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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
8 - Tuesday, March 13, 2012
orey Person has been Evan Turner. He's been Kalin
Lucas. And William Buford.
Yet, he doesn't see the floor.
In four years, the 6-foot-3 senior has seen 33 min-
utes of playing time. His fellow seniors, who walked into Ann
Arbor with him, often see 33 minutes in a single game.
Zack Novak and Stu Douglass have reaped the glory of their
work. They get the credit for transforming Michigan from a
marginal major-conference school into a basketball power.
It's Novak and Douglass who have their fingerprints all over
the Wolverines' emergence. Corey, meanwhile, has taken his
place off-stage, behind the curtains, and that's OK with him.
His dreams may not have come true, but he was still ful-
What motivates a player that doesn't get to play? How can
you be a leader when you aren't on the court? What are the
rewards for a player that doesn't get his name in the box score?
Corey has faced all those questions in his four years at
Michigan and he's found a way to answer each of them. The
walk-on from Kalamazoo, Mich. came to Ann Arbor to play,
but he's found salvation elsewhere.
The player might have been taken away, but not the Person.
It hasn't always been all work and no glory for Corey.
Kalamazoo Central High School won the conference and
the district title two straight years behind Corey. In a school
that bred such champions as Derek Jeter and Greg Jennings,
Corey established his own star status. He was named MVP of
his conference and was a first team All-State selection - both
for two straight years.
On the Maroon Giants, Corey was the standout on a team
that sent players to University of Detroit, Dayton and Austin
Peay for basketball and Cincinnati for football.
Though not a five-star recruit, Corey had options coming
out of Kalamazoo Central. He could have gone to Butler - last
year's NCAA Tournament runners-up - Western Michigan,
Central Michigan and a number of other MAC schools.
Instead, he opted to become a Wolverine, even if he would
only have walk-on status. Kelvin Grady, then a two-sport ath-
lete on the football and basketball teams, made a recruiting
pitch to Corey. Grady had played with Corey since elemen-
tary school and talked up the tradition and way of life in Ann
As it turns out, the choice had already been made for him.
"Because Corey was going to be the recipient of the Kalama-
zoo Promise, which is an academic scholarship," said Corey's
mother, Kimberly Smith. "My number-one focus and priority
was where was he goingto be able to go to school to getthe best
education, understanding that hopefully, he'll get an opportu-
nity to play basketball.
"But the number one priority was education."
The decision also marked the end of Corey's life at home,
one that couldn't have gone better for his mom.
"Corey's been an all-around perfect child from day one,"
Smith said. "He's an individual who's given me no problems
whatsoever. I've never had any sort of issues with Corey,
whether in school or outside of school. I've never received
a call from a teacher voicing any complaints or issues. I've
never received any calls from any parents, any neighbors, any
"He's always gotten along with absolutely everybody and
he's always been perfect. Absolutely perfect."
When Corey came onto campus for the first open gym ses-
sions, he immediately bonded with the rest of his class.
"We were a very tight-knit group," Corey said. "Novak was
my roommate for the first summer when I first got here, and
Stu and Ben (Cronin) were roommates"
The four did everything together. From hanging out in the
dorms, playingvideo games, being in the gym and getting rides
to and from practice, the freshmen established strong chemis-
try well before the first game had been played.
"Of course, naturally, my ideas in my mind were that I was
going to step right in and play and make an impact with the
team right away," Corey said.
"I definitely saw myself on the same level (as the other
It wouldn't be too long until Corey's freshman honeymoon
In early-season practices, Corey found out that college bas-
ketball would be a completely different animal from what he
was used to.
He was accustomed to being the bigger player, or the more
athletic player. At Michigan, he was neither.
When he wanted to score, he was used to makinga move off
the dribble and creating a shot for himself. It wasn't that easy
"Watching on TV, you think it's a certain way," Corey said.
"But once you get out there, you start to see that things are a
little bit faster, guys are more athletic.
"There were times that I would go to the basket and I would
think I would have a layup, and there would be a big guy that
would come over from the weak side and be able to block my
shot. At first, you just think it's a one-time occurrence, but then
it repeatedly happens."
It started to become clear that Corey wouldn't be a factor on
Michigan's 2008-09 squad.
While Novak and Douglass competed for a starting spot,
and Cronin saw playing time before hip injuries derailed his
career, Corey was stuck at the end of the bench.
"It was definitely a frustrating period," he said. "It's frus-
trating because you're used to being able to do certain moves
and you can't do it."
Corey's college basketball experience was nothing like he
imagined it would be.
Instead of gearing up to play on game days, he would have
to gear his teammates up. Instead of helping his team on the
court, he would settle to help by cheering from the sideline.
Instead of getting his name in the box score with numbers,
"Corey Person" ended up next to "DNP."
But just as Corey had to pick up his teammates duringgames,
it was his teammates that picked him up during the rough year.
"There were plenty of nights where after practice, C.J. (Lee)
would drop me off and talk to me for an extra 15, 20 or 30 min-
utes about just staying positive and don't doubt myself," Corey
said. "He constantly talked to me, he kept my spirits up. He
was a big help my freshman year in not getting too down on
Lee, who was a senior that season, formed an instant bond
with Corey. Both were originally from Saginaw, Mich., and
Lee could identify with what Corey was going through.
After hardly playing at Manhattan College and transfer-
ring to Michigan, and then not starting as an upperclassman at
Michigan, Lee sought out the freshman.
"When you see someone that's going through the situation
that you've gone through," said Lee, now the Administrative
Specialist for the program, "you want to reach out and you
want to encourage them and let them know that they are not
alone, and they will get through it, and if they have the right
attitude, they can succeed."
Lee stressed to Corey that the most important thing an
athlete can have is confidence in himself. He encouraged the
freshman to stay positive, and continue to have faith in his
"It's an adjustment for the majority of all Division I ath-
letes," Lee said. "They were a star on their team and you go
from dominating the basketball and playing all the important
minutes to not dominating the ball and not playing the major-
ity of the minutes, so that is an adjustment that the majority of
us have to make."
When Corey returned to school the summer before his
sophomore year, he came with a different mindset.
Players not knowing their roles can decimate chemistry and
bring down the team. That wasn't going to be Corey.
Knowing that playing time would still be a long shot, he
started to dedicate himself to helping the team win in other
ways. A big part of that came through his dedication to the
The scout team prepares the rotation players for the next
opponent by mimicking plays, mannerisms and styles of the
players and teams.
Again it was Lee who made an impact. Corey saw how Lee,
who was co-captain with David Merritt, was a vocal leader on
the scout team and how that lifted the team's spirits. Corey
credits Lee and Merritt's leadership with Michigan's run to
the 2009 NCAA Tournament, which ended a 14-year drought.
With Lee graduating, Corey saw his opportunity the follow-
ing year to make a difference on the scout team and be a leader
through that role.
"Once I knew he was leaving, I just saw that regardless of if
I was going to play or not, that was somethingthat I wanted to
bring to the team because I saw how much of a difference that
it made," Corey said. "I saw it as, even though it's behind the
scenes, it's somethingthat can make or break a team."
During that summer, Corey became more vocal and started
to push teammates in workouts and remind the team to keep
up its intensity in practice. That empowered Corey to take
pride in his work on the scout team.
Corey typically plays as the opposing team's best guard or
wing player on the scout team. He's become players like Turn-
er, Lucas and Buford. And he's helped Michigan beat each one
The scout team watches film of its opponents to prepare and
pick up the tendencies of their best players. And then, in just
a 10-minute span in practice, the scout team learns the main
plays of the next opponent and goes through those plays a few
Sometimes the actions, ball movement and offensive sets
are more important than the individual players, and some-
times it's players that matter.
"The team's depending on you not to mess those plays up
and run them as good as possible," Corey said. "There's a lot of
pressure there because you know that the team is depending
on you to get them as ready as possible.
"Because if the (opposing) team comes in the next day and
they run something that either you didn't run as well or that
you didn't do, sometimes you feel like, 'Dang, I didn't prepare
the team as much as I should have.'"
In addition to learning the ins and outs of the opposing
teams, players on the scout team must also stay up-to-date on
Michigan's changes in its sets and strategies in case they're
Corey will also replicate how certain players play defense
and guard the Wolverines' top guys.
"He's tireless in his scout-team defense," said Michigan
coach John Beilein. "He guards Tim Hardaway religiously
every day, as hard as he can be guarded."
"Coach Beilein talks to me all the time," Corey said. "He tells
me, 'You have no idea how important you are to this team.' "
See PERSON, Page 7