NEW YORK — In uniform but stuck on the bench because of a shoulder injury, Lester Abram had a difficult time watching Michigan lose to Arizona and Providence in the Preseason NIT.
“It’s real tough,” the junior swingman said. “I’m not used to sitting out. I’m really not used to sitting on the bench and watching.”
But the frustrations that come with not playing may be something Abram will have to get used to. Since aggravating his left shoulder in a win over Colorado on Nov. 17, Abram has sat out Michigan’s last three games and may not be back in the lineup tomorrow against No. 3 Georgia Tech.
“I think that if you ask him, he would have said, ‘Yeah, I can go right now,’ ” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “But it’s a long season, and we recognize that he needed to keep strengthening his shoulder, and we were just concerned if he takes one wicked shot for this tournament, that it could have set him back for a long time. So I think we erred more on the caution side.”
Abram’s troubles date back to last March, when he partially dislocated his shoulder against Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. He sat out the next three games, but then played in the final three games of the season, helping Michigan win the Postseason NIT Championship.
During the offseason, Abram opted not to have surgery, but instead focused on strengthening his shoulder.
“I did everything possible,” Abram said. “Rehabbed the whole summer, basically.”
But Abram’s shoulder didn’t improve as much during the summer as he had hoped, and now he may have to endure lingering pain all season long.
“I think it’s going to be an ongoing issue with him all year,” Amaker said. “It just depends on how severe it could be for him. I think, right now, we’re trying to see if we can get it as strong as we can.”
Said Abram: “It’s just an ongoing problem. There’s always a little bit of pain. I just hurt it worse against Colorado.”
Losing Abram, who led the Wolverines in scoring last year, for an extended period could be a tough blow for Michigan. Without former Wolverine Bernard Robinson, who is now in the NBA, Amaker planned to rely heavily on Abram and guards Daniel Horton and Dion Harris this season. Though Abram had struggled in Michigan’s first two games — shooting just 5-for-22 and missing all eight of his 3-point attempts — he had played all but three minutes in those contests.
In New York, Amaker relied on the inexperienced trio of sophomore John Andrews, freshman Ron Coleman and junior Sherrod Harrell. The group got plenty of open looks but shot a combined 3-for-24 and scored just nine points in the two games. Last season, Abram shot 49 percent from the field and led Michigan in 3-point percentage (.412) and free-throw percentage (.843).
“Lester’s really reliable, and we miss that,” Horton said. “Coming into every game, we know what to expect from him.”