“Fit in before you stand out.”
That’s what Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein tells his freshmen when they join his program.
And tonight’s 7:00 p.m. matchup between Michigan and No. 10 Indiana (1-0 Big Ten, 12-1 overall) at Crisler Arena pits two standout freshman against each other: Indiana’s Eric Gordon and Michigan’s Manny Harris.
The hype leading up to the game isn’t affecting Beilein. He doesn’t like to put the focus on individuals, particularly with freshman.
“I’m not crazy about the idea of how people put so much importance into how freshmen are doing,” Beilein said. “I think what happens is that it makes normal freshmen feel like they are no good when they continually talk about the so-called ‘diaper dandies.’ “
Whether the Michigan coach is focusing on it, the matchup is tough to ignore.
Gordon leads the Big Ten in scoring with 23 points per game, while Harris is sixth in the conference with 16.4.
While their impacts on the stat line are clear, both of their coaches prefer to talk about their impact in the gym and off the court.
Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said Gordon earns his accolades and doesn’t expect special treatment. The Indianapolis native frequently stays after practice to refine his shooting – an aspect of Gordon’s game Sampson described as “inconsistent.” Beilein also praised Gordon’s skills and maturity, saying the freshman star plays years beyond his age.
Beilein has repeatedly described Harris as a player he enjoys coaching, one who continually wants to improve his game.
Harris has displayed a toughness rare among freshmen. The 6-foot-5 guard leads the team in rebounding (4.6), despite being the second shortest member of the starting lineup.
The opposition has taken note. When Wisconsin was scouting Michigan (0-2, 4-10) for last week’s contest, Badgers assistant Greg Gard said he thought Harris was the best freshman in the conference.
“He’s going to be a heck of a player in this league,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “He already is.”
Tonight’s game won’t be the first time Gordon and Harris have crossed paths. At the Nike Peach Jam Invitational when they competed on opposing AAU teams, Harris’s team edged Gordon’s by two.
Harris is looking forward to the rematch. The Detroit native said Gordon is the type of player he was excited to compete against when he committed to Michigan.
Harris-Gordon II doesn’t excite Beilein too much, though.
He prefers that the freshmen try to fit in before standing out as individuals – even when they’re two of the best.
Indiana at Michigan
Matchup: No. 10 Indiana (12-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten); Michigan (4-10, 0-2)
When: Tonight 7 P.M.
Where: Crisler Arena