By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

It was a story of brotherhood, sacrifice, motivation, determination, and perseverance. On Sunday night, ESPN aired a classic documentary!

The profile on the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five” was one of the greatest documentaries that I have ever watched. I’m not saying this because I hail from the Great Lakes State, I’m strictly speaking from a basketball purist’s point-of-view.

It’s not a doubt in anyone’s mind that from 1991-1993, hoops fans around the country got to witness one of the best college teams to ever step foot on the hardwood but people wanted something more tangible. The streets feined for the behind-the-scenes story of the team. The exclusive. People wanted it raw and uncut and the film delivered big-time with a five-star performance.

Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, and Ray Jackson were often described as “rockstars” who were “bigger than the score at the end of the game.”

They were right!

If not, we wouldn’t be talking about the team nearly 20 years later since they failed to bring home a national championship for two straight seasons.

Hip-hop legend, Ice Cube, summed up the squad better than anyone else in the film.

“They brought like our attitude to the court,” he said of the Fab 5 and his generation. “The Fab Five let people know it’s not how old you are as long as you can play.”

In today’s game, a college program may get lucky enough to have a couple of freshman who are able to make a great impact in one season(ie Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, John Wall). But five? That still baffles me.

It’s also crazy that a group of teenagers became cultural icons for being themselves. They rocked the black socks under the freshest Nike sneakers, banged the dopest hip-hop at the time, and had fun doing it.

The journalists of that era should now feel stupid for not covering them in the proper manner. The team was clearly ahead of its time and experts like Dick Vitale and Bill Walton were exposed for the ignorant comments they made back then.

“The black shoes. The ugly black socks. It’s the shaven head. I mean my head’s shaven because I have no choice,” Vitale said. “But all of that really has come back to haunt them in the eyes of a lot of people.”

“I think this is one of the most overrated and most underachieving teams of all-time,” Walton went on the record to say. “These are guys who come in and epitomize what is wrong with a lot of basketball players. They think they’re better than they are.”

This ticked the guys off.

“Media members would judge us by more than just how we played. They would judge us by how we dressed,” Rose said of their bad coverage. “You know ‘he’s listening to NWA, he’s listening to Ice Cube.’ You know. ‘Who is Big Daddy Kane? Who is EPMD? What is Naughty by Nature?”

Rose was the clear-cut star of the movie. With Webber deciding not to participate in the project, Rose shined.

I truly felt like Rose spoke to all the young black males across the world that may be going through a comparable struggle.

Maybe it’s because he grew up in the D but Rose immediately gained credibility with me early in the film. He said he knew about the mayonnaise sandwiches and the sugar water.

His biological father, Jimmy Walker, wasn’t in his life —although he was a former NBA player who averaged 16.7 points per game in nine seasons. Rose said he despised his father in high school at Detroit Southwestern and wore the No. 42 instead of the No. 24 for motivation since Walker wore that number during his prep years. He also talked trash to opponents, even going so far as to do his homework on each one of them.

In some ways I can relate to Rose. It’s pretty much the same growing up in Flint.

Although I didn’t have it to his extent, I felt his pain and have similar experiences. My biological father was not a part of my life but I was blessed enough to have a dad step in my life to fill the void at a very young age. Even though I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a great father figure, I’m still bitter in some ways towards the man that gave me life.

I have friends who sold drugs.

I could have easily been put in the same situation that Rose was put in at the alleged “crack house” in his hometown.

“When they come in the house we’re laughing like ‘I don’t know what kind of tips you guys got’ like ‘y’all wasting y’all time,'” Rose recalled in the film. “I remember it like it was yesterday, the cops said ‘we got rocks! Who’s house is this? Let’s go!’

Rose was given a ticket for loitering in a place where drugs were stored. He clarified that it wasn’t a “dope house” but that wasn’t how it was unveiled to the public. They went so far as to stir rumors that he may have been a drug dealer himself.

“I know what a dope house is. I know what a crack house it…trust me! I’ve walked past a few,” Rose added. “I know people that have been inflicted by a lot of that. Drug infusion came in the mid-80’s. I know about the drug game but I never been a drug dealer and that was not a crack house.”

Comments like this were powerful. Rose kept it real about everything all in the film. Not saying that King, Jackson, or Howard didn’t but I just felt like his words were a little more powerful than the rest of the cast. The lefty had a great way of touching the audience with his personable attitude.

It was inspirational that Rose channeled the negative media coverage he received from that situation into a positive one. In the next game after the ordeal, Rose arguably played his best game as a Wolverine.

On March 10. 1993, he dropped 23 points and grabbed 8 rebounds against Illinois on the road and silenced a rowdy crowd. They all yelled hurtful comments from the stands but Rose responded in the typical Fab Five fashion: not giving a f***!

This film also taught me a lot. Since I was only three-years-old when the five freshmen relocated to Ann Arbor to enroll at the University of Michigan, I didn’t know everything about them. I learned that Juwan Howard was the mastermind behind getting all the players to become Wolverines. I was also informed about how they protested from wearing all Michigan apparel since they weren’t reaping any of the financial benefits that the university gained on their behalf.

The Fab Five’s story was about more than the game of basketball. It was heartfelt and is still relevant to today’s youth. We needed to hear this story in Michigan and all over the world for that matter.

After watching the special, I’m happy to say that I got the chance to meet the great Jalen Rose.

I was covering the University of Michigan’s game against the Michigan State Spartans on Jan. 26, 2010 in Chrisler Arena and ran into him. (By the way—MSU won, 57-56, after a clutch jumper from Spartans guard Kalin Lucas)

Rose was in rare form as he sported a pair of crispy Red/White Nike Air Force 1’s, a red-corduroy suit and a light blue shirt underneath —unbuttoned at the top—with no tie. At 37-years-old, he continued to express himself, just like he did in his U-M days when he ran the point guard. That will forever be appreciated.

Chrisler Arena may be stripped of the Fab Five’s banners but the legacy will live forever.

In the words of Jay-Z: “If you can’t respect that, you’re whole perspective is wack!”

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By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — Running is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “to go by moving the legs faster than in walking.”

It also describes a runner as “one who, or that which, runs,” but University of Michigan freshman Justin Clarke of Flint simply deciphers his ability as something based on the assignment of a higher being.

“When people see me run, it’s not just the work of the body but it’s the work of God,” Clarke explained.

This may be true, but it also took long hours of hard labor, dedication, and a tremendous grind for Clarke to become one of the fastest sprinters of his class in the Big Ten Conference.

On Jan. 22, Clarke finished the 60-meter dash indoors with a time of 6.83 at the Simmons-Harvey Invitational. That mark ranks as the team’s best effort in that category for the young 2011 season. That same day, he also posted a 22.46 in the 200-meter Dash, which is the Wolverines’ third-best time in that department this year.
Clarke has twice been named as the “Wolverine of the Week,” and the folks in Ann Arbor believe they may have something special on their hands.

“For freshmen in general the expectations usually aren’t that high no matter what level guys are at but he’s kind of stepped in and was very serious,” UM track and field head coach Fred LaPlante. “He’s worked very consistently, he’s worked hard and stayed focused and been open-minded with listening, so he’s about as good as it gets for his freshman year.”

In Clarke’s transition from Southwestern Academy to the UM, he didn’t really know what to expect. In fact, he tried to stay as far away from the university as possible since most of his older siblings had already attended UM at some point.

“I was trying to avoid Michigan, I was actually fighting it and I didn’t apply until like the last day,” Clarke said.

In the end he figured it would be the perfect fit. He couldn’t pass up the chance of being so close to home, continuing the great family tradition they’d built at the school, and having the chance to learn the ropes from his big sister. Brianna Clarke is a senior at UM.

“One of the ways I’ve helped him transition was to get him involved in a program called ‘Leaders And Best’ which also pairs him up with a upperclassmen that actually is going in the same field that he’s going into,” said his sister Brianna.

“I (also) usually help him in his studying skills because some of the courses are a lot of the prerequisites that I took, and (I try to) link him with different faculty members that I’ve made relationships with to make sure he gets the best teachers for each class.”

“Every weekend we try to get together and have dinner and spend time,” Justin added.

This relaxation off the track seems to be paying off considerably when it’s time for Justin to compete. He also qualified for the finals of the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational on Friday, Feb. 4 by running a 6.87 in the 60-meter dash preliminaries, finishing in 10th place even though the event was non-scoring.

The frosh will have a chance to put his skills on display again this weekend when the Wolverines travel to the University of Illinois for the Big Ten Indoor Championships. Michigan has won the event 26 times and Clarke hopes he can be a factor in another Wolverine victory.

Clarke’s humility is what makes him come off as an “old-soul.” He seems to have been here before and his musical tastes reflect this since he finds pleasure in rocking to legends like The Temptations, Al Green, and Luther Vandross in his spare time.

The former Saginaw Valley Scholar Athlete of the Year should come up big this weekend since he’s never been the one to fold under the bright lights.

“He’s run his best against the best so he’s got some good guys he’ll be facing this weekend and hopefully he can keep his focus and give it his best shot and we’ll see how it goes,” LaPlante said.

Although he was nicknamed after Scarface’s sidekick, Manolo, if you’ve ever watched any Michigan games this season it’s clear to see that Manny Harris is far from that!

Despite the heartbreaking defeat on Friday afternoon that Harris and the Wolverines suffered to Ohio State following Evan Turner’s buzzer-beating three-pointer, the future still looks bright for the Detroit native. Going mano y mano with arguably the best player in the country, Harris held his own.

Manny finished with 26 Pts, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, and 1 Blk.

Turner finished with 18 Pts, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl, and  2 Blks.

Down the stretch, Harris stepped up when it mattered most scoring 11 of U-M’s final 14 points including a fade-away off the right elbow to give Michigan a 68-66 advantage with 2.2 seconds left. While Manny won the battle, Turner clearly won the war hitting the 37-foot three-pointer as time expired to give Ohio State the win. With that being said, Manny has a tough decision to make: Should he stay or should he go? Should Manny Harris enter the 2010 NBA Draft?

His partner in crime, DeShawn Sims, is a senior. His team didn’t live up to expectations. His name is hot right now.

Personally, I think the decision is an easy one…make the leap! Although that seems like the smart move the make, I believe that Manny will stay out of loyalty to his university. This was the whole reason he even decided to become a Wolverine.  

“It’s easy to go to a championship team or a team that’s already established but it’s harder to go there and try to establish it so that’s what I kinda was thinking about was going and changing it,” Harris said during UM’s media day earlier this year. “Plus I was talking to DeShawn and I just was dreaming big the whole time.”

I believe the same may be true with him going to the league. He probably is thinking the he has to try to fix what’s right at home before he decides to venture off into the professional ranks. The 6 foot 5, junior, may also want to stick around another year to add a few extra pounds to his bony frame, gain a little more experience, and to play with Tim Hardaway Jr. in his senior season.

While all of this may work in his favor there still is the possibility of injury which could pan out to be very fatal for a player of his caliber. Especially for one that’s worked as hard as he has to get to this level.

When Harris entered high school, he wasn’t initially viewed as one of the top players in his area. He went from nothing to something. Zero to Hero. Everything has been earned.    

“Coming up I was always kinda like the underdog, it was kinda like a will thing,” Harris said. “I kinda just had heart but I was just the smallest one out of everybody but one summer I just blew up and as far as getting taller I just shot up so that helped me a lot.”

For Manny, it’s deja vu all over again. The 2010 Big Ten Tournament has been a lot like that one summer he “blew up” in high school. His 26 points are tied for the second-most points scored by a Michigan player in a Big Ten Tournament game and he moved into the 10th spot on U-M all-time scoring list. He also finished the season averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 assists, and 6 boards per game.

For Manny Harris, the time is now!

*This post can also be viewed on It’s Just Sports!

There are certain things in life that never go out of style. In Michigan, no matter how bad both teams may be, it still generates a huge buzz as well as a level of excitement when the Michigan State Spartans step onto the hardwood to challenge the Michigan Wolverines.

Although the rivalry hasn’t meant much over the past few years, the rivalry is now renewed. The pots are sweetened with Kalin Lucas and Draymond Green representing East Lansing in that Spartan green and white and Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims trying to revitalize Wolverine basketball in Ann Arbor sporting the maize and blue.

Both teams have produced some of the all-time great teams in college basketball from the Flintstones to the Fab Five. Both teams have lifted championship banners in their home gyms. Both teams are representations of the Great Lakes State.

While Michigan leads the all-time series over Michigan State, 91-72, as well as a 56-28 advantage in all the games played on their home floor in Ann Arbor, MSU has dominated as of late. The Spartans have won 16 of the last 19 games including the last 6 of 9 in the Chrisler Arena. In the last meeting on Feb. 10, 2009, the Spartans won 54-42, so the Wolverines were looking for revenge.

In just the second sellout at the Chrisler Arena this season, the Michigan Wolverines hosted the Michigan State Spartans on ESPN on January 26th, 2010…

Pre Game

Walking into the arena, I could barely feel my arms as I carried in a huge television camera, a bag, and a tripod. This would mark the first time that I would attend a national game from a photographer’s perspective on my own since taking my intern this semester at the WMMT 3 television station out of Kalamazoo, MI. Despite the nervousness to produce good content, I was determined to excel and when I walked into the gym and seen the sell-out crowd all in the middle of the national anthem all of my emotions turned to excitement. It seems as though everybody had on yellow, with a touch a green in certain areas for the fans who made the drive from East Lansing. The arena reminded me of a big mustard bottle seriously.

Following the national anthem, the starters were introduced and ironically Manny Harris didn’t start for the Wolverines which left everyone a bit confused. Whether or not it was because of his suspension from last game, which UM head coach John Beilein insisted it was not after the game, was unclear initially.

The introduction of Tom Izzo generated lots of boos while Beilien’s name rung bells. From then, the ball was tipped and the excitement of Big Ten basketball began…

First Half

When Manny Harris entered the game after missing the first 3:12 in the half, 13,751 fans went crazy. As the skinny, Detroit native kneeled in front of the scorer’s table and finally stepped onto the court, you would have thought Michael Jackson walked into the gym it got that loud.

From that point on, the game really started as both teams played their best players. For the Spartans, Raymar Morgan did damage to anyone that was in his path. He connected on five of six shots for 13 points and pulled down 5 boards.

Despite Morgan’s domination, the Spartans entered the locker room at halftime down 27-25 in a typical Big Ten basketball game in which both teams shot well under 45% from the field, with defense being the main focus.

Halftime

After sitting courtside, being stuck with a huge camera in my palms, my legs began  to cramp up so I entered the tunnel to get some circulation in my legs. To my surprise I ran into two Detroit Pistons (Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko) who were taking a break from their busy season to come watch the action.

On sight, Stuckey noticed me from covering some of the games and we engaged in conversation. “This is a new experience for me, my school was nowhere near this big,” Stuckey said.

I also ran into one of the most famous Wolverines of all-time, Jalen Rose. Sporting a red corduroy suit, with a pair of gray, red, and white Air Force 1’s wrapped around his feet, I got a very quick word with him as everyone seemed to attempt to do the same.

SLAM: Has it been anything that Michigan has done to impress you in the first half so far?

Jalen Rose: They’re playing hard.  We’ve got to knock down a couple of more shot because we gave up a couple of uncontested lay-ups but for the most part we’re going up against the No. 5 ranked team so we’re in good shape so far.

SLAM: So you’ve gotta be pretty proud of their effort…

JR:  Oh yeah, I’m real proud of their effort. They’re playing real well, the crowd’s into the game. I don’t know how having two officials is gonna affect us in the second half because we’re going up against a physical State team but we’ll see.

SLAM: Obviously you’re from the D (aka Detroit), are you so are you going back after the game?

JR: Yeah, yeah, I still stay between Detroit and California

Second Half

As expected, the game heated up in the second half. Neither team could maintain a lead, as there were 17 lead changes in the period. The game would come down to two final possessions.

With 7.2 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Kalin Lucas stepped up to right side of the top of the key to receive a pass  from teammate Durrell Summers. Without hesitation, Lucas blew by Michigan’s Zack Novac with a quick left-handed dribble into the lane and pulled up for a mid-range jumper that slapped into the net for his twelfth point on the night. Leaving only 3.5 seconds remaining, MSU took the lead, 57-56.

After a foul from Draymond Green to stop the clock, only 1.5 seconds remained on the shot clock. Being pressured on the inbounds, Stu Douglass threw a picture perfect alley-oop to DeShawn Sims who couldn’t connect on the lay-up, partly because of his angle and the Spartans stampeded on the floor in victory yet again.

MSU is now 8-0 in conference play.

Post-Game

Wearing a black suit, white shirt, and a MSU green tie, Spartans head coach Tom Izzo took the podium for the press conference, happy that his team escaped yet another close game and proud of his point guard’s latest clutch heroics.

“In general, I thought we had big defensive stops down the stretch and that’s what you’ve gotta do to win big games and we had them and then we went to our go-to guy and if anybody ever wonders why I expect a lot out of him, it shouldnt take you long to figure out why,” Izzo said. “Because he can do it with the pass (and) he asked me to go into the middle of that zone and I just fall in love with guys that want to coach the team in a positive way and he came to me and made a couple of adjustments.”

*Stats

Raymar Morgan scored a game-high 20 points, connecting on 8 of his 9 field goals. Durrell Summers also chipped in 10 points and 10 boards as well as 5 assists for just his second career double-double.

DeShawn Sims led the Wolverines with 19 points and 5 rebounds while Manny Harris chipped in 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists.

*Next Game

MSU’s next game will be played against Northwestern on their home court on January 30th.

UM’s next game will be played once again in the Chrisler Arena, when they take on Iowa on January 30th as well.

*You can also check these notes out at SLAMonline.com!

For the past year, I have been thinking about starting my own web show. This has been a dream of mine and I have had the vision of what it would look like down to the smallest detail.

With so much work that it takes to produce a successful show, I understand why more people aren’t running such a thing. It’s a grind! This is from first-hand experience because I am also trying to juggle a full-time college schedule.

Although it takes a lot of hard work, the feelings that you get when you see the final results are unmatched. This is why I had so much fun shooting my first episode of “Flintstone TV with Eric Woodyard.”

This first episode took place in the Chrysler Arena for the University of Michigan’s basketball media day. Out of all of the events that I have covered this had to be one of the best. Helping me with all of the footage was my homeboy Mark Taylor who was a rookie behind the camera but I appreciated all of the help. Mark is also from Flint and he attends school at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC).

Helping with all of the editing was my friend, Chyn Wey Lee who also attends Western Michigan University with me. Lee is an editing genius who can take pictures and shoot video. My dreams wouldn’t have been put into affect without his participation in this project. You can check out more of his work here.

Hit him up! He is out cold…

With that being said, I hope everyone loves the video and I had a lot of fun doing this. I would also like to thank the University of Michigan for allowing us all of this access.

Sincerely,
Eric Woodyard, The Flintstone

With so many great athletes competing on a Division I level of college basketball, viewers sometimes get pampered when they watch games. Why wouldn’t they? These players do make the game look so easy.
In a sense, every viewer feels as if they’re an expert on the game when half of them have never even consistently competed on the hardwood. Not only have they not competed for an organized team, most of them have never even played recreationally!

This includes most of the media and sparks the debate on whether or not they are certified to be even covering a particular sport if they have no experience. If you really think about it, how are they? How can you comment on something that you haven’t done?

Unfortunately this is allowed to happen in our society, and it’s really not fair for athletes to be ridiculed by individuals who have no clue of what it feels like to be an athlete. Will this ever change? I highly doubt it, but it is good food for thought. 

What often gets misconstrued is all of the behind-the-scenes work that comes with the actual game. The general public doesn’t see the hard work, the mental preparation, the injuries, the film sessions and oh, yeah… the practices.

Not a game, not a game? We talkin’ bout practice?

Practicing is an integral piece to the equation of becoming a top-tier athlete, with the exception of Allen Iverson. This is why the University of Michigan decided to invite several members of the media to come participate in a training session with the athletes during their media day on Tuesday, October 12 in the Chrysler Arena in Ann Arbor, MI.

Allowing 21 members of the press to showcase their skills on the hardwood was a great way to break the ice for this upcoming season.

I was one of the 21 members selected and I have to admit that when I seen the rundown of the drills that I wasn’t bothered one bit because I consistently play the game of basketball. They were like a cakewalk.

The drill stations included:

1) Wraps [55 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball around waist

2) Hikes [40 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball between knees, drop ball, catch back, catch front

3) Pretzels [40 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball between knees, one hand front, one hand back (rotate hands)

4) Behind the Back Dribbles [55 in 30 seconds]
• Basketball dribbling behind back

5) Two-Ball Mikan Drill [Make 15 in 20 seconds]
• Facing basket, catch and lay-up with one hand

6) Tennis Ball Dribble
• Dribble basketball in one hand, tossing tennis ball with other
• Player mush dribble five times before catching tennis ball

7) Three-point Shooting
• Make 10 three-pointers in 1:00 minute

All of the Wolverine players ran the drills, and before we actually hit the court, Coach John Beilein and Tom Wywrot (Asst. Director of Athletic Media Relations) laced each of the media representatives with an official maize and blue UM warm-up. These were the authentic threads worn by the team and the perfect present to the hard working journalists in attendance.

We began the evening with a light stretch and then it was game time! My group included Rob White (isportsweb) and Craig White (The Observer) and we had a blast. Not to brag on myself, but I easily breezed through most of the drills, which left most of the media and a few of the players amazed. My past obsession with the game greatly benefited me on this particular day.

The toughest challenge from all of the drills was the three-point shooting because I generally shoot all mid-range shots (Rip Hamilton style). The Two-Ball Mikan drill was also pretty tough because I am primarily accustomed to doing this with just one ball.

Access was then granted to all of the players who were each assigned their own individual table with a tag stating their first and last name. With most of the media bombarding Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, I decided to interact with a few of the other players before I actually talked to those two.

I enjoyed the whole day. It was very laid-back and generous and we were even given Famous Dave’s to eat afterwards.

This media day should have definitely made the media become more conscious of some of the comments and criticisms that they make toward the athletes. Trying to juggle Division I basketball with academics can be pretty stressful. This was also shown when a few of the freshman had to leave the event early because they had to take a calculus test.

In my opinion, all media days should be conducted in this fashion in order to make the press become more authentic. If there are more individuals in the locker rooms covering the games that have actually played the game of basketball, than I think our media coverage will be a lot more accurate.

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!

LL Cool P

LL Cool P

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

Laval Lucas-Perry had every reason to quit!

After battling with the NCAA to keep his full elgibility upon leaving his freshman season at the University of Arizona after one semester, he kept a positive attitude. “LL Cool P,” as he was dubbed by my man Ryan Slocum at ABC 12, contributed right away for the Michigan Wolverines.

Playing in 26 games (…starting in 12) , the Flint Powers grad averaged 6.5 points per game and comes into this season with even higher expectations after a solid run in the NCAA Tournament last year. As he transitions to the point guard position, Lucas-Perry seems more than ready to shine.

I recently caught up with the Academic All-Big Ten honoree to briefly talk hoops while he was in Saginaw supporting Clifton Ryan’s “Heroes For Kids” golf outing.

How did you feel about the season you guys had last year? You guys went really far when no one really expected you to…

It felt pretty good. We made it to the NCAA Tournament, we made a lot of improvements and strides from last year when we went 10-22 to 21-13 and we just look for bigger and better things next season.

What are the things that you have been working on this summer to come back as a better player for the team next year?

I lost some weight, I’m getting quicker, trying to get stronger and just really trying to fill that point guard position next year that coach needs me to do.

With the many guards on the team, what will you do to try to seperate yourself from the pack?

I gotta do the little things. I gotta be a better defensive player, I gotta again shoot the ball better and just work on my ball handling and vocal skills as a point guard and to be a leader. So that’s what I plan on doing this year and that’s pretty much it.

I hear that you’re going to the LeBron James Skills Academy this week, what are you most excited about learning while you’re there?

It’s always a pleasure getting invited down there and I just look to make some noise down there. I’m gonna play my game, play with LeBron and just learn some things to about how it is to play with NBA players.

The ‘Heroes For Kids’ golf outing was held today in Saginaw, Mich.  Hosts of the event were Saginaw natives Lamar Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Clifton Ryan (St. Louis Rams).

Woodley didnt attend the event because of prior engagements (cough, cough…ESPYs) but Ryan picked up the slack by inviting several athletes from Michigan State University as well as the University of Michigan. The two schools were able to put their in state rivalry aside for one day.

Some of the athletes included: Blair White (MSU wide reciever), Kirk Cousins (MSU quarterback), Nick Sheridan (U of M quarterback), and Laval Lucas Perry (U of M baller).

I snapped a few photos of the event before my camera died:

Kirk Cousins (MSU Quarterback)

Kirk Cousins (MSU Quarterback)

MSU Reciever, Blair White, in conversation...

MSU Reciever, Blair White, in conversation...

Blair White

Blair White

GEDC0070

U of M Quarterback, Nick Sheridan, preparing for interview

U of M Quarterback, Nick Sheridan, preparing for interview

Sheridan and ABC 12's Ryan Slocum

Sheridan and ABC 12's Ryan Slocum

White and St. Louis Rams' Clifton Ryan

White and St. Louis Rams' Clifton Ryan