation.
Meet Dion Harris No. 2.
As a junior, he started slowly. A lingering injury and an inabil-
ity to find a new role playing next to Horton combined to reduce
his contribution to that of a role player.
His scoring average sank three points per game, and he
launched 116 fewer shots on the year. In the NIT semifinal, he
managed just five points on 1-of-9 shooting, and recorded three
turnovers. In the NIT final, he didn't improve. He scored just four
points on 1-of-6 shooting, and turned the ball over another three
Harris and Sims have lived together during each of their four
years in Ann Arbor. But loitering on their property has been the
plague of inconsistency. Will this year be the year they evict this
unwanted houseguest, and finally lead Michigan basketball to an
NCAA Tournament berth?
Harris loses out on year, 'M' loses out on tournament
With Sims, the problem is from game to game. With Harris,
year to year. But their struggle is the same. And with these two
veterans unable to produce night in and night out last year, per-
haps the most talented Michigan basketball team since the Fab
Five fell short of the NCAA Tournament and everyone's expecta-
For Harris, last season's struggles began beforethe season even
started. During the offseason following his sophomore year, he
battled plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammatory foot condition.
One of the best treatments for the injury is rest, so Harris sat out
the preseason and was unable to condition with the team. During
the early part of the year, when other players polished their skills
and developed team chemistry, Harris needed to get himself back
in shape. And that set him back.
"That was the toughest thing I had to deal with all year, just
being inconsistent and not really playing up to my own expecta-
tions," Harris said. "I'm confident in my abilities out there on the
REMY CHO/Daily court, and I really do believe that I can do more for this team."
n. He spent Harris finally started to play well in mid-January. He scored in
double figures in seven of eight straight games, and even topped
20 points in consecutive contests against Wisconsin and Penn
But on Feb. 9, Harris suffered another setback. He severely
sprained his right ankle late in a tough loss to Ohio State and
missed the next two games. When he returned against Michigan
State, the rhythm he developed before his injury was gone. He did
not reach double digits in any of the next four games.
And with Harris unable to contribute regularly, the Wolver-
ines faltered. Including that Feb. 9 game with Ohio State, Michi-
gan lost five of its final seven regular-season games, and then fell
in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Unimpressed by the
Wolverines' late-season collapse, the NCAA Selection Commit-
tee ignored the team when creating the field of 65, and Michigan
headed to the NIT for the second time in three years.
Even though he could blame his spotty performance on the
injury, Harris offers no excuses about the way last season ended.
"Down the stretch of last year, and really all of last year, guys
were expecting me to really bring it," Harris said. "I was a junior
last year, and I think the coaches, as well as the players, were
depending on me to do things. So when I didn't step up to the
plate, that really puts some of the blame on me for the way the end
of the season went."
But it wasn't all his doing. Fitting in next to a guard who
demands the ball like Horton would have been tough for anyone.
For Harris, coming off of a 2004-05 season when the Wolverines
relied on him as the main offensive option, it was nearly impos-
"Sometimes, what I found over the years, as a player and a
coach, maybe because you had a dominant personality or person,
that someone else wasn't allowed to become what they maybe can
become now," Amaker said.
With Horton gone, it seems to be Harris' time to shine. And he
has already started asserting himself as the one to fill the lead-
ership void that Horton created when he left. In the exhibition
games, he directed freshmen guards Reed Baker and K'Len Mor-
ris to the spots they needed to fill in the offense.
Harris has also taken a more assertive role in the huddle.
"Dion directs the team really," senior Brent Petway said. "He
doesn't say much (on the floor), but in the huddles, he's telling us
what we need to do."
Harris's mentality during games also hindered his perfor-
mance last season. He explains that if his shot wasn't falling, he
would start to focus on his offensive production, and then his
defense would suffer. But this year, he has refocused around play-
ing hard all the time, on both ends of the floor.
Focus on playing hard. It sounds like an easy thing to do con-
sistently. But for Sims, that's exactly where he found trouble last
"I am so embarrassed"
Sims No. 1 showed up when the Wolverines welcomed Ohio
State to Crisler last year. He recorded 26 points and grabbed 16
boards. Against Wisconsin at home, he recorded 18 points. And
when he faced the Buckeyes on the road, he achieved a double-
double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
But then there were the other games, the contests when Sims
No. 2 took the floor. At home against Michigan State, he tallied
four points and three rebounds. When Indiana came to Crisler,
he didn't attempt a field goal and finished with one point and two
The NIT Tournament final four was symbolic of Sims's season.
In the semifinal game against Old Dominion, Sims showed flashes
of the dominant player everyone knows he can be. He made 8-of-
10 field goals to score 18 points and also corralled seven rebounds.
But in the final, he seemed to regress back to Courtney No. 2. He
attempted just two shots, scoring two points and grabbing just
There is a pattern in Sims's inconsistency. When he faces off
against a top big man, his play suffers. Michigan State's front line
featured Big Ten player of the year candidate Paul Davis. The
Hoosiers depended heavily upon Marco Killingsworth, who fin-
ished seventh in the conference in scoring and fifth in rebound-
When Sims excels, it usually comes against teams that don't
have a big man who can adequately match up with him. In non-
conference games last year, which were mostly against teams
without skilled post players, Sims tallied double-digits in nine
of 11 contests. He grabbed at least six rebounds in 10 of those
But after the start of the conference season, Sims tallied double
figures in just eight of the team's 21 contests (including postsea-
son). He gathered more than six rebounds just six times.
Asked why he struggled in some games last year, Sims responds
with one word:
Sims continued: "Sometimes I would have games with 16
rebounds and the next day, I would have a game with one
rebound," Sims said. "I just need to make sure I concentrate and
go after everything. I think a lot of things that I struggle with
are not physical. I think I have everything physical, it's just all
Assistant coach Andrew Moore agreed.
"I think Courtney gets frustrated when he gets double teamed
a lot in the post," Moore said. "There's going to be nights when
he's not going to get alot of good looks when he catches it on the
lowblock whenhegets doubled in the post. Buthe's gotto learnto
manufacture points by getting on the offensive glass."
The requisite concentration may have finally arrived for Sims.
In his game against Michigan Tech in the preseason, Sims faced
four players taller than 6-foot-8. After botching two early layups,
Sims began to get frustrated with himself. Michigan coach
Tommy Amaker noticed, looked directly at him, and screamed.
Sims scored all 21 of his points after the explosion.
Amaker emphasizes the "controllables" of a game. Injuries are
an uncontrollable, but defensive effort and rebounds are control-
lables, and Amaker stresses the need to master them.
With his 6-foot-11 frame, his jumping ability and his incredibly
long arms, Sims could be one of the best controllable players in
"I don't think Courtney has nearly tapped his potential as far
as what we think he can doas a rebounder," Moore said. "I think
he's as talented and as skilled as anybody in the country. But on
the nights when people are going to make him give it up, he's got
to be a force for us on the offensive glass. He's got to be able to cre-
ate some scoring opportunities for himself by getting second- and
Numerous coaches and players insist that Sims has the talent
to be one of the top rebounders in the Big Ten. But last year, he
finished just 13th in the Big Ten in rebounding. Ahead of him
were players like 6-foot-5 Penn State guard Geary Claxton and
6-foot-5 Minnesota guard Vincent Grier.
Sims said that kind of output is unacceptable.
"My goal, individually, is to average a double-double," Sims
said. "(Amaker) has said that there is no reason for me not to aver-
age double figures in rebounding, so that is what I'm trying to do.
I am so embarrassed about how I was 13th in the conference in
rebounding last year, and that's just embarrassing because I can-
not be that low."
The Michigan coaches don't think that Sims's rebounding
troubles last year were entirely due to a lack of effort. They think
he was out of shape.
After coming into Michigan weighing less than 230 pounds,
Sims realized during his freshman year that he needed to gain
weight in order to sustain the level of physical play necessary to
See SENIORS, Page 7B
BEST OF THE BEST
Feb. 9, 2006 vs. Ohio State @ Crisler Arena
Fg/Fga Pts O. Reb Reb Bik Min
13/16 2616 . 16 4 34
Jan. 28, 2006 vs. Wisconsin @ Crisler Arena
jF/ pm/3 Pts Reb Min
8/12 IS/9 123--4 37
WORST OF THE WORST
Mar. 4, 2006 vs. Indiana @ Crisler Arena
Fg/Fga Pts O. Reb Reb Blk Min
0/0 1 1 2 1 22
Mar.28,2006 vs. Old Dominion @ Madison Square Garden
Fg/Fga 3pm/3pa Pts Reb Min
1/9 11/6 5 2 26
Senior Courtney Sims was unable to consistently capitalize on his potential duringthe 2005-2006 sea!
the offseason shedding weight so he could be more ofaa factor throughout the entire season.