Optimism appears to reign supreme in the Michigan women’s
basketball program. Coach Cheryl Burnett and the rest of the staff
have taken the challenge of filling the roster with freshmen
head-on and feel confident that the team can succeed.

With at least two starting spots open to the seven freshmen, the
coaching staff expects a few people to step up. Freshman forward
Janelle Cooper may be one of those who rises to the occasion to
help lead the young Wolverines.

“We have gelled so much since (June),” Cooper said.
“We all like each other and are there to help each other
out,”

The 5-foot-10 Cooper is exactly of the type of player Burnett
and the staff were looking for when six players left the program
last season. In addition to her ability on the court, Cooper was a
member of the National Honor Society in high school.

“We look for special people to come to the University of
Michigan,” Burnett said. “We look for special people,
players and students. Our players succeed in the classroom, on the
court and socially.”

On the court, Cooper is a long, athletic forward who looks well
suited to the fast, pressing defense that the Wolverines would like
to implement this year. When deciding which college to attend,
Cooper saw the high-tempo style of play that Burnett emphasized,
and knew that Michigan was the right place for her.

The Detroit native was able to showcase some her abilities in
the Michigan’s 75-61 win in the first exhibition against
Athletes in Action last Thursday. Coming off the bench, Cooper put
up eight points and four rebounds in her 19 minutes of action. She
also provided a spark of energy for the Wolverines that did not
show up in the box score. She blanketed the Athletes in Action team
all night long and dove for loose balls, demonstrating the type of
tough, gritty effort Burnett wants to see out of her players.

“I wasn’t really nervous, I mean every once in
awhile I would get a butterfly in my stomach, but everyone else was
going through the same thing,” Cooper said of her first
collegiate game.

Cooper is pleased with the progress the team has made as the
Wolverines were able to play the game they hoped to. She believes
that Michigan played very aggressive and was defending the ball
well on the defensive end.

Cooper and the rest of them team played in an exceptionally
relaxed manner.

But Cooper knows that this game was an exhibition, and that when
the contests start to count she may be more nervous.

“There was not a lot of pressure, when it’s the
first game of the season I might be real nervous,” Cooper
said. “But since it was just ‘practice’ I was not
real nervous.”

That will be a challenge that Cooper and the rest of the
freshmen will have to overcome, but Burnett and the rest of the
staff think they are up to the challenge.

“We have very high expectations, and we have a unique
group of freshmen,” Burnett said. “They are some of the
best leaders, some of the best learners and some of the hardest
workers I have seen and because of that I don’t think they
will play like freshmen.”

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