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4 Thursday, November 8, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
This year's Michigan squad isn't a cast of also-rans, but it's not exactly
full of household names. The Wolverines will need production from some
unlikely places. Here are three returning players who could make an impact
in new coach John Beilein's system.
Considering how often it's played on the radio, it's not early in the season. Morris was unlikely to get significant
surprising the words of Kanye West in "Stronger" struck a minutes last year anyway because of his inexperience and
chord with redshirt freshman K'Len Morris. the presence ofveterans like Lester Abram and Ron Cole-
The cliche chorus ("That that don't kill me, can only man.
make me stronger") perfectly sums up what can only be Now, almost a year later, Morris is back and, he says,
described as a disastrous first year in Ann Arbor for the better than ever.
Grand Blanc native. "I'm alot stronger than I've ever been," Morris said.
Just three weeks into the season, Morris went up for a "I think mentally, since I had to sit out for a year, I'm
dunk in practice and crashed to the floor awkwardly. It hungrier than I've ever been."
seemed like your standard Big Ten physicality, but turned The results on the court suggest the slashing wing
into something far worse for the then-18 year old, may be onto something. Morris's ability to play both
The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the origi- guard positions and shoot the 3-pointer make him
nal prognosis was for-Morris to sit out three weeks. But better suited for Michigan coach John Beilein's
weeks turned into months, and eventually the shoulder offensive system than the motion-style offense run
forced Michigan trainers to shut Morris down for the by former coach Tommy Amaker.
season. Beilein has already taken a liking to Morris's
"I hate sitting out, so sitting out for a year was hell style of play, starting the redshirt freshman for
for me," Morris said. "I've never sat out for more than Michigan's exhibition game against Ferris State
a couple days, whether it was for injury or justbeing last week.
really sick. It wasn't a whole lot of fun to be around "I think he's going to benefit a lot from the new
me." system because of the way he shoots the ball, the
It got so bad for Morris, he went against doctor's way he passes, the way he sees the game," senior
orders by going to Crisler Arena to shoot around . Ron Coleman said.
while nobody was watching. But glimpses on the practice court and per-
There was a silver lining in being forced to forming in pressure-heavy situations are not
sneak around campus, though. The NCAA grant- the same.
ed Morris a medical redshirt since his For Michigan's sake, it better hope Mor-
injury occurred so ris can "Touch the Sky" once again. But this
time, the Wolverines need him to come down
9 . 9 9 *>.,
"Somebody's got to come out of nowhere,"
: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Somebody's
got to fit into that system, which I think they will."
One month ago at Michigan
Media Day, first-year coach John Beilein was asked practiced smart," Shepherd
which returning players would contribute this year. said. "Now we've put the two together."
The first words out of his mouth:
"A guy who has been real impressive so far is
Yes, that's the Jevohn Shepherd who averaged fewer
than two points per game in his two seasons at Michi-
He's the same player who shot 50 percent from the
free-throw line through two years.
But under Beilein's tutelage, Shepherd's teammates
have noticed a dramatic difference in the Toronto
"I can tell he's developed as a player mostly because
of the new drills that coach Beilein brought in, like the
new drills we've been doing and the skill' work we've
been doing," senior Ron Coleman said.
Beilein emphasized shooting the most in his offsea-
The new drills require players to shoot in all condi-
tions - especially when they're tired. Players at media
day talked about Beilein's drill in which players have to
make 50 3-pointers in five minutes. Shepherd believes
Beilein's style of hard, smart practices has elevated his
"You need to intertwine the two of them because
we've always practiced hard, but I don't think we've
Shepherd said he is confused why he didn't get
as much playing time as many thought he would
early in his career. But he's taken it in stride as part
of the learning process.
In fact, basketball fans in Bangkok are more
familiar with what Shepherd can do on a basketball
court than those in Ann Arbor.
Playing for the Canadian team at the World Uni-
versity Games in Thailand over the summer, the 6-
foot-5 junior displayed the talent that made him a
3-star recruit when he came to Michigan.
- Against the New Zealand team, Shepherd post-
ed a tournament-high 28 points, including four 3-
In the seven-game tournament, he averaged 12.7
points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
But in two years at Michigan, he hasn't shown
that potential in games.
That could change this year.
"Jevohn has always been a competitor," sopho-
more DeShawn Sims said. "He just really didn't get
the opportunity last year because of some issues
with the seniors, and how everything played out.
I think this is the time where he's going to show
people what he can really do."
C.J. Lee is a trendsetter. will pay higher dividends under
When the backup guard found out Michi- Beilein.
gan hired John Beilein away from West Vir- In the Wolverines' exhibition game last week,
ginia in April, he quickly thought of redshirt Gibson didn't display the perimeter skills he has
sophomore Zack Gibson. In Gibson's jump- shown off in practice, not takinga long jump shot
shooting ability, Lee saw a similarity to Kevin the entire contest. But he proved he could play
Pittsnogle, the sharp-shooting center who led like a traditional big man. Gibson won the tip-
the Mountaineers to Elite Eight and Sweet Six- off, scored eight points on 3-of-3 shooting and set
teen berths in 2004 and 2005, respectively. good screens in 19 minutes of action.
It didn't take long for comparisons between ' "I'm glad he's got an opportunity to play
the 6-foot-10, 210-pound Gibson and the 6-foot-11, because that lets you know he's dedicated to the
250-pound Pittsnogle to become en vogue. game, that you can sit out for a whole year and
While most of the Wolverines are struggling to still bring it every day in practice and compete,"
fine-tune their skills to get in sync Beilein's offense, sophomore forward DeShawn Sims said.
Gibson seems like a better fit in the new system It must be comforting to Gibson, who started
than he would have been in former Michigan coach against Ferris State, that he is all but guaran-
Tommy Amaker's motion offense. , teed playing time because of Michigan's lack
Gibson, who sat out last season after transfer- of depth up front. Almost by default, he has to
ring from Rutgers, spent his off-season working on shed his anonymity - Izzo referred to him as
his jumper. He says he would have taken the "the big kid that transferred from Rutgers."
same approach had Amaker not Although the likelihood of Gibson match-
been fired, but the ing Pittsnogle's numbers is slim, if he can effi-
regimen ciently mirror Pittsnogle's style, Gibson will
merit significant playing time as the first of
many Beilein system-players in
TEXT: DAN FELDMAN, MARK
GIANNOTTO AND IAN ROBINSON
PHOTOS: ZACHARY MEISNER/Daily