There was little doubt in the mind of Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker that freshman swingman Lester Abram would play an important role for the Wolverines this year.
But with a bevy of players stocked up at the shooting guard and small forward positions, it was unclear how soon Abram would earn significant minutes.
Following his performances in Michigan’s two exhibition games, the youngster has made it difficult to keep him out of the lineup.
In the first start of his career, Abram poured in 15 points in 32 minutes – the most on the team – last Friday in Michigan’s 81-77 victory over Nike Elite. That came on the heels of an impressive 13-point, seven-rebound showing in the Wolverines’ first exhibition win against Wayne State on Nov. 1.
“I think he’s shown to be a pretty effective player this far for a young kid,” Amaker said. “I don’t talk about him and that’s a good thing I can count on. That’s a very comforting thing to say, but it’s a little unnerving because he’s a freshman and freshmen will be up and down.
“But he’s been fairly consistent.”
That ever-growing consistency looks like it will make it increasingly difficult for sophomore Dommanic Ingerson and senior tri-captain Gavin Groninger to find minutes at the shooting guard spot.
Ingerson has played just five minutes in the Wolverines’ two contests, while Groninger played 14 minutes against Wayne State but dropped to 12 against Nike Elite.
“It was (just how we played it for) our exhibition,” Amaker said. “We have competition and have depth and I like that. What we’re trying to find are the guys that complement our key guys – that’s what we’re doing, we’re looking at complements.
“It’s a long horse race. Just because (getting a lot of minutes) may not happen today or tomorrow, who knows who’s going to be injured or sick or in foul trouble. You have to be sure when opportunity knocks for you that you’re ready.”
Despite the number of minutes Amaker has played Abram so far – and how impressed he claims he has been with the freshman’s play – the Michigan coach insists that just because Abram might see the court a lot doesn’t necessarily mean that Groninger and Ingerson will be relegated to the bench.
“In football, you’ll have a depth chart at positions, but for us, we don’t coach that way,” Amaker said. “We have a style and a system where different guys can play together in combinations depending on our opponents.
“We have post guys and perimeter guys and we mix and match accordingly.”
Hoping to heal: The Wolverines are crossing their collective fingers in hopes that the warm Virgin Islands climate will help heal the team’s wounds when Michigan heads down there for the season-opening Paradise Jam this weekend.
Graham Brown, who played just six minutes against Nike Elite, continued to be bothered by a lower back injury. But had the injuries stopped there, Amaker might consider himself lucky.
Instead, Brown was joined on the list of the Wolverines’ walking wounded by center Chris Hunter and forwards LaVell Blanchard and Bernard Robinson.
Amaker said that Hunter had been sick on Monday and that his status for practice this week was up in the air.
Blanchard, meanwhile, continues to struggle with his ankle problems, while Robinson’s foot was bothering him and Abram was dealing with an unspecified injury.
“I’m going to try and find out who’s available and then we’ll go accordingly,” Amaker said. “We’re a little banged up.”