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March 15, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, March 15, 2007 - 5A

Harris stays true to
roots despite success

By KEVIN WRIGHT
Daily Sports Editor
INDIANAPOLIS - He walked
into the Indiana Convention Cen-
ter media room and took his place
at the table, but only because it was
required.
Former Michigan middle line-
backer David Harris made it quite
clear he'd rather be somewhere else.
"I'm just ready to be on the field,
knocking somebody out," Harris said.
And for Harris, the man who made
his name laying out opposing play-
ers, the NFL Scouting Combine at the
RCA Dome in late February wasn't
exactly the stage he wanted to be on.
But he knows the combine is key
to him playing on Sundays.
"It's been great," Harris said
of his time at the combine. "Get a
chance to meet the coaches and alot
of top players in the country. It's a
great experience."
Following a disappointing loss to
SouthernCal in the Rose Bowl, Har-
ris spent his time at Parisi's Speed
School in New Jersey preparing
for the combine and his pro day at
Michigan.
But before he left for the East

Coast, he had a chance encounter
with Michigan coach Lloyd Carr in
a Schembechler Hall hallway.
It was then that Carr provided
Harris a piece of advice.
"He just told me to keep working
hard and be myself and good things
will happen to me," Harris said.
The soft-spoken fifth-year senior
also made a trip to Mobile, Ala., to
play in the Senior Bowl, where he
practiced under the direction of
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaches
whom he said helped him understand
the demandingnature of the NFL.
Harris first realized pro football
may be in his future when a coach
told him of his potential in 2005.
Fromthere,theGrandRapidsnative's
draft position skyrocketed with an
outstanding seasonthis year.
After suffering through two
injury plagued seasons, Harris was
finally able to roam the middle of
the field for a Michigan defense that
dominated most opponents. The 6-
foot-2 linebacker led the Wolverines
with 103 tackles, 70 of which were
solo. After the season, Harris col-
lected numerous awards, and was
named to the All-America second
team and All-Big Ten first team.

Even though he's not the tall-
est or the fastest linebacker in this
year's NFL draft, Harris doesn't let
the numbers concern him.
"I just (try to) be a leader," said
Harris, who is listed as the No. 2
linebacker in the draft by Mike
Mayock, an NFL Network draft
analyst. "Just got to go out, react
and have instincts. Football isn't
all about speed, it's all about reac-
tion time and how wellyou can read
plays. And I feel like I can do that
pretty well."
At the combine, Harris partici-
pated in every linebacker drill. He
performed well inthe 40-yard dash,
posting a 4.59. In the bench press,
he finished with 23 repetitions of
225 pounds.
A majority of NFL teams also
interviewed Harris. But perhaps
the most intriguing draft-day suitor
was the Detroit Lions, who may be
shopping for a middle linebacker.
Growing up in West Michigan,
Harris has been a life-long Lions fans
and would consider donningthe blue
and gray "a greatopportunity."
Still, with all the talk in India-
napolis centered on the NFL, Harris
See HARRIS, Page 8A

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker still has the support of his players despite missing the NCAA Tournament again.
Cagers loyal to Amaker

By MARK GIANNOTTO
Daily Sports Writer
He's been under intense scrutiny since the season
began back in November.
Nearly every local columnist has said he should be
fired now that his team has missed
all six NCAA Tournaments during Michigan
his tenure.
The message boards have been at NIT
even more relentless in calling for
his dismissal. Matchup:
lodaState
AfanatTuesday'sNITfirst-round 2t-t2 Michi-
game at Crisler Arena even chose to 222
show his displeasure by wearing a gap 22-t2
paper bag over his head. When: 7 p.m.
But Michigan coach Tommy Where: Tucker
Amaker can take solace in the fact Center
that his players still support him.
Ask any of them and the answer is TV/Radio:
the same: Don'tblame him - he isn't ESPNU
the one making all the mistakes on
the court.
"He's a great coach," senior Courtney Sims said. "I
think he has a lot of knowledge, and he's learned a lot
from coaching us. When we play the style he wants us
to play, I think you see we're a good team. I don't think
he should be punished for us struggling."
Tonight's second-round NIT matchup against Flor-
ida State represents another opportunity for Amaker
to prove himself worthy as head coach. But facing a
Seminole team that has beaten the likes of No. 6 Flori-
da, No.17 Maryland and No. 21 Duke, he might not feel
all that comfortable when his team travels to Tallahas-
see.
He doesn't know how the Wolverines will respond
to playing their fourth game in seven days after a Big
Ten schedule that was the second-toughest in the con-
ference.
He doesn't know how they'll combat Seminole for-
ward Al Thornton, who is projected to be a top-10 pick
in June's NBA Draft. After Tuesday's win over Utah

State, Amaker admitted he had seen little tape of Flor-
ida State.
But most important, Amaker doesn't know if this
will be his last game as head basketball coach at Mich-
igan. That decision rests in the hands of athletic direc-
tor Bill Martin.
One would think that with the uncertain status of
its coach, Michigan would be unraveling at the seams.
The opposite seemed true in the first round of the NIT,
though, as the Wolverines held off a scrappy Aggie
squad, 68-58.
"We've heard about (Amaker's job security); you
always hear about that stuff," freshman Ekpe Udoh
said. "Really, we just try to stay focused at what's at
hand. That's the type of thing you talk about after the
season is over."
The Seminoles extended their season on Tuesday
night as well, with a 77-61 win over Toledo in the first
round of the NIT.
Against the Rockets, Thornton showed off the rea-
sons NBA scouts are so enamored with his talents.
The senior filled up the stat sheet with 24 points, six
rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
The 6-foot-8 Thornton presents a tricky matchup
problem for Michigan. Senior guard Dion Harris is
quick enough to guard him, but standing just 6-foot-3,
he will have trouble if Thornton heads into the paint.
Senior Lester Abram, who did an admirable job on
Utah State star Jaycee Carroll, seems the likely can-
didate. But he will still be at a height disadvantage,
standing just 6-foot-6. He will also have to deal with
Thornton's superior quickness.
On the offensive end, the Wolverines may have
found another weapon to add to their arsenal. At
the Big Ten Tournament, freshman DeShawn Sims
showed some of the potential that made him one of the
top recruits in the nation last year.
He followed the Tournament with an explosion
against Utah State. The Detroit native scored 11 first-
half points and was instrumental in helping Michigan
build an insurmountable 12-point halftime lead.
See SEMINOLES, Page 8A

Defense key for in-state rivals

By JAMES V. DOWD
Daily Sports Writer
According to Michigan coach Red
Berenson, there's not much that dif-
ferentiates the ninth-ranked Wol- .
verines from No. 11 Michigan State
headingintoFriday's CCHAsemifinal
game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
The teams have met five times
this year, splitting the series with
two wins apiece and, most recent,
a tie on Feb. 10. As the Wolverines
search for the edge in this rivalry,
the team's defensive corps is opti-
mistic about its ability to make a dif-
ference this weekend.
"We're feeling pretty good about
ourselves because we've had guys
play in the playoffs before," senior Defenseman Jason Dest will be key in tom
alternate captain Jason Dest said.
"We've got a veteran group - the need to make sure I make the quick
freshmen aren't freshmen any- play instead of trying to hold on for
more. We can put anybody out there too long."
against any line and feel confident." Playing against the Spartans for
At times, the Michigan defense- the sixth time, the defensemen seem
men have stopped the Spartans cold, focused on avenging mistakes made
but untimely mistakes at the blue in the five prior meetings.
line have cost the Wolverines dearly Known for their physical nature,
in both losses to Michigan State. the Wolverine blue liners are excit-
Playing against an aggressive ed to renew the individual rivalries
offense like the Spartans', each that have developed over time.
mishap seems to result in a goal. "It's fun," Dest said. "It gets the
A misplayed puck by captain Matt rivalry going even more than it
Hunwick led to an easy breakaway already is. We always play these
goal by Michigan State's Bryan Lerg guys a lot of times each year. It's
and broke the Wolverines' back in fun because you start to getgrudges
their bid for their first Great Lakes against one another. You just want
Invitational Championship since to get out there and play hard."
1996. If the Wolverines advance to Sat-
And on Nov.3, the Spartans took a urday's CCHA Championship game,
two-goal lead enroute to a 7-4victo-
ryinEastLansingwhentheWolver-
ines failed to clear Michigan State's university UnIOnS-
Justin Abdelkader out of the goal almost as good as
crease before he tipped a rebound
past goaltender Billy Sauer.
Freshman Steve Kampfer, who
was on the ice for Abdelkader's
game-winner, has since worked
on getting between opponents and
Michigan's goal in an effort to cut
down on goals against off rebounds.
"At the beginning of the year,
I struggled a lot with beating my [
man back to the net," Kampfer said. M F University
"With that, I've grown a lot. And I L' Unions

orrow's CCHA semifinal against the Spartans.

r
r
i
,,
s
t
s
s
t
,

the team will have less than 24
hours to prepare for its next oppo-
nent - the winner of the other semi-
final match-up between No. 1 Notre
Dame and Lake Superior State.
Even with a potentially tougher
game looming on the horizon, Dest
knows Michigan can't look past
Michigan State.
"We've played Notre Dame and
Lake State before," Dest said. "So
our staff has video and scouting
reports and all that good stuff. But
we're not so much worried about
the other team, what we've been
talking about lately - the only guys
we're talking about - is ourselves.
The thing we're going to focus on is
how Michigan will play - how hard
and how strong."

Rosso rebounds from injury

By COLT ROSENSWEIG
Daily Sports Writer
Over the summer, sophomore
gymnastRalphRossolostpartofhis
bicep. But he got back his swagger.
Meet New Ralph.
"I guess Old Ralph is the bad
one," Rosso said. "I think the old
Ralph was just doing it to do it. After
I had my surgery and had some time
off and went back home, I saw the
kids at my gym back home and sort
of got a new outlook on gymnastics.
Now I'mjusthaving fun doingit.
After a middling freshman sea-
son, sophomore Rosso has emerged

as one of Michigan's most reliable
competitors. Most nights he con-
tributes a counting score on four
events - sometimes even five. With
the exception of high bar, Rosso has
set a new career high on every appa-
ratus this season.
Rosso's specialty is rings, where
he can use his powerful physique to
its full advantage. At Winter Cup, a
competition for the best gymnasts in
the United States, the Morganville,
N. J., native cemented his elite status
on the event, finishing fifth. And his
teammates often refer to him as a
"beast" - one of the highest possible
compliments for a ring man.

Though Rosso, ranked No. 3
nationally on the apparatus as of
March 7, jokes that rings doesn't
really require gymnastics, just
strength, he brings far more than
power alone to his routines.
"He's not just strong - you can
be strong and have bad positions,"
senior co-captain Andrew Elkind
said. "He's got close to perfect posi-
tions, as seen by Winter Cup. ... It's
pretty impressive stuff, and he's
cleaning up the swing. He has a shot
at winning rings (at the champion-
ship meets), I think."
Rosso chose to come to Michigan
See ROSSO, Page 8A

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