Leon Jones has taken his interest in film and cinema to another level since arriving at Michigan three years ago. He”s participated in a few plays and also shot a couple films of his own with some of his basketball teammates .
Now, as one of Michigan”s senior tri-captains, Jones will be playing a major role in directing the biggest movie of his life his final season as a Wolverine.
“It”s been tough going through all the hardship the past few seasons and persevering through that, and then through the past years when people could have given up and transferred because they didn”t want to do it anymore,” Jones said. “But it”d be all that more gratifying if we can make something special happen this year and surprise people in my senior year.”
One reason Jones feels Michigan can do just that is because the captains strongly believe in the same message that the new Michigan coaching staff is trying to instill making it easier for it to trickle down to the rest of the team.
“I think it helps you to not look at the coaches as a good cop, bad cop,” Jones said. “If you have your peers, people you are always with telling you the same thing, it helps out a ton.
“Plus, it”s not that we”re going out and saying it because the coaches tell us to we actually believe it.”
Jones has noticed a much closer, tight-knit group of Wolverines on this year”s team. By taking more interest in each other, Jones said that Michigan”s chemistry has improved tremendously from last season.
Sophomore Bernard Robinson admitted that not every Wolverine knew each other last year, which was part of the problem, as the team suffered on the court to a 10-19 finish.
“Nobody pushed or challenged us to do it,” Robinson said. “So we didn”t bother to do it. We just came out here, and I was a freshman so I came out here and did what everyone else was doing.
“You can see the difference between last year and this year how much better it is to get to know each other and how much it helps on the court.”
Robinson and sophomore Avery Queen were put on probation by former coach Brian Ellerbe for some off-the-court issues last season, including being caught wrestling in the middle of US-24 with former Wolverine Kevin Gaines, who was later arrested for driving under the influence. Robinson and Queen were also suspended for the first half of the Indiana game on Feb. 12 for a violation of unspecified team rules.
“That was just a mistake on their part,” Jones said. “I mean, people make mistakes sometimes. But we”re trying to make sure that those kinds of things don”t happen again.”
One step Michigan has taken is installing a “Big Brother” system, where each senior takes an underclassman under their wing and helps them along with guidance. Jones is the “Big Brother” of freshman Dommanic Ingerson, whom Jones said has been given a bad reputation for incidents that stemmed from high school.
“He”s definitely had some bad press,” Jones said. “But he”s a really good kid even silly sometimes.”
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker and his coaching staff have given a lot of responsibility to the senior captains Jones, Chris Young and Rotolu Adebiyi, and have asked them for a lot of input. And they”ve been pleased with the results.
“Our tri-captains have been instrumental in leading our ball-club up to this point,” Amaker said. “They have done a terrific job of showing the way. Anytime you look for a successful team or a successful program, you”re going to rely on the leadership and the same thing goes with us.”
Jones often takes a camera with him when he walks around campus, or is hanging out with teammates, and said he”s going to make a movie about this season starting tonight at the first practice.
“At the end of the season I can put something together and people can look back on it and say, “This is where we started and this is where we ended up,” ” Jones said.
And what would be a perfect ending to his movie?
“An NCAA championship,” Jones said with a chuckle. “I never been to the NCAA Tournament and I”d love to get there in my last year. I want this to be the best year of my career because I”ll always remember it.”
Robinson watch: The first official Michigan practice starts tonight, but one of the Wolverines” big guns won”t be participating in all the drills on the Crisler Arena floor. Robinson, who”s been recovering from mono since early August, has only been involved in “25-percent” of what the other players have been doing in workouts, and said he doesn”t know when he”ll be at full-strength.
“I”ll play whenever the coaches say I can,” Robinson said.
But the Michigan coaches want to take precaution.
“We just want to get Bernard healthy,” Amaker said. “He”s a player we need on the floor.”
Block seating: Michigan is introducing block seating for season tickets at Crisler Arena. Any student group registered with Michigan can apply for a block of up to 15 seats for season tickets which will be in the organization”s name.
The block seating is an attempt to encourage students to buy tickets who do not want to be bound to an entire season”s worth of tickets, but split them with other members of their group.
“The students are extremely important to where we want to go,” Amaker said.
The groups” tickets will rotate from game to game between the gold and blue levels, so the seats will not be the same every night.
The application deadline is next Friday.