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Between plane rides, Barnes Arico cultivates inexperienced talent

Todd Needle/Daily
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By Alexa Dettelbach, Daily Sports Writer
Published July 16, 2013

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico does a lot of traveling by plane these days.

For starters, there’s the never-ending cycle of recruiting visits all over the country, followed by the visits back home to Ann Arbor to preside over her players and check in on practices. Then there's the upcoming trip to Europe with the Michigan women’s basketball team. And in between all of it, is a vacation — a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. with her family.

“I got an opportunity to take my girls to Disney World,” Barnes Arico said. “I’ve been trying to do it for years and last year getting hired in the spring I didn’t really have the opportunity, so I had a chance to do that and (also) to visit with my family in the offseason.”

But after the success of last season, in which the Wolverines finished 22-11 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, expectations are high for both Barnes Arico and her team. They know there’s almost no time to rest.

“The young ladies had an opportunity to go home after they finished the winter semester, but for the most part I think actually 100 percent of them chose to stay,” Barnes Arico said. “They got about a week break where they had a chance to go home and see their family and kind of unwind after our season, and our season lasted longer than it typically does. Then they all came back and started to work out on their own with our strength coach doing some lifting and conditioning.”

And for all the successes last season, Barnes Arico and Michigan will have have a lot of holes to fill this season. The Wolverines lose five seniors to graduation, all of whom were an integral part of the team, as they accounted for over 80 percent of the offense. Their graduation turned the Wolverines into an inexperienced squad overnight.

Highlighting the inexperience are Michigan’s three freshmen as well as the addition of junior transfer guard Shannon Smith from North Carolina. In addition, four players who tore their ACL last summer are back with the team after not playing all of last season.

“Obviously we have four new kids and four returners coming off of ACL surgery, so really that’s eight kids that haven’t played last year and a total of 11 on our roster,” Barnes Arico said. “So, we’re going to be very inexperienced and very young.”

New NCAA rules stipulate that teams can work out together in the summer for two hours per week. The Wolverines have practice twice a week at the end of May and throughout all of June.

“This is the first summer where coaches are allowed to work out their teams,” Barnes Arico said. “(It) has been great for us because it really gives us an opportunity to help work on their game and really develop our relationships especially with our new kids as long as with the returning kids in the program.”

While the freshmen new faces arrived to campus during the last week of June, Smith has been in Ann Arbor since the spring semester. During her freshmen season in 2010-2011 at UNC, Smith was a dynamic scorer but only played in eight games before taking a medical redshirt because of a lingering illness.

In Smith’s sophomore campaign, she played in 25 games and averaged 3 points per game and 13 minutes per game. Smith, who still has two more years of eligibility, sat out the 2012-2013 season before transferring to Michigan

“We’re fortunate Shannon has been here for both (the) spring session and summer session and she’s just been an absolute pleasure to have around,” Barnes Arico said. “She really made a commitment to doing well in the classroom in her first semester here and did a great job. She’s just such a competitive kid and really truly loves the game of basketball and has been a winner every place that she’s been.

“She is in the gym nonstop when she’s not in study hall or in class. She spends her free time in the gym really working on her game, and I’m excited to have her because she really wants to win. She’s very competitive and she wants to bring her winning spirit to our program.”

The rest of the new faces — freshmen guards Siera Thompson, Paige Rakers and Danielle Williams — have been on campus for a couple of weeks and have been hard at work both on and off the court.

“They’ve had a wonderful transition,” Barnes Arico said. “The three of them are outstanding young ladies from great families and they’re doing really well. Academically, they’ve all gotten off to a really great start (and) socially, they’re adjusting to life in Michigan, life as a college student. They’re great kids and we’re expecting big things from them.”

The Wolverines are taking a foreign trip to France and Spain to play three games. The trip will allow Michigan to have ten practices in the summer and begin full practice before many other teams. It won't just be all fun, though, as the Wolverines are expected to make stops to Lake Como, the Pantheon, Colosseum and Eiffel Tower.

“We’re excited about (the opportunity) to get a jump start on things,” Barnes Arico said. “We’re really fortunate to have this time in the summer to get some workouts under our belt.”

Amid the transitioning players and continuous workouts, Barnes Arico has also been in and out of Ann Arbor traveling to recruit players. Soon, formal practices will be back in session and will be added to the running list on Barnes Arico’s plate.

If the plane rides are what it takes to get ahead of the game and continue winning, then Barnes Arico wouldn’t have it any other way.