At Michigan Media Day on Tuesday, most of the questions about the basketball team’s leadership pertained to junior Manny Harris and senior Deshawn Sims, last year’s leading scorers.
What went largely unnoticed is the fact that you don’t need to score a lot of points to be a team leader.
“Everybody who was here last year needs to be more of a leader,” redshirt junior Anthony Wright said. “Just being able to tell the younger players what to do because they have respect for us. We’ve been there, finally, and done that, finally.”
While having a team’s leading scorers step up is always a good thing, last year’s team proved that formula isn’t the only route to success.
C.J. Lee, a walk-on point guard who graduated last year, averaged under three points per game but was widely considered to be the most vocal leader on the team.
“C.J. emerged as a starter and was always great with team chemistry,” coach John Beilein said.
Fellow point guard and graduate David Merritt averaged under two points per game but also brought many valuable qualities off the court.
Really, the only requirement for last year’s leaders was experience.
“One of the things I want to do, being in my last year and being a senior, is be more of a leader,” fifth-year senior Zack Gibson said. “Helping the freshmen get involved and making sure they can help us.”
While Beilein encourages everyone to be a leader, he would clearly welcome Sims and Harris filling the leadership role while they fill out the stat sheet.
“Both of them need to assume ownership of the team,” Beilein said. “When you do that, that’s usually a pretty major step. They need to do that. But until they’re cast into that, like they are right now, you don’t know how they’re going to respond.”
Wright averaged just under three points per game last year, Gibson just under four. Wright said being a leader is not just about what you say, but about what you do.
“In practice, it’s about doing every drill thinking, ‘This might help us win a game down the road,’ ” he said.
When asked if he felt any added responsibility to be a leader this year, Wright was adamant.
“Always,” he said. “Getting up for workouts, calling team meetings, it’s just the small things.”
If Wright and Gibson can step up in a leadership role this year and take some of the pressure off Harris and Sims, those small things could prove to be game-changing.