After Michigan’s first exhibition game against Wayne State two weeks ago, there were two things which needed to be addressed immediately. One was the veracity with which the Wolverines attacked the defensive glass to prevent offensive rebounds and easy put-backs by their opponents. Wayne State was able to grab 21 offensive boards in that game compared to Michigan’s 13 defensive rebounds.
A bright spot for the Wolverines was the play of Bernard Robinson, who grabbed seven rebounds in addition to his team-high 23 points. Rebounding has been one area that Michigan coach Tommy Amaker wants Robinson to improve in after averaging fewer than five per game last year.
“Coach has really stressed rebounding to us,” freshman Lester Abram said. “We may not be the biggest team in the Big Ten. In fact we may be one of the smaller teams out there, but that just means that everyone has to box out and attack the boards more.”
The other concern was handling the ball more carefully and preventing unnecessary turnovers. The Wolverines committed 24 turnovers against Wayne State, seven of which came from the point guard position.
Friday night against the Nike Elite, Amaker’s squad seemed to have addressed these problems, improving in both areas. The Wolverines committed 16 turnovers, with just four coming from their point guards, and grabbed 34 rebounds while holding the Nike Elite to 10 offensive boards. Michigan averaged 14.1 turnovers and 31.1 rebounds per game last year.
Fearsome threesome: Entering this season, Michigan had high hopes for its freshman class and acknowledged that it needed to have major contributions from its six-member group.
In Friday night’s game, Amaker took a major step in giving his freshman class a chance to contribute by naming three freshmen to his starting lineup. Shooting guard Lester Abram and center Chris Hunter both returned to the starting lineup, while point guard Daniel Horton got the nod over junior Avery Queen to make his first start for the Maize and Blue.
While the 1991 “Fab Five” freshman class is Michigan’s most famous group of freshman starters, Michigan also finished with 81 starts by freshmen in the 1999-2000 season. In Michigan’s first exhibition game that year, coach Brian Ellerbe started Leland Anderson, Blanchard and Kevin Gaines against the California All-Stars. Of the three, only Blanchard is still with the team.
“The main thing that the upperclassmen do is just tell them what you went through when you were a freshman,” said Blanchard of helping this year’s freshmen adjust to college. “(You) revert back to the thoughts and ideas when you first came into the program and tell them what worked and what didn’t work.”
Leaving on a jet plane: The Wolverines will tip off their season this weekend on the sunny beaches of the Virgin Islands against St. Bonaventure and Virginia Tech. Michigan will leave for the University of the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam in St. Thomas Thursday. The flight is expected to take more than six hours with a layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Tickets can still be purchased for a weekend get-away for less than $450.