Michigan ‘09-10 Preview

September 24, 2009

deshawn_sims

Throughout the history of college basketball the University of Michigan gained prestigious distinction for their ability to produce competitive teams. From the 1989 NCAA Championship squad to the officially extinct “Fab Five” bunch of the early 90s, the Michigan Wolverines have consistently stayed relevant.

All the way up until the new millennium, the Wolverines were running the Great Lakes State, as far as hoops were concerned, and no other team could do anything about it. That was until the Michigan State Spartans emerged from behind-the-scenes and hoisted their first NCAA title banner since the Magic Johnson-led team of 1979. Since then, MSU landed all of the top-tier Michigan athletes, monopolizing the local hoops scene and leaving U-M in the dust.

Then the Wolverines caught a huge break when a big kid from Detroit decided to verbally commit to the organization as a senior at Pershing High School on August 12, 2005. This same kid later signed his national letter of intent to Michigan during the early signing period on November 9, 2005 and has since been the cornerstone to the school’s recent success. The kid’s name is DeShawn “Peedi” Sims. 

In his freshman season, Sims helped lead the team to a 20-plus win season (22-13) as well as second round appearance in the NIT. The following season, “Peedi” was paired with another Detroit standout, who also happened to be Michigan’s 2007 Mr. Basketball winner, when Redford’s Manny Harris decided to sign on the dotted line.

Since then, these two have been able to help revitalize fans of the Maize and Blue in Ann Arbor, MI. Although the duo accumulated 10 victories in their first collegiate season together, they were able to exceed expectations last season when they lead Michigan to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years! The run stretched only to the second round when they were defeated, 73-63, by Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners.

Sims finished with 14 points and 6 boards while Harris ended with only 11 points after being in foul trouble for most of the game.

Other highlights from the season included victories over UCLA, Illinois, Indiana, Clemson and even Duke.

Despite all of this success, the year still failed to match to the run of the MSU Spartans, who competed in the National Championship game against the University of North Carolina. This is why the Wolverines are on a quest not only to show that they are the best in the state, but to also attempt to seriously compete for a national crown.

Here is what they have to build on:

KEY RETURNEES

Manny Harris | 6-5 | G | Juniormanny_harris
College basketball be afraid… be very afraid! Manny Harris is the real deal. Blessed with a complete arsenal of basketball skills, look for Harris to emerge as one of the nation’s elite players. Averaging 16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game last season, he just continues to improve in every off-season. This year should be no different as he looks to extend on his stellar play and build upon his All-Big Ten First Team selection from last season.

With so much recent success, this also brings higher expectations, as Harris has been selected for several preseason All-American teams. The pressure is usually enough to bust pipes but I’m sure this tough kid from the “D” has faced much tougher situations than excelling on the hardwood so it shouldn’t be a problem.

DeShawn “Peedi” Sims | 6-8 | F | Senior
“Peedi” is as reliable as it gets and hasn’t missed a single game in the last two seasons. Consistency has also shaped his career as a Wolverine as he has also improved in every year increasing his scoring averages from 3.4 as a freshman to 12.3 as a sophomore to 15.4 as a junior. Sims also shot 50.5 percent from the field earning him a spot on the ‘08-09 All-Big Ten Second Team.

As he gets ready to use his final year of college eligibility, look for Sims to play as hard as he’s ever played in order to try to prove that he’s worthy of a spot on the professional level.

Laval Lucas-Perry | 6-3 | G | Redshirt Sophomore
With the new role this year as the team’s facilitator, Laval Lucas-Perry will have to be the team’s x-factor. At the point guard position, Lucas-Perry will remove some of the ball-handling duties from Manny and allow him to focus more on offense while also adding size to their backcourt. Appearing in 26 games and starting in 12 games last season, Lucas-Perry is familiar enough with the way that things are ran which should put trust in his teammates that he can deliver on this challenge.

KEY LOSSES

Kelvin Grady | 5-11 | Guard
Ditching the hardwood for a spot on the football field, Grady left the Wolverines scratching their heads on who would fill the void. The speedy guard from Grand Rapids was a solid ball-handler who was comfortable with the ball in his hands and would’ve had made a big impact in the backcourt this season.

KEY NEWCOMERS

Matt Vogrich | 6-4 | G | Freshman
The Wolverines hope Vogrich can be just as half as good he was in his prep career at Lake Forest High School. Vogrich was the Gatorade Player for Illinois (2009), named to the Associated Press All-State first team (2009), and averaged 16.7 points per game while setting Lake Forest’s scoring record with 1,494 career points. The team is in search of another consistent role player to complement the skills of Manny and Peedi.

Darius Morris | 6-4 | G | Freshman
Morris looks to bring some sunshine to the cold winters in Michigan as the California native prepares for his first morrisseason in a Michigan uniform. Dominating the competition at Winward High School with averages of 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists, Morris adds more depth at the guard spot. He was also the John Wooden State Player of the Year for 2009.

 

 

 

*click on this link to view this post at SLAMonline.com!

hook

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

 For general purposes, over 400 professors teach, around 25,000 students are enrolled, and more than 900 employees work full-time on Western Michigan University’s campus. With this immense number of personalities, it’s a distinctive honor for only one man to be dubbed “the voice of the Broncos.”

This man is Robin Hook!

Hook has been handling the play-by-play radio announcing duties for WMU football, men’s and women’s basketball and hockey, since 1984. With 26 years in the profession, the job still continues to bring excitement and the motivation for him to want to return to work on a daily basis.

“I just enjoy athletics and sports in general and being around athletes because I’m a competitive person. And it’s not like a job, it’s just a lot of fun to come and be part of an athletic program every day,” Hook said.

Although Hook graduated from WMU in 1978 with a major in marketing, he was always interested in broadcasting even in his adolescent years.
“I like the variety, I like the fact that I’m able to do football, hockey and basketball because I like all of them. But I can’t say that I have a favorite.”

Growing up in Bellville, Mich. without cable networks like ESPN, he often listened to the legendary Michigan sports announcers like Bob Reynolds (Detroit Red Wings) and Ernie Harwell (Detroit Tigers) to be informed of the latest action.

Listening to these broadcasters sparked the early flames for Hook’s love affair with news casting which is perhaps why, after graduating with his degree in a vastly different area, he was still able to make a smooth transition to the airwaves so successfully.

Hook began his tenure as an on-air radio personality mostly with WKMI-AM in Kalamazoo, for 15 years. In 1995, he then joined the WMU Department of Athletics and was later promoted to the Assistant Athletic Director for Broadcast Services position in 1998, which is his current title.

Throughout the years, Hook has been awarded the opportunity to cover many of the great Bronco games.

“Back in 1988, we won the MAC football championship, [which] is only the second championship that we’ve won,” he said.

Hook also announced three of the four Bowl games in the history of Western Michigan football.

“We won the MAC basketball championship back in 2004 and went to the NCAA Tournament that year as well, so that was very exciting,” Hook said.
“I really like calling hockey games and we’ve had some big wins over Michigan and Michigan State over the years that are games that you always remember. I went to Joe Louis Arena and I’ve been to the NCAA Tournament in hockey too, so those tournament opportunities are always special.”

Chronicling these games has also opened the doors for relationships with former student-athletes.

“It’s really fun to see some of these kids to go on and play professional sports. Of course, Greg Jennings and all his great plays, and now he’s in the National Football League. And Louis Delmas, who is now with the Detroit Lions, who obviously played here for four years.

“It’s exciting to see them progress. And it’s not just the ones who have moved on and played professionally, but the other guys who have also had successful careers in business or whatever. It’s just fun to see them when they come back and have reunions.”

Forming these bonds is something that Hook hopes he can continue to do as long as the university permits him to work as an employee.
While it may be a battle for certain employees to differentiate themselves on the campus of WMU, it’s clear to see that Robin Hook has had no problem excelling as the ever present voice of Bronco athletics.

*click on the pic to view this post at the Western Herald!

 floyd-mayweather

The quickness is still there. The timing is still on point. The skills are still mastered to perfection!

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is back and he’s still ready to run the boxing world just like he’s done his whole career. After demonstrating yet another extraordinary display of boxing excellence in last night’s bout against Juan Manuel Marquez, there should be no question in anyone’s mind that he is the best in the game. Manny Pacquiao who?

With his chin tucked tight, a series of left jabs, and devastating right hand leads, Mayweather (40-0, 25 KOs) looked as crisp and as sharp as ever in his 12-round victory. He even dropped Marquez (50-5-1) with a left hook in the second round, bullying the smaller guy. 

There were speculations surrounding the “Pretty Boy” prior to the bout:

“This will be Floyd’s toughest challenge.”

“He’s been out of boxing for 21 months, will he be the same?”

“How could he possibly beat a man who drinks his own urine?”

Rick Ross is going at him!”

Hkg2766454All of this chatter was temporarily silenced after “Money” Mayweather accurately punched the lights out of his opponent, winning every round.  Connecting on 290 of his 493 blows, he was able to land 59 percent of his punches (…yes 59%) and dish out a lot of leather in the process.  

Marquez’s face clearly beat up Mayweather’s gloves.

Immediately following the bout, HBO’s Max Kellerman conducted one of the most unprofessional post-fight interviews of recent years. Kellerman’s questions pushed Mayweather to become defensive, forcing him to want to explain himself with “Let me talk—you do too much taking!” Shane Mosley was also called into the interview in a disrespectful attempt to get a payday from fighting Floyd, “Kanye-ing” his shine. Mayweather had to tell him to “Respect me as a man.”

Kellerman tried to clean up his antics when talking to HBO’s other co-host Jim Lampley afterwards. He stated that “It seems to me that in certain ways he can’t get out of his own way. I’m friendlier in my disposition to Floyd than most in the media because I enjoy pure boxers and he’s an all-time great pure boxer. And yet he seems to feel persecuted by even me, who really enjoys his craft.”

Can you blame him? It seems as if Mayweather can never do anything to permanently cement himself as the clear cut best in the sport. It’s always that someone else is better at the time. With a perfect record, it should be no doubt that he is the best not only now but possibly of all-time!

How can you argue that he isn’t? He’s handily defeated any possible threat that has stepped in the ring against him including:

These are just to name a few.

I understand that Muhammad Ali ruled the Heavyweight division with class and execution of the sport as well as the people’s hearts all over the nation. That Mike Tyson forcibly annihilated his competition in the 80s with power and speed. That Roy Jones entertained us all with style and charisma, putting fans in the stands and giving them a show. That “Sugar” Ray Leonard faced stiff competition in Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler and came out on top.

But understand this, all of these greats have met their match and tasted defeat at some point in their career while Floyd Mayweather Jr. has never crossed this bridge.  So he should get the proper respect that he deserves as arguably the “Greatest of All-Time!”

dion

Give Flint native Dion Savage a call on his cell phone and you will hear him claim to be the “Future Champ” on his voicemail. Get a text message from him and he will remind you that he’s going to be the “Future Champ.” This is because he truly believes that he will rise up in the boxing ranks and become the Super Middleweight Champ.

In the midst of his training, Savage let us in on his preparation for his upcoming fight tomorrow on the underdcard of Mayweather-Marquez. Savage will put his undefeated record (5-0, 3 knockouts) on the line against Loren Myers (7-6, 2 KOs ).

Although his six-round fight is unlikely to be nationally televised on HBO PPV, he still is training just as if this is his biggest opportunity to date. Here is what he had to say:

Well right now, I’m going six rounds through the bag non-stop, no break. To build my stamina and my conditioning up because I’m fighting six rounds. I’m just jump roping and maintaining my weight right now and eating good and running around at like 11 o’clock at night. I will do like 6 miles and then hit some hard wind sprints after that because I want to be properly prepared. Proper preparation prevents poor performance, so when you properly prepared then you will have a good performance. This is a big undercard for me so I gotta go out here and give it all I got!

Right now what’s going through my mind is just being the best super middleweight out there and just doing it for all of the people that have been suffering and trying to get up outta the ghetto. I’m just trying to do it all for them and we gon do this together and get my father out of prison that’s been incarcerated for something that he didn’t do. So that’s what’s really on my mind and that’s what’s been pushing me and driving me.

The fight is at the MGM Grand so I’m fenna go out here and do it and perform and go all out! I aint gon hold back so I’m gon go all out.

I believe in my heart that the fight is not gonna go the distance because … shoot, I’m ready to die in there. I came too far to lose so I’m ready to go all out and if he aint ready to go all out then he gon lose and he gon get knocked out and that’s gon be the results.

His record is seven wins and six losses so he got 13 fights but even though he got them losses, that still don’t matter because you still don’t underestimate no fighter because that’s still a name.Well right now, Im going six rounds through the bag non-stop, no break. To build my stamina and my conditioning up because I’m fighting six rounds. I’m just jump roping and maintaining my weight right now and eating good and running around at like 11 o’clock at night. I will do like 6 miles and then hit some hard wind sprints after that because I want to be properly prepared. Proper preparation prevents poor performance so when you properly prepared then you will have a good performance. This is a big undercard for me so I gotta go out here and give it all I got!

Right now what’s going through my mind is just being the best super middleweight out there and just doing it for all of the people that have been suffering and trying to get up outta the ghetto. Im just trying to do it all for them and we gon do this together and get my father out of prison that’s been incarcerated for something that he didn’t do. So that’s what’s really on my mind and that’s what’s been pushing me and driving me.

The fight is at the MGM Grand so Im fenna go out here and do it and perform and go all out! I aint gon hold back so I’m gon go all out.

I believe in my heart that the fight is not gonna go the distance because…shoot, I’m ready to die in there. I came too far to lose so I’m ready to go all out and if he aint ready to go all out then he gon lose and he gon get knocked out and that’s gon be the results.

His record is seven wins and six losses so he got 13 fights but even though he got them losses, that still don’t matter because you still don’t underestimate no fighter because that’s still a name. So he got seven wins and six losses and his name is Loren Myers.

*Click on the pic to view this post at It’s Just Sports!

vern

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

With the loss of last year’s All-American wide receiver Jamarko Simmons due to graduation, a new player wearing the No. 27 jersey seeks to make an impact for Western Michigan University’s football team this season.

Vernon Stewart, a sophomore walk-on, is intent on becoming a true threat from the strong safety position. After redshirting in the 2007 season and appearing in only five special teams snaps in 2008 against Northern Illinois University, Stewart feels that this could be his year to finally accomplish his goals while silencing his critics.

“It was always a dream of mine [to walk-on] and people always told me that I couldn’t do it so I feel like I gotta prove people wrong and then prove it to myself,” Stewart said.

Stewart immediately showed his determination to succeed from the time he was allowed to participate in the initial team activities. Upon the completion the spring season, he led all Broncos in the annual “Brown & Gold Game” with 11 tackles, including tackles for loss and a pass break up.

This performance carried over onto the start of this season where he played impressively against the University of Michigan in the Broncos opening contest.
Registering five total tackles, assisting on three and piling up two solos, he quickly showed that he was worthy of playing a substantial amount of time in games.

“Part of the best part of this journey was getting to go through the tunnel in the Big House and to get some [playing time] and finally step on that field,” Stewart said.
“I just try to make plays every time that I step out on the field and try to distinguish myself from the other players as much as I can, every chance that I get.”

In the beginning, Stewart acknowledges that the road was tough but he gives some credit to his close relatives and friends to assisting him with keeping his mind focused on what he wanted to eventually do.

Rising from the constant struggles of trying to impress his peers on the team was no easy challenge either. Making it all the more impressive that he has become acclimated into the team’s tight brotherhood.

“If you watch how the kids on football team react to him, he’s one of the favorites out there because they know he’s a walk-on and he doesn’t have to be out here, he’s out here for really the true love of this football game and his teammates,” said Bill Cubit WMU head coach.
“He wants to be out there and he wants to be good and he’ll do everything you ask him to do and he’s got talent too and that also helps.”

This approach has proved to be successful not only amongst his teammates but of WMU’s coaching staff as well.

“He just works his butt off and he doesn’t say anything and everybody in that locker room respects him,” Cubit added.
“To us, he’s not a walk-on, he’s a member of the football team and I don’t know what we’d do without the kid.

“He’s getting a lot of plays as it is with special teams and he’s a valuable member in the defense, he’s in that core group of that nickel, dime and safety package.”

As the Broncos get set to take on the Miami University of Ohio this Saturday for their home opener, look for Stewart to keep making an impact while living out his dream.

*click on the pic to view this post at the Western Herald’s website!

swag

We know nothing about Swag. Thankfully, It’s Just Sports Swag Consultant Eric Woodyard shows up to tell us who has it.

This week, he tells you more about Western Michigan football.

Universities and community colleges around the country have picked back up their regularly scheduled educational activities for the fall semester throughout the past few weeks. Western Michigan University is no different as class is as just as intense as ever.

Despite the WMU football team starting the season with a humbling, 31-7, loss in the Big House last week to the University of Michigan (… in which I foolishly picked them to win) the future still looks bright for a certain Bronco.

Not only on the field, but more so off the turf.

Phil Swanson is a junior offensive lineman for the Brown & Gold. He majors in journalism. He contributes to the school newspaper, the Western Herald. He interned at the local CBS affiliate this past summer. He was a 2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. He blogs for the New York Times. And oh yeah, he has my Wednesday night photojournalism course.


Phil Swanson

If this is not swag, then I’m not sure what the definition of the word is.

At 5:30 p.m. promptly, the 6-4, 318 pound athlete strolled into my classroom gripping a hearty meal with a mix of vegetables and tender meat. Although he was sporting regular football attire, a black t-shirt and workout shorts, what intrigued me most was that he was rocking the Air Jordan 1’s with the black tip. These are not the typical sneakers that you would expect a Grand Haven native to be lacing up, but he proved me wrong.

From starting all 13 games last season to being named to the first-team Detroit Free Press All-State during his senior season of high school to running his own late night radio show on WMU’s radio station, Swanson can do it all.

With this leadership and motivation to excel, he hopes to instill these qualities into his teammates for this season. After the brutal loss on national television, Swanson’s swag may rub off.

*click on the pic to view this post at It’s Just Sports!

terriakrwoski

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

The 15-year marriage between Western Michigan University and gymnastics head coach Terry Karwoski has officially ended this week. Karwoski has decided to accept an assistant coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh.

Karwoski’s tenure in Kalamazoo was fulfilled as she coached the Broncos for a dozen seasons after initially competing as a student-athlete for three years.

Despite all of this experience she will be returning to a familiar setting this upcoming season for the sake of her family.

“It’s definitely bittersweet because Kalamazoo has been my home for a very long time so it’s very hard to leave somewhere that you love,” Karwoski said.

“But I also know that the reason we are leaving is to keep our family together and Pennsylvania is actually my home state so it’s kinda like I’m going back home so I am excited for the future, but definitely will miss my Bronco roots.”

During her stint as a student-athlete for WMU, Karwoski played under the guidance of former-Head Coach Kathy Beauregard, where she was able to help lead the brown and gold to a Mid-American Conference championship in 1987.

As a head coach, she enjoyed equal success as she was twice donned as the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year (2000, 2006) and led the Broncos to another conference championship in 2006.

This feat would be one of her crowning achievements.

“My best memory without a doubt would be winning the Mid-American Conference championship in 2006,” Karwoski reflected.

“Seeing a group of young women just perform and love their sport and enjoy it in their home arena and end up with that first place finish. I sat in the arena that next day and just played it all back in my head over again and I will definitely take those memories with me.”

The memories of gymnastics success during Karwoski’s run in office are all that the WMU will be left to reflect upon.

The remembrance of her 75 total wins and 26 conference victories coupled with the retention of the flashbacks from nine of her gymnasts competing in 10 NCAA Regionals will have to serve the Broncos fans justice for the time being.

With the transition to Pittsburgh currently in the process of becoming a reality, Karwoski will bring a keen sense of knowledge and wisdom to instill into the athletes at her new university.

She also vows to continue to follow and to lend a helping hand to her former pupils if they decide to reach out for advice.

“Obviously I want them to embrace the next coaching staff that comes in and when you’re an athlete it’s all about you coming in and taking advantage of the coaching staff and the facility and being the best that you can be,” Karwoski said.

“I told the girls that it doesn’t change and that you’re still in command of your performance and obviously I will be keeping track of the Broncos because this place will always be near and dear to my heart.”

As the quest begins nationally for a new head coach, Kevin Anderson will take on the role of acting head coach until further notice.

*click on the pic to view this post on the Western Herald’s website!

WMU_Broncos

Coaching staff looking for men who can help the Lady Broncos

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

Nearly every student on the campus of Western Michigan University who has decided to pick up a basketball and shoot a jump shot has probably wondered, ‘how does it feel to play for the school basketball team?’

Envisions of hardwood success in the Read Fieldhouse has probably followed, images of he/she sporting and lacing up Adidas sneakers and gear have probably been intriguing, and dreams of competing in official practices have probably been on their mind. These perks are enough to tempt even the most serious recreational basketball players and students who want to join the team.

But what if these fantasies could become a reality? Well…it can…sort of!
The Broncos women’s basketball team is currently seeking male practice players to occasionally help push the female athletes behind-the-scenes for in-game competition.

“Most schools, including us, want their players to compete against players that are bigger, faster, (and) stronger, and often times there aren’t too many females in the normal population that are usually bigger, faster, (and) stronger than your scholarship players,” Western Michigan head coach Tasha McDowell said. “So it’s great to have males that know the game and are willing to be a part of a practice squad to benefit the team. It helps us to react quicker, to defend harder and to be able to go against an elite level of athletes.”

With this great opportunity comes a catch, the coaching staff doesn’t want these men to lose sight of reality and that they will strictly be used to help the student-athletes improve at their skills. Egos and personal triumph will be left at the door.

“If they want to be a practice player, number one they need to be willing to be dedicated to the cause. They need to be available and not have classes between the hours of 6:30 pm and 9:30 and they will get a tryout during practice and we can see what kind of skill level they have,” McDowell said. “But the thing that they need to remember is that it’s about the team and it’s not a chance to relive their glory days.”

Players who have served in this role in the past can vouch that this will be no easy task. Practicing against Divison I athletes (…female or not) is highly competitive and humbling in the same aspect.

“I was helping them by me obviously me being a male with their strength and when they would get in the game than it would be easier going against females,” former-practice player Will Craft said.  “I felt like I was helping them for a better cause, for my school and they also did some things that I couldn’t do.”

For more information on how to help out the women’s basketball team contact assistant coach Glenn Box at (269) 998-1721.

*click on the pic to view this post on the Western Herald’s site!

Western Over Michigan!

September 3, 2009

wmu football

When the black and gold Adidas cleats from Western Michigan University’s football team stampedes the Big House this Saturday, it’s going to be all business. Nothing personal, just business.

The Broncos of WMU have a legitimate shot of defeating the Michigan Wolverines. Retweet that, put it in your facebook status, or you may want to post it up on Myspace for old time’s sake. As a matter of fact, put my name next to it as the trusted source.

Here are a few reasons why:

With No. 3 dropping back delivering crisp passes, good things always happen. The 6-5, 234 pound assassin is a force to THillerbe reckoned with. Last season he started all 13 games and broke WMU single-season records for passing attempts (522), completions (339), yards (3,725) and touchdowns (36). He also led the MAC in five of six major passing categories (attempts, completions, yards, yards per game, and touchdowns). Of course he had the pleasure of having Flint native Jamarko Simmons catching anything in his vicinity, but he still had to deliver. Hiller can pick the Wolverines apart with his keen vision and smart tactics. He’s also one of 38 quarterbacks named to the 2009-10 Manning Award Watch List announced by the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The list includes 38 of the top quarterbacks in the nation heading into the 2009 season.

  • WMU is hungrier!

The Broncos are looking for their first win over the Wolverines in school history! Ok so Michigan does hold a dominant 4-0 advantage over the Brown and Gold, but that can end. Why? Because of coaching…this is WMU head coach, Bill Cubit’s second season opening up against a Big Ten opponent. The last time was against Indiana on September 2, 2006. Cubit knows what to do and he won’t succumb to the pressure. WMU holds a record of 2-2 against teams from the Big Ten during Bill Cubit’s tenure. 

  • Michigan may be drained!

Facing allegations, practicing too hard, and caught up in a media frenzy, the players on the team may not be focused. ESPN recently documented that the players said the amount of time they spent on football activities during the season exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours and often exceeded the daily limit of four hours. That’s a lot of football and the players could be tired! Rich Rodriguez may be putting too much pressure on his team to succeed this season which may bust the pipes of some of his athletes.

You can agree with my reasoning or you can think it’s a bunch of crap…but at the end of the day, only 98 miles seperate Kalamazoo, Mich. from Ann Arbor, Mich. It is a fact that Western Michigan University captured nine wins for only the third time in program history last season. It’s common knowledge that the Broncos appeared in its fourth postseason bowl game in 2008. It is written in stone that the Brown and Gold finished out last season a better team than the 3-9 Wolverines who didn’t even make the post season, which ended a 33-year streak by the way! 

So when the ball is kicked off in Big House on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and all the ABC and ESPN2 cameras are filming the action…remember what I told you. Western over Michigan!!! 

 

 
 

 

Top 50: Ben Gordon, no. 47

September 1, 2009

By Eric Woodyard (…click on the photo to view this post at Slamonline.com)

The off-season of the National Basketball Association is like a game of chess! Organizations gain great delectation from competitively moving the right pieces to improve their chances of winning… or as Ving Rhames called it in the movie Baby Boy, deciphering the “guns” from the “bBen Gordonutter.”

Now what are the “guns?” The guns are the things that appreciate with value! What’s “butter?” All that other stuff that doesn’t mean anything after you buy it. That’s what it’s about!

Detroit Pistons Manager, Joe Dumars is no different, he goes through the same process. Dumars’ greatest challenge now is to reconstruct a winning franchise from the ground up.

Last season, Dumars went after an AK-47 in Allen Iverson but in the end it turned out to be nothing but regular Blue Bonnet, melting as the season progressed. This season, he hopes Ben Gordon can be that selective rifle. Pulling the trigger and lighting up the opposition with pinpoint shots just as he did in the Chi Town.

Why wouldn’t he be? The 6-3, Akon look-alike brings with him a new commitment to winning that was missing last year. Starting with intense off-season workouts in which he strives for basketball excellence, building camaraderie with teammates, and taking on a new role in his career, there shouldn’t be any doubt in anyone’s mind that Gordon will be top 50 status in the League!

Gordon’s workouts are legendary. They’re an integral piece to his success. They’ve been documented in just about every major basketball publication and airwave. He flouts the same off-season dedication as his Airness and the Black Mamba. He wants to be that good! This season should be no different… In fact, my girl Holly MacKenzie (…Canada stand up!!) just completed a story on his “Summer Vacation” in the latest edition of Hoop, where Gordon touched on this situation.

“I think everyday things are based around what I do on the court,” Gordon said. “So every day [I practice] shooting, ball handling—whatever I’m working on in my game, you know, at that phase or that period.”

“Everyone can shoot the basketball,” Gordon added. “I take pride in taking big shots with the game on the line, knowing my team can rely on me. I attribute that to how I train during the offseason.”

With that mentality of “taking big shots” and “knowing my team can rely on me,” he may be able to single-handedly bring life back into the Detroit Pistons. There will no longer be any worries about who wants that last shot because he’s already made it clear that he does. Prior to this off-season, the fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills had as much faith in the Pistons as the United States citizens did for President Bush during his last year in office—they just weren’t convinced.

This is the perfect spot for BG to become a “superstar” (…Matthew Santos voice) and establish a true fan base. Gordon’s finally in a situation where he doesn’t really have to co-exist with similar talents. This may propel him to having one of his best seasons of his career. I know what you’re thinking… What about Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey? But, Rip can’t create a shot as well as Gordon and Stuckey can’t shoot as good as him so he will be given the opportunity to freelance all over the court. This was not the case in Chicago, where he had to play with the likes of Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, hindering him from showing his full potential as a basketball player.

He’s also coming into this season with confidence. With a solid playoff performance under his belt against the Boston Celtics where he averaged 24.3 buckets per game, including a 42-point explosion in Game 6, why wouldn’t he be? This may be why he’s made an effort to begin building such great camaraderie with his new teammates in the Motor City…because he’s confident and comfortable.

• He’s joined forces with two former UConn Huskies, Rip Hamilton and Charlie V, to give him some familiarity. (Note: All three of them have been National Champions, just for the record)

• He attended Rip Hamilton’s wedding earlier this summer to show his support for the masked man.

• He signed a five-year deal, along with Villanueva, in an effort to show his commitment toward establishing a new core for the future of Pistons basketball.

All of these factors will play into the success of Gordon’s first season in the red, white and blue. The lucky No. 7 has accepted his role of coming off the bench, which was the problem in the D with Allen Iverson. BG’s also accepted a new role of handling the ball more this season, taking the pressure off Rodney Stuckey in pressure situations.

In his mind, this has never been an issue.

“That was one of the main reasons,” Gordon told Dime earlier this month. “In Chicago, scoring was what I was asked to do. But I can do a lot more—I can make treys, I can pass, I can create. There’s a lot to my game that people haven’t seen, or seen enough of. I think in Detroit I’ll be able to do more than just score.”

Don’t expect him to become Chauncey Billups, but hey you never know…

It seems as if playing in front of the Michigan fans has been his destiny. Since his rookie season, he has constantly drawn comparisons to Pistons legend, Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson and now he will be awarded the opportunity to excite fans in the same fashion. At 26 years old and reaching his prime, don’t expect him to disappoint.

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ‘09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.