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November 01, 2011 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2011-11-01

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From Hardaway 5B

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it was too late. It was always going
to be Michigan.
The whispers within the bas-
ketball program before last season
indicated Tim Hardaway's son was
already the team's best player.
He seemed to prove it early on.
But just as Michigan's strong start
soon gave way to a 1-6 stretch in
January, it became clear that as well
as Tim Jr. was playing, he was still
a freshman - there was more to be
had. Big Ten defenses were tougher
than anything he had yet seen (he
was shooting just 36 percent in con-
ference play).
Michigan coach John Beilein sat
him down after what amounted to
the team's rock bottom - the Wol-
verines' January home loss to Min-
nesota that put them at 1-6 in the
conference.
The season was on the verge of
complete collapse, the locker room
was in a fragile state. But Beilein
didn't yell at his young guard - he
just talked, trying to understand
where Tim Jr. was mentally, and
what he needed to do to take his
game up a notch. He was coaching
like a father - like Tim Sr. finally
learned to do after that apology.
It worked. Four games later at
Penn State, the Wolverines were
down nine points with less than
eight minutes left. Tim Jr. hadn't
scored a single point, but he knew
he had to spark his team.
Tim Jr. proceeded to score five
straight points, and later knocked
down two straight 3-pointers to
lead a10-0 Michigan run that ended
in a critical 65-62 road win.
But it was nothing new. He has
always thrived in the big moments.
"That's one thing about Tim -
any big game, he was going to show
up," Brown said. "He wants to be in
that situation. He wants the ball in
that situation. ... He prepared him-
self mentally for those situations,
did all the work."
It was like the district champion-
ship game in Tim Jr.'s senior year
when he poured in 45 points - 17
straight at one point - to defeat
rival Killian on the road. Tim Sr.
watched with pride, cheering his
son on loudly.
Then there was that December
night at Pine Crest. The Panthers
featured Brandon Knight, one of
the top point guards in the nation
and a consensus top-10 recruit. He
would go on to star as a freshman at
Kentucky last season before being
picked eighth overall in the 2010
NBA Draft.
This was the kind of game Tim
8B Tipoff -November 1, 2011

Jr. lived for. It felt like the state
finals - Pine Crest's gym could
only hold about 1,500 people, but at
least 2,500 were squeezed in. Col-
lege coaches from all over the state
of Florida were there to watch, and
so too was Beilein, who would get
an early preview of what his future
star could do on a bigastage.
Tim Jr. wanted to prove that
rankings don't mean anything.
He demanded to guard the all-
everything Knight, even though
he was several inches taller and a
couple steps slower than the point
guard. And at the end, the underdog
proved he could hang with the big
boys. Knight finished with 36 points
- Tim Jr. with 42.
In Latvia this summer, Tim Jr.
proved his mettle once again. He
was playing for Team USA - like
his father had 10 years earlier in the
Sydney Olympics.
Entering its final game against
Australia in a fight for fifth place,
the U19 team was desperate to sal-
vage something out of the difficult
trip. Tim Jr. responded, putting up a
personal tournament-best 21 points
to lead his teammates to a 78-77
win.
"When he gets (shots) like that
shot he hit against Illinois in the Big
Ten Tournament, to the shot he hit
against Duke, those were shots that
were certainly big shots," Beilein
said. "He lives for that, without
even maybe knowing it, because he
just stays in the moment."
How does a skinny 6-foot-3
high school guard respected by
so few colleges become an All-Big
Ten player? How does he become
NBAdraft.net's projected sixth
overall pick - eight spots higher
than Tim Sr. was chosen - in the
2013 NBA Draft?
Hard work. It's what defines Tim
Jr. as a player, ever since the seventh
grade when his father first noticed.
Tim Sr. calls him a "sponge," eager-
ly soaking up all the coaching he
can and attacking workouts and
practices with the same intensity.
He made sure his son was going to
earn his accolades.
"There's a lot of players with
(good) DNA that may not have that
same drive," Beilein said. "Tim'sgot
it. He's grown up with great focus,
(knowing) what it takes to achieve.
Tim likes to work hard, so that
he can achieve success and not be
given success."
In many ways, Tim Jr. is still
that same kid who was a handful
for his parents, the same guy his
high school teammates razzed by
calling "Timisha." His teammates
just shake their heads when he and

junior guard Eso Akunne talk end-
lessly about their favorite cartoons.
But he's also a man. There's a dif-
ferent look about Tim Jr. this year
- he's taller (6-foot-6, despite what
he's listed at on the roster), more
confident, more determined. The
quiet intensity that he carries with
him always, and then unleashes
with every two-handed dunk, is
stronger than ever. He has that air
that all great players carry - that
Tim Sr. had all those years ago.
His teammates know that he's
the team's best player.
"We don't vote or anything, but I
don't think it's a secret," Novak said.
"And I don't have any problems say-
ing that because he's not someone
who carries himself like he's bet-
ter than anybody else. He's one of
the hardest workers on the team,
got one of the best attitudes on the
team."
With that talent comes the
responsibility to lead. Novak and
Stu Douglass are the captains, and
the obvious guys that the other
playerslook up to. But they're aware
that they have to groom the next
man for the job because they're not
going to be around next year. And
they know this is Tim Jr.'s team to
carry.
He spent tons of time back in
Miami while training for Team
USA over the summer working on
his mid-range game, his ballhan-
dling and on running ball screens
- on all the skills so critical when
you're the focal point of an offense.
And he worked on his leadership,
ready to be the man his teammates
look to.
Tim Sr. trained with him. The
two hadn't got to work together like
that in a while.
It appears the dark years of
Michigan basketball are over.
The NCAA Tournament should
be reached every year, players
say. Championships should be the
expectation, they echo.
Tim Jr. answers all your ques-
tions very quickly - almost too
quickly, not even letting you get all
of the words out of your mouth. But
he stops when asked a very simple
one - is Michigan basketball back?
He pauses for a moment - an
eternity in his energized world - to
think it over.
"People can say we're back, butin
our eyes, we're not back at all," Tim
Jr. says. "We're tryingto make it all
the way to 1989 (National) Champi-
onship level.... We're trying to make
it to the Fab-5 level."
There are a few givens for Tim
Jr. this season. He's going to drain
some clutch threes. He'll have

FILE PHOTO /Daiy
Sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. averaged 17.5 points over the tear's fial 14
games last season.

some highlight-reel dunks. He'll
lead the Wolverines in scoring in
more games than any other player.
He's going to explode with passion,
making those unrestrained facial
expressions he's so famous for.
The unknown is how big of a leap
he's going to make. It's an important
question because Michigan's season
depends on it. Those champion-
ships will be won on the shoulders
of Tim Hardaway Jr.
When you watch him, think of
who he is - think of a basketball
player forged by a legacy, by years of
heartbreaking family conflict, by the
work ethic that defines him and the
moments that inspire his greatness.
Think of Tim Sr., watching hap-
pily from a distance, seeing his son
reaching for his dreams.
"I love it, just (feeling) how I
would feel if I was in the stands and
bringing that into the game," Tim
Jr. said. "It's fun when you're actu-
ally out there doingthat."
Tim Sr. was there to watch his
son play against Illinois in the Big
Ten Tournament. He saw Tim Jr.
knock down the killer 3-pointer
that gave Michigan the lead for
good with two minutes left, the shot
that clinched an NCAA Tourna-
ment berth in what was supposed to
be a lost season.
It wasn't the gym at Palmetto,
but it felt like it because Tim Sr. was
at it again - talking loudly about
Tim Jr.'s play and his team, dissect-
ing his performance, criticizing him
at times. It wasn't a flashback to the
troubled past, though - Tim Sr. was
calling the game on radio for Com-
pass Media.
He had never called one of his
son's games before - he'd only ever
watched Tim" Jr. while cheering

from the stands.
This was a lot harder.
"Man, I do not never, ever, ever
want to do that anymore," said Tim
Sr. "It was strenuous, it was hard.
After that game I had a headache.
... I had to bea regular commentary
person that didn't have a son on that
team.
"I wouldn't do it anymore. It took
so much out of me. After the game, I
was sweating."
When Tim Jr. makes it to the
NBA - widely considered a matter
of when, not if - he'll finally see the
other side of his childhood, the side
that his father was living when Tim
Jr. was just that little boy, looking
up to his All-Star dad.
"Words couldn't describe how I
would feel," Tim Sr. said.
But that's a conversation for
another day. There's this season and
all of the challenges,joys, pains and
pleasures it's going to bring. Michi-
gan has more heights to reach, car-
ried by Tim Jr.
In Miami, Tim Sr. thinks about
his son, his namesake. He forged
that name, and it means something.
But Tim Jr. has his own dreams,
and Tim Sr. just hopes he achieves
them, like all fathers do. It's out of
his hands now, though.
The two Hardaways speak
almost every day, usually around
lunchtime - there's alot of silences
to make up for, after all. The father
and son don't normally talk about
basketball. They don't need to. The
father always makes sure that his
son is staying warmup in Michigan.
But father and son are both busy,
and must say their goodbyes even-
tually.
So Tim Hardaway Jr. puts his
phone down and gets up to go, his
legacy behind him but his future far
in front.

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