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November 16, 1995 - Image 26

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-16
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4 - The Michigan Daily -- TIPOFF "95-196 -- Thursday, November 16, 1995

The Michigan Daily - "

Blue boasts top frontcourt
Baston and Taylor are proven contributors. With 6-8, 300-pound
Traylor, they could dominate the Big Ten paint * By Paul Barger

and center spots.
Last year Fisher tried Jerod Ward
down low, but the experiment clearly back-
fired. For Ward to succeed he must play
either shooting guard or small forward. He
may have a great deal of size and athletic
ability, but he's simply not comfortable
playing with his back to the basket.
The Wolverines were weakened dur-
ing the off-season with the departure of
Makhtar Ndiaye. Ndiaye transferred to
North Carolina, citing differences with
Fisher and the coaching staff as his reason
for leaving.

The 6-9 center would have given
Michigan a great deal of depth and would
have allowed Fisher to work Traylor in
Still, no one is shedding a tear for the
Wolverines. Michigan is big, strong, ath-
letic and confident in the paint. Taylor,
Traylor and Baston each present a specific
problem to the player's unfortunate enough
to defend them.
If they can improve throughout the sea-
son and grow together as a unit, they will
be as tough as any frontcourt in the coun-
try come March.

Wisconsin forced to rebuild

First-year coach Dick Bennett inherits a
far below expectations last season By

Taylor, Traylor, Baston.
The thought of these three players on
the court at the same time will invoke fear
in coaches throughout the nation.
Individually, each player is
multitalented and carries a great deal of
potential. Together, they give Michigan
one of the most intimidating frontcourts it
has ever had.
Taylor, coming off a season in which
he garnered the award for Big Ten Fresh-
man of the Year, is primed to move into the
ranks of the nation's best big men.
He is the Wolverines' top returning
player, averaging 12.4 points along with
5.1 rebounds per game.
His only weakness, and one has to
search far to find one, was his inability to
hit the game-winning shot last year. The
disappointments from last season's near-
misses should only make him a better
player in the future.
"We want to make him move forward,
and I think he will," Fisher said. "His bread
and butter is power basketball, but with his
soft shooting touch and with his ability to
run the floor, he poses problems offen-
sively both inside and outside."
As good as Taylor is, it's possible
that he will be overshadowed this season
by 6-8, 300-plus-pound Robert "Trac-
tor" Traylor. Traylor is absolutely enor-
mous, though he has allegedly lost 40
pounds since committing to Michigan.
He is expected to make an immediate

impact underneath the basket and is likely
to be a starter at some point during the year.
"He is very intense, has soft hands and
is light on his feet," Fisher said. "He stays
on an even keel and doesn't seem to allow
the emotions of the highs and lows get the
best of him. I think that will help him be a
valued contributor as a freshman."
Traylor's biggest weaknesses are foul
shooting and stamina. In the first exhibition
game of the year against Athletes in Ac-
tion, the freshman went a dismal 2 for 11
from the charity stripe.
The other, more glaring problem for
Michigan's 1995 "Mr. Basketball," is his
ability to hustle for a full game. He is cur-
rently in an intensive conditioning program
that will allow him to contribute greatly to
the Wolverines' success.
"We'll have to see how long of a
stretch he can go before we have to put a
new battery in him," Fisher said. "I've ad-
mired how hard he's fought. I think he's

done a really good job.
Maceo Baston was clearly the most
improved of last year's freshman crop. Af-
ter a slow start, Baston exploded, leading
Michigan in rebounding average with 5.5
per game.
He played an essential role in two of
the Wolverines' biggest wins. In a double-
overtime thriller against Iowa, Baston pre-
served victory with a blocked shot as the
clock was running out.
More impressive was his perfor-
mance at Indiana where he was named
player of the game. Michigan broke
Indiana's 50-game home win streak that
night, largely because of Baston's effort.
The Dallas native had 13 points, 10 re-
bounds and two blocks to score the im-
probable upset.
"At the end of last season Maceo was
our best big man," Fisher said. "He got
steadily better and that's what we're count-
ing on to happen this year. He's gotten big-
ger and stronger. You don't ever get any-
thing but extreme effort out of him."
With all of this talent, Fisher has many
options. He can start with Baston or
Traylor at center and leave Taylor at the
power forward spot. Taylor's versatility
gives him another enticing option. Fisher
could drop Taylor to the small forward spot
and use Baston and Traylor underneath the
But, for the most part, expect to see a
three-man rotation at the power forward

Last year at this time, the main
concern at Wisconsin was how the
basketball team would deal with a
new coach.
With top players Rashard Griffith
and Michael Finley staying in Madison,
most felt that Stan Van Gundy was as-
sured of having a positive initiation into
Big Ten basketball.
Predictions can be faulty.
The Badgers and Van Gundy, of
course, had a horribly disappointing sea-
son, finishing 9th in the conference and
13-14 overall.
Van Gundy was abruptly dismissed,
leaving Dick Bennett with an inexperi-
enced Wisconsin team that is sure to
"All I can say is that we are begin-
ning at the beginning," Bennett said.
"We have 14 players on our roster and 13
are in their first or second year."
Junior Darnell Hoskins, who aver-
aged 6.8 points per game at point guard,
is the team's only returning starter.
Hoskins will likely be joined in the
backcourt by either Mosezell Peterson or
Sean Mason, both sophomores.
The frontcourt is an even bigger con-

cern. Bennett is going into the season
with very little idea about who his top
post players will be.
Osita Nwachukwu, Sean Daugherty
and Booker Coleman did not impress in
limited action last year. Bennett does not
have much choice, however, and these
three players will see a great deal of play-
ing time throughout the season.
There is one bright spot for the first-
year coach. Bennett was able to lure
highly touted recruit Sam Okey to Madi-
son. Okey is expected to make an imme-
diate impact in the paint.

dger team that fell
ul Barg r
The 6-7 forward was a starter in the
McDonald's All-America game and
finished his high school career as the
fourth-leading scorer in Wisconsin
state history.
"Okey is a physically gifted young
man who I think needs to learn how to
play the game the way it has to be
played," Bennett said. "To expect too
much from him early will set him up for
perhaps some frustration."
Okey is joined by five other fresh-
men, all of whom are listed as guards.
With the departures of Finley and
Griffith, as well as Andy Kilbride and
Brian Kelley, the Badgers have lost
just under 50 points per game. Com-
bine this with Wisconsin's youth and it
is quite obvious that the Badgers are
going to have a great deal of trouble
this year.
Bennett's toughest job may be in-
stilling confidence in his players, es-
pecially since they are likely to get
blown out by Villanova in the season
But things are not all bad in Madison.
Wisconsin fans will have a lot to look
forward to if Bennett can endure the
troubles he is sure to have this year. This
team is very young and potentially ex-
plosive, but not much can be expected of
it now.
"I'm dealing with a team of teenag-
ers," Bennett said. "We can grow, there
is that potential. We have got a tremen-
dous distance to go."
Happy Holidays
To One And All
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Wisconsin coach Dick Ben
Finley, who averaged 20.5







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Wisconsin BADGERS
Last year: 6-4 Big Ten, 13-14 overall
Postseason: None
Returning starter:
Darnell Hoskins (6.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Key losses:
Michael Finley (20.5 ppg, 4.0 apg)
Rashard Griffith (17.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg)
F Andy Kilbride (7.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
Coach: Dick Bennett
Career Record: 361-188 (19 years)
Record at Wisconsin: 0-0

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In between baskets, check out Michigan's only full time chess
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-. i."


Contact the Daily basketball writers
by e-mai1:
Barger - pbarge@umich.edu
McIntosh - mctosh@umich.edu
Rosenberg - mcr@umich.edu
Sollenberger - jsol@umich.edu

M11 IYIS".I . Q IUI 7fr ow fu %.WIN


- 9 " ' "-

Michigan forward Maurice Taylor looks for an opening against former
Wisconsin center Rashard Griffith.

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