The Michigan men’s basketball team will have a relatively new look in tonight’s opening exhibition game against Wayne State.

After an 11-18 record last year, that might not be such a bad thing.

Gone are Chris Young, Leon Jones and Mike Gotfredson – steadfast fixtures in the Wolverines’ lineup last year. The three started 70 total games last year, paced by Young who started all 29 of Michigan’s contests.

Filling the collective shoes of the departed veterans will be freshmen Graham Brown, Lester Abram, Daniel Horton, Sherrod Harrell and Chris Hunter. The matchup against Wayne State will be the first opportunity for Michigan coach Tommy Amaker’s first recruiting class to show off its talents against real competition.

“This will give us a chance to compete,” Amaker said. “We’ve had a number of guys who have shown they can help us.”

The expected contribution of all five freshmen in addition to seven players who played significant minutes on last year’s team has left the Wolverines with the ability put any number of player combinations on the floor. Those combinations are something Amaker hopes to start figuring out as early as tonight.

“We could be nine or 10 deep, but I also could see us settling on eight,” Amaker said. “We’ll have to mix and match – we’re not ruling anything out right now.”

The biggest hurdle facing Amaker and his staff as the season rapidly approaches has been Michigan’s inability to stay healthy through the preseason’s rigorous practice schedule.

“I’ve been displeased with the injuries we have had, it’s really fragmented our team,” Amaker said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it – teams that can deal with different types of disruptions like these are the best.”

Hunter and LaVell Blanchard were both banged up last week, causing them to miss time, and the injury bug spread during workouts this week as well.

“(Tuesday) Graham Brown wasn’t completely healthy and Daniel Horton didn’t practice because of a stubbed toe he suffered during the beginning of the scrimmage (last Saturday),” Amaker said. “LaVell practiced yesterday – he looks good and he’s feeling good.”

That news probably helped Amaker sleep a little easier this week. The second-year head man of the Wolverines has made no bones about Blanchard’s need to take the reigns of the team this year.

“He’s been our best worker and our best player – things will start from there,” Amaker said. “We have other captains and leaders who are supposed to be vocal leaders. We have set guidelines for LaVell and he’s living up to them. We hope our younger guys will respond and react to him.”

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