BY MARK GIANNOTTO
Daily Sports Writer
Published September 26, 2007
Last April, Michigan athletic director Bill Martin knew he hired a gifted basketball mind when he lured John Beilein away from West Virginia to coach in Ann Arbor.
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But no one could've thought Martin found an inventor.
The Beilein Ball is the same as any ordinary basketball, but down the seams, Beilein's name is stitched vertically in black writing to help players align their hands on a shot. Shooting from the seam gives the ball better rotation as it leaves a person's hands.
Beilein came up with the idea years ago, while working with a player struggling with his shot. Back then, he just used a magic marker to align the players hand on the seams. After seeing how effective the "Beilein Ball" was, it got the coach thinking about the commercial possibilities.
"I ended up saying 'Jeez, this is something we use a lot,' " said Beilein. "It would be really good if it were professionally done. So, I had used a ball called 'The Rock' for a number of years, and as a result, I asked them if they would be interested in working with me to patent the ball. Then they came up with the name and called it the B-line, but spelled like my name."
Nowadays, with the Wolverines in the midst of individual workouts, the Beilein Ball is the only thing found at Crisler Arena.
With a team that returns just one player who shot more than 35 percent from 3-point range - junior Jerret Smith - the Beilein Ball has become a staple in many of the team's shooting drills.
Just to warm up, Beilein has a player pass the ball to another, who catches and shoots. But Beilein makes it a point for players to align their hands along the seam as they set their feet.
"When I first saw the (Beilein Ball), I thought it was a joke because I had never seen a ball like that before," senior Ron Coleman said. "But it really helps a lot to get your hands in the seams, because you do shoot better."
Beilein also uses a 30-second shooting drill to challenge the team. Each player - big men included - must make 7-of-10 midrange jumpers while coming around a screen with a hand in their face. That's followed by a drill in which each player must make 12-of-20 3-pointers over a 59-second span.
If you can't convert in practice, you won't get the green light to shoot in games, not to mention the wind sprints after Beilein's demands aren't met.
"All he's doing is trying to find a way to get us our reps in because no one was used to shooting this much, especially last year," sophomore DeShawn Sims said. "We've shot more now than we did all last year."
Yesterday was Beilein's first time assembling the team together for a full-squad practice - even though it was for just 40 minutes because of NCAA regulations. Regular practices don't start until Oct. 12.
Once the season begins, the Wolverines won't have the luxury of using the Beilein Ball in games. Until then, they're fine enjoying their coach's innovation.
"(The Beilein Ball) adds to our games, makes us better," sophomore Ekpe Udoh said. "It's going to pay off once the season comes. Already, more shots are going down than last year."