After the graduation of Daniel Horton, senior Dion Harris was the front runner to be Horton’s replacement.
Seven games into the season, Harris is still a little rough around the edges, but he has established himself as the team’s starting point guard.
Coach Tommy Amaker was encouraged by his senior’s assist to turnover ratio, saying he looks at the ratio more than anything to gauge a point guard’s performance. Amaker isn’t afraid to let Harris shoot as long as the Detroit native is smart with his shot selection.
“That’s my biggest pet peeve about basketball today,” said Amaker, downplaying Harris’ 3-for-12 shooting performance on Saturday. “The psyche or identity of players, the majority of the time, revolves around their offense. He had eight assists today, and he did some good things, especially in the second half.”
Six of Harris’s eight assists against Maryland Baltimore-County came late in the second half. Harris notched assists on three straight Wolverine baskets.
Last season, missed baskets translated into nights of poor production. The change from shooting guard to point guard has made Harris a more responsible teammate. He understands that to lead the team effectively, he must never think about the last play. Whether or not he makes a perfect lob pass to a teammate or shoots an air ball. Once it happens, he must move on.
“I think, because I’m playing the point guard position right now, I can’t get (upset) and then shut down in everything else like distributing the ball and pushing it up or getting into our offense,” Harris said. “That would hurt us if I were to do that this year. I’m not worried over whether I’m making or missing, I’m just going to the next play.”
Recently Amaker said he was most concerned with Harris’s inability to get to the free throw line. Currently the team’s second-best free-throw shooter, Harris didn’t draw a single foul over the long weekend.
After Wednesday’s game, the senior point guard said he needed to drive to the basket more often to draw the foul. But he continued his trend of settling for outside shots against the Retrievers on Saturday.
Still, neither coach nor player is especially concerned with Harris’s shooting.
“I’m going to keep taking shots,” Harris said. “I don’t think Coach is worried whether I’m making or missing right now. For me, I’m just going to keep shooting and be aggressive. I think I can do both, getting assists and being aggressive offensively.”
Put me in, coach: Even though the starting lineup hasn’t changed once this season, Amaker has used an 11-man rotation, trying a variety of different combinations on the floor.
But Amaker acknowledged that once the Big Ten season rolls around, his rotation will be much smaller.
“It’s early in the year so we’re experimenting and learning about ourselves,” Amaker said Wednesday. “We may not be able to go as deep as we want because certain players need to get (more time). . We can anticipate having a shorter bench in the future, but that’s down the road.”
The three players with the most playing time off the bench have been sophomores Jarret Smith and Jevohn Shepherd and freshman Ekpe Udoh.
The freshman has been the most impressive substitute and may be Michigan’s sixth man by the time the conference season begins.
The Wolverines’ most highly touted recruit, DeShawn Sims, hasn’t seen much action since his brother was shot and killed on Nov. 3. Sims scored one point and grabbed two rebounds in eight total minutes of play over the weekend.
Who needs a jump shot?: Following Friday’s game, Brent Petway was asked if he used his detractors’ criticisms as inspiration for this season.
Many had accused Petway of being just a dunker and shot-blocker and pointed out his limited offensive repertoire. Petway denied using the critiques as inspiration.
“Ben Wallace makes $90 million and he doesn’t hit too many jump, shots and I’m a better free throw shooter too, I believe,” Petway said. “There are plenty of ways you can affect the game and everybody doesn’t have to be able to make jump shots to affect the game.”