F ab Five II has officially landed. No, not the reincarnation of Travis Conlan, Willie Mitchell, Albert White, Jerod Ward and Maceo Baston. In fact, not even in that sport.
Ten years and five days after Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson played their last Final Four game together in a championship loss to North Carolina, forwards Jeff Tambellini, Andrew Ebbett and Brandon Kaleniecki, defenseman Danny Richmond and goaltender Al Montoya will play in their first Frozen Four together.
True, the swagger that the originals brought to Michigan will never be replicated – just repeated on a lower scale – and it is safe to say that Tambellini’s No. 15 won’t sell near as much as Webber’s No. 4 did – partly because college basketball is much bigger than college hockey.
“We’re different players on and off the ice, which is why we bring so much to the table,” said Richmond, the Howard of the group.
As for personality, they’re quite different from their hoops counterparts – many “purists” looked down upon Webber and crew for the black socks, baggy shorts and occasional defacing of a Michigan State ‘S’ here and there.
“Kaleniecki, he’s the same as when he’s on the ice,” Richmond said. “He does his job and doesn’t talk that much. He’s the Bull (his nickname is the Pit Bull). Me and Tambellini have similar personalities – we’re pretty outgoing, and we like to talk. Montoya’s a very focused guy, and his maturity level is pretty high for 18 years old. Ebbett, he’s one of the older guys in our class … he settles us down if we’re being crazy.”
Although there are differences in personalities between the two “Fabs,” there are similarities.
Tambellini is the Webber of the group (in a good way). In the same way Webber was clutch throughout his career, excluding a game or two, Tambellini became Michigan’s go-to-guy this year, leading the team in scoring and becoming the CCHA’s Rookie of the Year. Luckily, Tambellini is at Michigan without that whole federal indictment thing.
It also makes sense that Richmond and Howard should be paired together. They’re both close friends with their respective stars, they’re both vocal (and funny) and each had growing pains adjusting to what their positions entailed in their freshman year.
Montoya has every game resting on his shoulders, much like Rose did.
So, Fab Five I, meet Fab Five II.
From Ebbett and freshman backup goaltender Noah Ruden’s room (the rest of the group has to hang out there as it is an easier to walk down stairs to the basement of South Quad than upstairs to anyone else’s room) to movies every week (Ebbett was a big fan of “Basic” while Richmond said “Dreamcatcher” was horrible), this quintet sticks together.
Unfortunately for the originals, they didn’t have a senior class like this year’s hockey team. Jed Ortmeyer and John Shouneyia helped Tambellini break out on the top line. Mike Roemensky, J.J. Swistak and the other defensemen on the team have taken a chance to assist Richmond with his endeavors the blueline. More importantly, this senior class has shown the group what can be accomplished if they stay together and don’t leave for the minors.
From day one, Michigan coach Red Berenson said that the seniors have treated the freshmen like sophomores, so that there would be no hazing or anything resembling it. And from day one, these five have been up to the challenge.
Fab Five II has accomplished what Fab Five I did: They got to the Final Four when they weren’t supposed to.
But where there is unfinished business and questions of what could have been for the originators of the Fab name, their successors can now complete what was started and accomplish what should have been.
– Kyle O’Neill still couldn’t believe ESPN Classic showed the 1993 men’s basketball championship on Saturday, as he thought it no longer existed. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.