Even those who follow the Michigan basketball team closely were probably surprised last year when they found out that one of Michigan’s captain was going to be Rotolu Adebiyi. The senior from Ann Arbor had played just eight games in the two years after transferring from Albion College, and had logged just 11 minutes over those games. But the walk-on who was once an unknown player helped lead the team last season along with Chris Young and Leon Jones.

After sitting out one year because of transferring, Adebiyi had the option to rejoin the team this year as a fifth-year senior. Apparently, the Wolverines and Adebiyi had not had enough of each other and the former Huron High School star chose to come back this year to reprise his role.

“I think my role will be the same as it has been during the past couple of years,” Adebiyi said. “I want to push the guys in both practice and games.”

This year, Adebiyi is joined by a new pair of captains, seniors LaVell Blanchard and Gavin Groninger. The two have different styles of leadership, but both can be effective in their new roles for coach Tommy Amaker.

Over the last three years, no Wolverine has scored more points or pulled down more rebounds than Blanchard. No player has exemplified the Michigan basketball program more than the 6-foot-7 Ann Arbor native. The soft-spoken swingman may not display the on-court fire that Young exhibited last season, but he will lead the Wolverines in other ways.

“I think I’m vocal, but I think I’m more vocal in different areas,” Blanchard said. “I think on the court I’m very quiet but off the court like in the lockerroom I’m a lot louder. People don’t always get to see that side of things.”

Amaker tabbed Blanchard as the team’s best worker and the best player before the season even started. He hopes his star player will lead this year’s team by example.

The final captain for the 2002-03 season is the sharp-shooting Groninger. The senior has been a solid contributor off the bench for the Wolverines over the last few seasons. Last year, Groninger provided a spark off the bench and averaged more than 15 minutes per contest. This season, he hopes to lead the team with his voice to fire up the players around him.

“That is what coach Amaker expects from us, to be the vocal leaders of the team, but we also want to lead by example,” Groninger said. “The biggest thing we can show these kids is how to compete at the college level. They are going to find out right away because they are going to be thrown into the fire early.”

With more than a handful of new freshmen joining the roster this season, the success of the team could hinge on the development of incoming stars like Daniel Horton and Lester Abram. Both of them, along with fellow freshmen Graham Brown, Chris Hunter and Sherrod Harrell, will have to learn a new system. The freshmen must be solid contributors if the Wolverines want to have a winning record. The role of teacher will be of great import to Michigan.

“Obviously one of the most important things is going to be leadership with six new kids on the team, them learning the system and learning how to compete at this level is going to be key to us having success,” Groninger said. “How quick they can pick those two things up is going to be important. That falls on the shoulders of the older guys, the seniors, the captains, to show them every day in practice how hard you have to compete and the concentration that goes in to learning the plays and running the right defenses.”

LaVell Blanchard

Senior – 6-foot-7 – Wing

– 2002 All-Big Ten third team by the media

– 2001-02 Naismith Award Candidate

– 2001-02 Playboy All-America

– Has scored over 1,000 points and has over 500 rebounds at Michigan.

“LaVell has been our best worker and our best player. Everything has to start with him this year.”

— Michigan coach Tommy Amaker

Gavin Groninger

Senior – 6-foot-5 – Guard

– Has scored over 500 points at Michigan

– Has hit a 3-pointer in 49 of 84 games

– Career-high 20 points against Western Michigan on Nov. 21, 2000

“Gavin is going to have to be a vocal leader for us this season.”

— Amaker

Rotolu Adebiyi

Senior – 6-foot-5 – Forward

– Second season as team captain

– Has played in 28 career games

– Spent summer working at the law firm Williams and Connelly in Washington D.C.

“Ro is a positive role model and will also have to be vocal for us”

– Amaker

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