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November 02, 2010 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2010-11-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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A constant
whisper once
hi h school
across the
It was the whisper of expectations and
dreams for a community. Those whispers
acted as a blanket in the tough reality of a
world: We are here for you.
That whisper was drowned out by pro-
fessional athletes and by competitive trav-
eling sports teams. Suddenly it was not as
important for athletes to take their commu-
nity with them. The idea of community was
lost and with it, the whisper.
But in Indiana that whisper lives on. It
charges through the rows of golden corn
and bounds off the new high tech build-
ings those cornstalks back up to in the cit-
ies until it resonates and roars, filling the
spaces that most people allow silence to fill.
In his 1997 book 'Where the Game Mat-
ters Most,' William Gildea wrote that Indi-
ana high school basketball "is as universal
as the freight whistle there."
"The game binds people and places,"
Gildea wrote. "They're all Hoosiers."
And in the Indiana towns of Carmel and
Chesterton that whisper is as loud as Bobby
Knight was fierce. It fills newspapers and
feeds coffee talk from town to town.
In Carmel's massive gymnasiums,
12-year-olds shoot with one thought in
their heads.
I want to shoot like Stu Douglass.
And 160 miles northwest in Chesterton,
the city still knows Zack Novak simply as
Zack - there's no need for last names of
high school stars who started signing auto-
graphs as freshmen in high school. Young
kids approach Novak's old coach and ask,
"What do I need to do to be as good as him?"
And while those whispers of Stu and
Zack in Indiana are murmuring votes of
confidence, the whispers in Big Ten basket-
ball circles concerning the Michigan bas-
ketball team are a defeatist inquiry: What
in the world are you going to be able to do this
And for the team's two junior co-cap-
tains: Where are yougoingto lead this team?
They smirk. They're one step ahead of
you. You don't have to talk about the low
expectations most have for this team or the
fact that they, as juniors, are the oldest and
most experienced players this year.
Because it doesn't matter. They know
that and they've moved past it.
Both have been the underdog before.
They know what it feels like to be over-

looked, and they refuse to be rattled by the
expectations of others. Rather, they'd love
to silence the critics and allow those Indi-
ana whispers to travel a little farther north.
We're standing in the
tunnel of Crisler Arena when Stu asks me
whether I know how to start this story.
Absolutely not, I tell him.
He throws back his head, laughs and
tells me he has the perfect start for the
Would that work? He asks me with a
crooked smile after telling me an inven-
tive tale that clearly could never be print-
Stu is the one whose emotions are writ-
ten on his face, the one who smiles with
his eyes. His high school coach Mark Gal-
loway described him as a coach's dream
- he had an ability to set high goals and
against all odds, achieve them.
Whenever Stu wouldn't succeed Gallo-
way would tell him, "You can get bitter or
you can get better."
He would always get better. He always
pushed the envelope. He always stepped
back once more to see if he could hit the
shot when it was just a bit farther out.
But four years ago, before Stu signed
with Michigan, Galloway told Stu that
his goal of playing Big Ten basketball was
too big of a dream - he was too small, he
wasn't an IndianaAll-Star. Galloway was
all for Stu setting high goals but he want-
ed them to be realistic. Stu could settle
for a smaller Division II school or Har-
vard, which he had also visited, where
his talents would be of immediate impact.
Stu could understand where Galloway
was coming from. But when his mother
told him that he should set his sights
lower, he decided he had heard enough
from the "realists."
"I was like,'There is no question, Mom.
I'm playing at Michigan'," Stu tells me.
He had faced this kind of skepticism
before. After a less than impressive fresh-
man campaign on the varsity basketball
team at Hamilton Heights High School,
Stu's family moved and he transferred
to the affluent Carmel High School, one
of the best schools in the state, both aca-
demically and athletically, with a student
body of more than 4,000.
Galloway put him on the JV team his
sophomore year. By his junior year he'd
earned a starting spot on the varsity
squad, and when his senior year rolled
around, he was known across the confer-
ence as a kid whose shot was dangerous
anywhere past half court.
His freshman year at Michigan, Stu
started 23 games and unsurprisingly his
best stats in most categories came in the
biggest and most pressure-driven games
of that year. In a close loss to then-No. 1
Connecticut, Stu scored a career-high 20
points and was 6-for-8 on three pointers.

in a huge upset over then-No. 4 UCLA
at Madison Square Garden, Stu had five
assists and in the second round of the
NCAA Tournament he had five rebounds.
He showed up big when realists didn't
expect much of him, when the whispers
around Ann Arbor were dismissive, when
his team was the underdog.
"It's a position that I've grown to love,"
Stu says. "Especially freshman year, I
loved it, because of the opportunity it
gave us to surprise people and just with-
out any expectations - that's what Ilove,
that's how I love to play. My best teams
have been like that."
During this long offseason he spent
substantial time in the gymtrying to alle-
viate the pain of his sophomore year that
witnessed the struggle of streaky shoot-
ing. He spent time at the Champions
Academy in Zionsville, Ind. working out
alongside 2010 NBA draft picks Gordon
Hayward and Patrick Patterson on skill
and strength training.
Those who don't know Stu well may
wonder what his junior year will bring,
but not Galloway. He says he's never
coached a shooter like that, never had
the honor of having another player who
could create a shot for himself like Stu
could. And when Stu decides something,
you better not be in his way.
But the better person to ask would be
Galloway's 8-year-old son. He can be
found in the gym with Stu's style of baggy
shorts. Still, three years after the depar-
ture of the Carmel star, he continues to
watch reruns of Stu's senior season.
He wants to shoot like Stu.
I get off the highway
an start driving down a two-lane road
before turning right onto a small street
lined with houses and small businesses. A
sign points to the YMCA Building down the
road - a building resembling an old ware-
Just blocks later I'm driving through
fields of corn that despite having died due
to the recent burst of cold air still continue
to feebly stand up against the desolate grey
sky. I pass a small church on my left before
coming upon an enormous athletic com-
The expansive practice and competi-
tion fields encroach on the cornfields sur-
rounding the school, but the corn probably
doesn'tmind. They were able to witness the
development of a player that changed the
way Chesterton loved basketball.
"What kind of a player was Zack?" I ask
Chesterton High School coach Tom Pel-
ler as we sit in his beautiful gymnasium
- another testament to the significance of
high school athletics in the state.
"He learned at an early age the most
important thing: how to compete and how
to compete the right way," Peller said. "Not

dirty, just play hard and play smart and do
it the right way. He didn't want to lose no
matter what it was - if we were playing a
little three-on-three game or if we were
playing Valparaiso in the championship."
Peller points to the corner of the stands
where Zack's dad, who was his first basket-
ball coach, sat at every game. He motions to
the sidelines and talks about the intensity
Zack brought to the bench when he, very
rarely, had to be there.
He tells of the summer before Zack's
freshman year of high school when he
approached Peller and asked: What do
I need to do to be a starter on the varsity
team in the fall?
Zack not only made the team but start-
ed as a freshman on varsity averaging
15.9 points a game and setting the Porter
County record for freshman scoring. Zack
quickly became well known and respected
on his team as both the best player and the
hardest worker.
"He may not have had the most talent
but he got the most out of his talent," Pel-
ler said. "It's just one of those stories where
you have a special kid and he worked to
maximize what he was given rather than
sit on his laurels."
Nearby Valparaiso University quickly
noticed Zack's talent and potential and
offered him a scholarship. He didn't com-
mit, but he also didn't not commit - he
wanted to wait longer to see if he would be
noticed by any Big Ten schools.
By his senior year he was averaging 26.9
points per game and had shattered Chester-
ton's all-time leadingscorer record by more
than 500 points. He was the third-highest
scorer in the state of Indiana that season.
But still, no offers, and when he decided
to accept Valparaiso's offer, it was no longer
Valparaiso had given away the scholar-
ships to other players who committed more
quickly and told Zackthat he could play one
year as a walk-on and secure a scholarship
as a sophomore.
He considered walking away from his
dream of playing college basketball until
Tom Peller got a call from Michigan bas-
ketball coach John Beilein, who wanted to
see Zack play.
Beilein showed up at a Chesterton High
School practice one day and asked Zack to
take a step behind the three-point line and
shoot10 shots. He was on fire.
And near the beginning of Zack's senior
season of baseball, he signed on to play
Michigan basketball.
As a freshman he started asa two guard
before promptly moving to the four spot
where he's been ever since. He started the
final 22 games of the season and before his
freshman campaign ended, several coach-
es, includingthose at a few Big Ten schools,
approached Peller telling him what a mis-
take they'd made in overlookingthe 6-foot-
4 Indiana boy.


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