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The Michigan basketball team has been inconsistent this
season. But there is one thing that the team can count on game-in
and game-out: Freshman Brent Petway is going to bring the energy,
and he’s going to bring it in huge doses. Because of his
uncanny ability to pump up the crowd and give his team a shot in
the arm, Petway compared himself to the Energizer Bunny earlier
this season. With his backboard-shaking dunks, his gravity-defying
leaps and his perfectly-timed blocks, Petway has been a catalyst
for the Wolverines. And he knows he can continue to do so for the
team down the road.

It’s no surprise that Petway idolized Michael Jordan while
growing up.

Just take a look at the ‘23’ on his jersey or at his
newly shaven head.

Or watch him when he puts on his pre-game dunking clinic, and
you’ll truly see how the NBA legend has influenced him.

And make sure to look out below.

It keeps going…‘I’ve kept on doing it since
then’

What do you get when you combine a vertical leap of more than 40
inches with a 6-foot-9 forward?

Some one-sided high-school games with a lot of dunks.

Petway led his Griffin High School team to a 28-3 record his
senior season and finished third in the voting for Georgia’s
Mr. Basketball.

During his high-school years, Petway routinely dunked multiple
times during each game. His all-time high for dunks in a game was
eight.

Petway also completed his most memorable dunk during these
years, when he threw the ball off the backboard to himself and
stuffed it during a game.

“I stole it, dribbled down, and it was like a two-on-two.
My teammate was in the corner, and there were two
defensemen,” Petway recalled. “I just dribbled (between
them), and I don’t know what made me do it, but I threw it
off the glass and went and got it.”

Petway’s dunking began even before his high school
years.

The first time he ever threw one down was when he was a 14-year
old in eighth grade.

“I had been trying all year, so after basketball season
was over, I started track with the high jump,” Petway said.
“I guess that helped me get a few more inches on my vertical.
I went in the gym one day after track practice and I was able to
dunk, and I’ve kept on doing it since then.”

Petway also was a track runner in high school, competing in the
100-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles and the 4×100 relay, in which he
ran the anchor leg. He finished second at the Georgia state
championship meet running the hurdles.

“When I would go out for the 100 meters, people would look
at me like, ‘Hold on, you’re 6-9. You’re not
supposed to be running the 100 meters.’ ”

… and going … Air Georgia lands in Ann Arbor

Since he’s been at Michigan, Petway’s had more
trouble keeping his head from hitting the rim than he’s had
finding ways to get free for dunks.

“I always duck, every time,” Petway said.
“I’ve hit my head on the backboard before, blocking a
shot, but I always duck, ’cause I (can sense) before
I’m gonna bang my head.”

Through 25 games, 25 of Petway’s 39 career field goals
have come in the form of dunks.

All of his Michigan teammates already know about Petway’s
amazing leaping ability, something that fans and opposing teams
have been exposed to in flashes this season. In practices,
teammates try to throw alley-oops over the freshman’s head,
just to see how high he can get. But to their amazement, he has
caught most of the passes and converted the alley-oops.

Teammates often ask Petway if he can imitate what they see
others do on television.

“They’ll see me dunk, then they’ll watch
SportsCenter later that night, and they’ll be like,
‘You think you can do that?’ ” Petway said.
“And I’ll be like ‘Yeah,’ and I’ll
try.”

And with his great leaping ability, Petway has received some
great nicknames. Fellow Wolverine and team co-captain J.C. Mathis
calls Petway ‘R.J.,’ acknowledging the similarities he
sees between his teammate’s play and that of Richard
Jefferson of the New Jersey Nets. Jefferson is one of the
NBA’s most recognized high flyers.

Most recently, the Maize Rage has dubbed the freshman ‘Air
Georgia.’

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker is another Petway supporter. Amaker
has never discouraged Petway from pumping up the crowd with his
dunking ability, especially on open slams.

But Amaker is quick to point out that it’s important
Petway focuses on what good things he did to get the opportunity to
be able to go up for a dunk — such as getting into position
to deflect a pass or being in the right spot under the hoop.

“He doesn’t really get on my case,” Petway
said of Amaker. “I’m trying to take the ball to the
hole strong, so either you’re gonna foul me or I’m
gonna dunk on you.”

… and going

Flying high into the future

Petway’s outlook on his Michigan future — like many
Wolverine fans — is bright. The freshman hopes to always play
a unique role at Michigan — being a high-energy spark for his
team to feed off of.

“My offensive game might blow up a little bit, but
I’m an athletic-type player, and that’s what I’m
doing now,” Petway said. “You shouldn’t change
your game as you get older. You might develop more skills to use,
but you should stay the same type of player you’ve
been.”

And recently, Petway has shown flashes that he may do more than
just dunk the ball. In Michigan’s 71-59 upset of Wisconsin
last Sunday, Petway connected on three field goals from the floor,
none of which came on dunks — a milestone of sorts for the
freshman.

And in yesterday’s 75-64 win over Ohio State, Petway tied
a career-high with 12 points, again with no dunks.

Petway said earlier in the season that he may be able to catch
some teams over-focusing on his dunking ability and exploit
that.

“For this being my first year, I’m glad people focus
just on my dunking,” Petway said. “Every time I hear an
announcer saying that like 19 of my 24 field goals are all dunks or
whatever — when I start hitting jumpshots, it’s gonna
surprise everybody. Maybe I can steal a few buckets in conference
play and help the team out a little bit.”

The freshman will also have to work on his weaknesses, one of
which is his strength.

“I’ve probably gotta get stronger,” Petway
said. “The guys are pretty big in the Big Ten, and it’s
kind of hard for me to block out.”

On the other end of the floor, the freshman says that he needs
to perfect his jumpshot, which he hasn’t used too often in
games thus far.

“In practice, I shoot them all the time, and they go
in,” Petway said. “I just haven’t had the
opportunity to shoot them in the games that much.”

Petway has also been hesitant with his dribbling, rarely looking
to drive to the basket when given the ball outside the key. But
Petway believes he can improve in these areas, and his goal for the
future is simple: to keep growing as a player.

And with a little more growth and maturity, Petway should play a
big role in Michigan’s future.

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