By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 8, 2012
“Watching on TV, you think it’s a certain way,” Corey said. “But once you get out there, you start to see that things are a little bit faster, guys are more athletic.
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“There were times that I would go to the basket and I would think I would have a layup, and there would be a big guy that would come over from the weak side and be able to block my shot. At first, you just think it’s a one-time occurrence, but then it repeatedly happens.”
It started to become clear that Corey wouldn’t be a factor on Michigan’s 2008-09 squad.
While Novak and Douglass competed for a starting spot, and Cronin saw playing time before hip injuries derailed his career, Corey was stuck at the end of the bench.
“It was definitely a frustrating period,” he said. “It’s frustrating because you’re used to being able to do certain moves and you can’t do it.”
Corey’s college basketball experience was nothing like he imagined it would be.
Instead of gearing up to play on game days, he would have to gear his teammates up. Instead of helping his team on the court, he would settle to help by cheering from the sideline. Instead of getting his name in the box score with numbers, “Corey Person” ended up next to “DNP.”
But just as Corey had to pick up his teammates during games, it was his teammates that picked him up during the rough year.
“There were plenty of nights where after practice, C.J. (Lee) would drop me off and talk to me for an extra 15, 20 or 30 minutes about just staying positive and don’t doubt myself,” Corey said. “He constantly talked to me, he kept my spirits up. He was a big help my freshman year in not getting t0o down on myself.”
Lee, who was a senior that season, formed an instant bond with Corey. Both were originally from Saginaw, Mich., and Lee could identify with what Corey was going through.
After hardly playing at Manhattan College and transferring to Michigan, and then not starting as an upperclassman at Michigan, Lee sought out the freshman.
“When you see someone that’s going through the situation that you’ve gone through,” said Lee, now the Administrative Specialist for the program, “you want to reach out and you want to encourage them and let them know that they are not alone, and they will get through it, and if they have the right attitude, they can succeed.”
Lee stressed to Corey that the most important thing an athlete can have is confidence in himself. He encouraged the freshman to stay positive, and continue to have faith in his abilities.
“It’s an adjustment for the majority of all Division I athletes,” Lee said. “They were a star on their team and you go from dominating the basketball and playing all the important minutes to not dominating the ball and not playing the majority of the minutes, so that is an adjustment that the majority of us have to make.”
When Corey returned to school the summer before his sophomore year, he came with a different mindset.
Players not knowing their roles can decimate chemistry and bring down the team. That wasn’t going to be Corey.
Knowing that playing time would still be a long shot, he started to dedicate himself to helping the team win in other ways. A big part of that came through his dedication to the scout team.
The scout team prepares the rotation players for the next opponent by mimicking plays, mannerisms and styles of the players and teams.
Again it was Lee who made an impact. Corey saw how Lee, who was co-captain with David Merritt, was a vocal leader on the scout team and how that lifted the team’s spirits. Corey credits Lee and Merritt’s leadership with Michigan’s run to the 2008 NCAA Tournament, which ended a 14-year drought.
With Lee graduating, Corey saw his opportunity the following year to make a difference on the scout team and be a leader through that role.
“Once I knew he was leaving, I just saw that regardless of if I was going to play or not, that was something that I wanted to bring to the team because I saw how much of a difference that it made,” Corey said. “I saw it as, even though it’s behind the scenes, it’s something that can make or break a team.”
During that summer, Corey became more vocal and started to push teammates in workouts and remind the team to keep up its intensity in practice. That empowered Corey to take pride in his work on the scout team.
Corey typically plays as the opposing team’s best guard or wing player on the scout team.