The Michigan basketball team was without the services of captain LaVell Blanchard for Saturday night’s Maize and Blue scrimmage. Blanchard, the only starter named by coach Tommy Amaker thus far, injured his right ankle at Thursday’s practice, but is not expected to miss much time.

“I just landed on somebody’s foot coming down,” Blanchard said.

The senior, who has had recurrent ankle problems, said he hopes to be playing again “very soon.”

Michigan freshman center Chris Hunter, who had been bothered by minor leg injuries for the past two weeks, seemed to be in good health, as he played for the majority of the game and was able to run the floor, and post-up well. Hunter’s inability to practice consistently had made it difficult for Amaker to effectively assess the competition for the starting center position, but his return should help that process.

That position is one of four still up for grabs at this point. Hunter’s main competition is fellow freshman Graham Brown, who also played well at the scrimmage despite racking up several fouls. Point guards Avery Queen and Daniel Horton both ran the offense well for their respective sides, and freshman wing Lester Abram was impressive on the defensive end.

Senior Gavin Groninger and sophomore Dommanic Ingerson seemed to struggle with their shots, but remained aggressive on the offensive end, creating opportunities for their teammates. Amaker was particularly pleased with Bernard Robinson’s unselfish play, which set the tone for a strong overall performance by the junior.

“I think we’re closer to those combinations now,” Amaker said. “I wish we had LaVell because it’s a given that he’ll be on the floor, but we’re starting to see some limitations and what people can do, so we’re pleased.”

Amaker, who watched the scrimmage as an observer while his assistants coached the two teams, was happy with the level of intensity out on the floor. He said the players’ transition from practice to a game setting – which included everything from fans to referees – impressed him.

“We wanted to have a carryover from the practices to the game, and I think the players did a good job with that,” Amaker said. “I thought our guys tried to play the game the right way. It was not sloppy, it was crisp, well-played and we were able to accomplish a few things we talked about earlier like competing, executing and having fun.”

The transition game was a primary focus for the players, as running the floor after a rebound and playing pressure defense seemed almost like a natural tendency. The effort was also at a high level right from the start, when freshman point guard Daniel Horton dove headfirst near the sideline trying to save the ball from going out. The physical play also led to many fouls, which Amaker said his team must do a better job of avoiding.

“There were a lot of silly fouls committed with the officials out here that you don’t worry about in practice,” Amaker said. “We have to do a better job of getting into position.”

Surgery for Ramsey: Michigan assistant coach Charles Ramsey had knee surgery last Tuesday for the injury he suffered during Michigan’s open practice on Oct. 18. While he should return to practice soon to support the team and help coach, it should be a while before he is able to participate on the floor.

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