The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
By MATT SINGER
Daily Sports Editor
For years, Chris Graham's teammates
have called him "Brick."
And why not? The 5-foot-11,220-pound
linebacker sports a compact wrecking-
ball frame well-suited to tearing apart
running backs and tight ends.
But ask Graham about the origin of his
nickname, and he tells a much different
- and less flattering - story.
"I started playing football in the pee-
wee leagues," Graham said. "I had all the
jets in the world, but my hands weren't
working for me. So I felt like the little guy
from Little Giants. I couldn't catch a ball
The nickname stuck, even as Graham's
hands gradually improved. Today, the
junior - who has yet to come up with an
interception in his career - is confident
that the original meaning of his nick-
name no longer applies.
"If anybody's wondering now, my
hands are pretty good now,"Graham said.
"I work on them every day. I'm still try-
ing to get them perfect. They're no Mario
Manningham's or AdrianArrington's,but
sooner or later they'll be sticky as glue."
After entering this season as a start-
ing linebacker, Graham hasn't had many
opportunities to show off his hands. On
the second kickoff of the season, against
Vanderbilt, Graham felt a pop in his ham-
string. The injury forced him to sit out
three of the next four games. By the time
Graham returned to the lineup, senior
Prescott Burgess had claimed his start-
Many players would react to such bad
luck with frustration. But not the always-
optimistic Graham. The self-described
"cheerleader" supported Burgess and
stayed positive throughout his rehab.
"I know what I have to deal with, and
Thursday, November 9, 2006 - 5A
Cagers ink three
for next season
Linebacker Chris Graham will play in his home state of Indiana this weekend and might see more
playing time becuase of Prescott Burgess's injury. Graham has 11 tackles in five games this season.
I'm just going to keep that upbeat type of
personality that I've been having," Gra-
ham said. "You always have struggles,
those are just lessons learned, so you just
grow from that. You'll never see a down
frown on my face unless it's really some-
thing that's serious."
Graham's positive attitude helped spur
his recovery efforts, and he returned to
action for good against Michigan State.
Since then, he hasn't regained his start-
ing role, but he's become a key contribu-
tor in a four-linebacker rotation with
Burgess, David Harris and Shawn Crable.
In limited action the last five games, Gra-
ham has 11 tackles.
His brick-like frame helps him take
down ballcarriers, but Graham's great-
est asset is his speed. In high school, he
blazed a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and ran
the 100-meter dash in 10.8 seconds on the
track and field team.
At Michigan, Graham put on some
pounds, but his burst still remains. That
natural ability makes it hard for Mich-
igan's coaches to keep Graham off the
"I'm not the tallest guy, I'm not the big-
gest guy, but my speed makes up for a lot
of it," Graham said. "I'm one of the fast-
est linebackers that we have, and some
call me faster than some of the (defensive
backs). That's their own opinion."
This Saturday, the Indianapolis native
will have the opportunity to take his
high-octane game back to his home state
of Indiana. Three years ago, the Hoo-
siers recruited Graham, but he elected
to attend Michigan instead. He still has
close ties in the state and numerous
friends on Indiana's roster.
And, according to Graham, the list of
friends and family planning to attend
Saturday's match-up is still expanding.
"It's growing every day," Graham said.
"I hope it's the whole stadium, pretty
much. I'll be welcoming anyone who
wants to come and see me."
Graham's fans will probably see alot of
him on Saturday. Burgess left last week's
Ball State game with an ankle injury, and
his status for this week is uncertain.
With Burgess potentially out, or at
least limited, Graham will have a golden
opportunity to come home and make
Memorial Stadium a "Brick" house.
By H. JOSE BOSCH
Daily Sports Editor
Yesterday marked the opening day for
college basketball's early signing period
and, before the day ended, the Michigan
basketball team had the No. 18 recruiting
class in the country, according to Rivals.
Highly touted high school seniors Alex
Legion, Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady
officially signed with the Wolverines yes-
terday, adding three more guards to a ros-
ter that's expected to return four guards
The ranking is the highest for a recruit-
ing class at Michigan since the 2003 class,
which included seniors Dion Harris, Brent
Petway and Courtney Sims.
"We are excited to have three high cali-
ber student-athletes join the Michigan Bas-
ketball program," Michigan coach Tommy
Amaker said through the athletic depart-
ment. "All three young men are quality
people and exceptional student-athletes
who will fit into our program and the Uni-
versity. We think they will have a very
promising future here at Michigan."
The class is Michigan's most highly tout-
ed in the last three seasons.
The three recruits will add depth at the
guard position and will allow Amaker to
build on his transition-oriented offense.
Legion played his freshman through
junior years of high school basketball
at Detroit Country Day, where he was a
first team all-state selection the past two
seasons. The Inkster native had verbally
committed and decommittedbefore recom-
mitting this past summer.
"In the back of my mind, I knew that
Michigan was the best place for me all
along," Legion told the Michigan Daily in
July after his second verbal commitment.
"It's where I felt most comfortable and
where I had the best bond with a coach
- with coach Amaker."
Legion averaged 19.1 points, 5.1 rebound
and 3.4 assists per game during his junior
campaign, which ended in the Class B state
quarterfinals. Legion transferred to Oak
Hill Academy from Country Day and will
end his high school career at the nationally
renowned school in Virginia.
Harris averaged 20.4 points last season
as a shooting guard at Detroit Redford
A week before Legion's second verbal
commitment, Harris verbally committed
to the Wolverines, and his eagerness to join
the program showed when he talked to the
Michigan Daily in July.
"Michigan has some really good coach-
es," Harris said. "It's a great school, and it's
somewhere I can come right in and play."
The Detroit native made both the Detroit
News and Detroit Free Press Dream Teams
and the AP Class A All-State first team
last season. His Redford team went to the
Class A state semifinals and won its second
straight PSL Championship last year.
Grady hails from Grand Rapids and aver-
aged 13.9 points per game last season for
East Grand Rapids High School. During
his junior season, Grady led his team to the
Class B state championship game, which
the Pioneers lost to Detroit Renaissance.
Both Harris and Grady are preseason
candidates for the Michigan Hal Sch-
ram Mr. Basketball Award, and Harris
and Legion are listed as two of the top-10
guards in the nation.
Get on the bus: This coming Sunday
and Wednesday, Wolverine basketball fans
won't have to brave the weather on their
way to the game.
That's because the University will pro-
vide Maize Rage busses that will trans-
port fans from Central Campus to Crisler
The route will stop at Markley, East Quad
and the Union before heading for the arena.
It will begin an hour-and-a-half before
game time and one hour after the game.
In an e-mail sent to all University stu-
dents, Amaker expressed his enthusiasm
for the new system.
"We are very, very excited to be able to
do this for our student fans!" Amaker said.
Don't be ... early?: Anyone planning
on traveling to oxford for the Wolverines'
road game against Miami (OH); you'll have
more time to get there.
Since the game is being broadcast on
ESPNU, the game time has been changed
to 9 p.m.
Porter and pals propel 'M' Hard work pays off for Karpiak
By IAN ROBINSON
Daily Sports Writer
At the start of the season, junior Kevin Porter
might have felt like Happy Gilmore during hockey
Whether it was shooting the puck wide, dinging
the post on a breakaway or missing a rebound in
front of the net, the Northville native might've won-
dered if the goals at Yost were regulation size.
Instead of taking pitches to the chest at the bat-
ting cage like Happy Gilmore, Porter spent half-an-
hour before practice one day fine-tuning his shot.
And the extra effort has paid off.
The forward has scored six goals in four games
over the last two weeks.
Porter tallied just one goal in the first four games
of the season and has a much lower shooting per-
centage than last year (.077 compared with .177).
"I've been getting chances all along," Porter said.
"They just happen to be going in."
In the last four games, Porter has found the back
of the net with regularity and helped his teammates
do the same (six goals and four assists).
He kicked off his recent scoring tirade with
a two-goal performance against Northeastern,
including a deflection of a Jack Johnson slap-shot
Against Michigan State last Friday, he gave the
Wolverines the early lead on a breakaway goal
assisted by linemates David Rohlfs and T.J. Hensick.
That same group put Michigan ahead early on the
next night as well.
Scoring the team's first goal has become routine
for Porter and the rest of the first line. That trio has
contributed the Wolverines' first goal in seven of
their eight games.
Porter's scoring outburst can be connected with
the relationship he's developed with his linemates.
"You can really see great chemistry on that line,"
Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers said. "All
three of them are playing really well together."
The line has played together since last year (Hen-
sick and Porter have played together longer than
that) and its ability to gel has ignited the Wolverine
offensive attack. The trio represents three of Michi-
gan's top four scorers.
"It's becoming second nature with the guys,"
Rohlfs said. "Their tendencies and my tendencies
are starting to come together."
Last year, Porter scored at about a point per game
clip (39 points in 38 games). This year, he almost has
a two points per game (15 points in 8 games). Rohlfs
says that the difference is the time Porter put in dur-
ing the summer.
"You can tell (Porter and Hensick) guys really
worked hard in the offseason, in the weight room
and worrying about their game - trying to elevate it
to the next level," Rohlfs said.
Porter also contributes off the ice. After captain-
ing the United States at last year's World Junior
Hockey Championships, the junior is taking more of
a leadership role for the Wolverines this season.
"Being an upperclassman he is kind of leading
the way, showing (the underclassmen) how to do it,"
alternate captain Jason Dest said.
Porter's output this year has impressed Powers,
who knows that the real challenge is whether Porter
can keep up this pace.
"We are going to continue to push him to have a
great season and not a great start," Powers said.
Turning on the light
After struggling to find the net in the first four games,
Kevin Porter has found his shot
Games 1-4 Games 5-8
Goals 1 5
By ANDY REID
Daily Sports Writer
No. 12 Minnesota in one of the most exciting games this
While upperclassmen Lyndsay Miller and Katie Bru-
zdzinski may have had more kills, it was sophomore Beth
Karpiak who really stole the show.
Against the Golden Gophers,Karpiak recorded a match-
high eight blocks that went along with her 12 kills.
The LaGrange, Ill., native made it look easy against the
Gophers, but it hasn't always been that way for the middle
In Karpiak's freshman season, Michigan coach Mark
Rosen implemented a new system, which put three middle
blockers on the floor. Miller and senior Megan Bowman
took two of the spots, and Karpiak took the third - in her
first-ever collegiate match.
But Rosen switched back to the team's old two-middle-
blocker system for the rest of the season. Miller and Bow-
man, the more experienced middles, started, and Karpiak
saw limited action for the rest ofthe season.
"It was great to get in here and make an immediate
impact on the court," said Karpiak about her first season.
"That system just didn't work for the team."
Karpiak, who saw action in just 15 other matches after
her firststart, did not get discouraged.
Karpiak used the summer before her sophomore season
to improve all facets of her game. Specifically, she focused
on hitting, attacking and blocking, essential skills for mid-
Karpiak didn't want to change her techniques. Instead,
she took the skills she had already developed and went
through hours of repetition and practice. She worked to
improve arm strength and developed timing by working
with setters to get comfortable and consistent on and off
"My goal coming into this season was to start and make
an impact this season," Karpiak said. "I came in with the
mindset that if I worked hard enough in the offseason, my
goals would be kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Rosen agreed thather work inthe offseason has paid off.
Cominginto the first fall practice, he said it was clear the
extra work the sophomore putinhad takenher game tothe
During that first fall practice, physical tests are admin-
istered to the team to see where the players are and how
much they have improved. After struggling with the annu-
al tests as a freshman, Karpiak dominated this year.
"I could really see the improvements in her from that
first practice," Rosen said, "She has really improved her
attacking and has become a viable option on offense."
Unfortunately for Karpiak, the Wolverines returned
bothstaringmiddle blockers fromlastseason.
But Rosen didn't let Karpiak's hard work go unreward-
ed. He decided to move Miller to outside hitter before the
season started, opening a spot for another middle blocker
on the court. With the improvements she made in the off-
season, Karpiak was the obvious choice to fill the position.
Karpiak, who said Miller's move to outside hitter
increased her responsibility, was ready to handle all of the
added pressure. She took the opportunity to start and ran
Karpiak has started every match this season, and Miller
says the sophomore's presence on the court is undeniable.
"Her play is a lot more aggressive this year," Miller said.
"People get excited because she's just going after it. Her
play just makes people wantto do the same thing.Withtwo
years left, there's no doubt that she can become one of the
best middles in the Big Ten."
Rosen shared Miller's sentiment. If Karpiak develops
her skills, which would include increasing the depth of
her attacks and possibly learning to play back row, Rosen
thinks she could become a great player.
It all depends, Rosen said, on how hard she works to
develop herself as avolleyball player.
Ifher workthissummerspeak anythingtohow shewill
work in the future, Karpiak should be a player to watch out
for in her next few seasons as a Wolverine.
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