It”s no secret that Gavin Groninger came in two years ago touted as a sharpshooter. The kid from the Hoosier state displayed his long-range accuracy early in his career, going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc in his fourth career game.

Paul Wong
Michigan needs Gavin Groninger to shoot well from long range, but defend as well.<br><br>FILE PHOTO

But after showing early promise, Groninger”s effectiveness on the court quickly diminished. He soon fell into a deep slump that took up a good chunk of the season, as he shot 8-for-45 (18 percent) over the course of 16 games.

In Groninger”s sophomore year, his minutes and points per game went down from 24 and seven to 19 and 5.6, respectively.

All preseason long, the coaching staff has been praising the new and improved Gavin Groninger. They weren”t simply stroking his ego Groninger showed in Michigan”s first exhibition last Sunday he can really stroke the three. He poured in 29 points, including a 7-for-11 performance from three-point land. His career-high for a regular-season game is six three-pointers, which he”s done twice.

“He”s shooting the ball well, he”s making good decisions, he”s extending the defense, he”s making his teammates better around him,” assistant coach Chuck Swenson said. “Those are the things he”s been doing. Because he”s been doing them every day, I don”t see why that would change. I just think that he”s really been playing probably the way he thought he would when he came into the Big Ten.”

Because depth is a concern for Michigan, increased responsibility will be placed on Groninger. Although listed as a guard, where he started in Sunday”s exhibition against EA Sports All-stars, the 6-foot-5 Groninger can step in at small forward to help out the few true post players. Not only will he be counted on for more scoring, but he will be depended on to perform new tasks all together.

“One thing we”re asking Gavin to do that he”s never been asked to do in the past, that I know of, is rebound just because we”re undersized,” Swenson said. “That”s an area that he”s going to have to improve in.”

Groninger and his coaches alike attribute his recent play to a new self-confidence.

“I”ve been working really hard, and I know that everyday I can look at myself in the mirror and say that I”ve been working hard and I”m the best player that I can be,” Groninger said. “So, I think that”s going to carry over to this season.”

$ to the Izzo: Michigan State put together a private fund for coach Tom Izzo worth up to $4.9 million as an incentive for the coach of its basketball team to remain with the program. Izzo, who is enetering his seventh year as coach of the Spartans, simply needs to finish out his contract through the 2005-06 season for a bonus of $3.4 million and additional five-year payments of $300,000.

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