Weekly Press Conference -- Coach Amaker and Players

Coach and Player Comments from
U-M Men's Basketball Press Conference

Previewing Michigan State (Jan. 17)

Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker

On the state of the team ... "Well, I think overall when you look at our production, statistics and certainly our record, we recognize there are some areas of improvement. I think with the youth of our team, we are pleased with some things as well. I think if you look at our shooting percentage for our ballclub overall, it is been pretty solid there. We have not shot the ball from the three-point line as well as we would like and we have not handled the ball as well, although the last game was our best performance with only five turnovers, but overall being 10-3, .500 in our conference we recognize that this is a brutal stretch with three on the road so we are going to find out a lot about ourselves over the next 10 days."

On the defensive play of the team ... "We have done a decent job of playing our initial defense. We have done a fairly good job of limiting people to one shot for the most part. We have to be able to put those things together; we look at both as one. We need to do a better job defending the three-point line. That hurt us in our last game. We recognize that Michigan State is one of the best, if not the top team in our conference shooting the three. We look at it as if we can do all of that on one end, get the ball out in transition and then convert, we sell that to our defense and want our players to kind of feed off of that. That is one of the reasons why they have been willing to guard the way they have. We have been pleased with our defense so far but we haven't been able to kind of finish it. If we can finish it with a blockout and a transition bucket, that allows our defense to have that much more emphasis and energy and I think our players believe in it that much more."

On his initial take on the team's loss to Indiana ... "I may have overreacted in terms of the word 'selfish.' I had a chance to look at the film and talk to our team. One of the things that we have not been is selfish. I think we were so charged and gunned up and excited that we all tried to do it at times by themselves but not necessarily in the traditional way of the word 'selfish.' They wanted to do it themselves as individuals but that does not always necessarily mean that they are being selfish players. The best thing about our kids so far this year is that they recognize when we have made some mistakes. We have a thing we call the 'Rule of Mistakes,' which is to recognize it first of all, admit it secondly, learn from it thirdly and forget it fourthly. I think we are in good shape with that."

On the team's shooting performance ... "I never worry about our shooting, I am more concerned with the quality of shot that we take. Even if we do not shoot the ball particularly well, it is more important for me and our coaching staff to evaluate the quality of the shot. We feel that if we continue to take high quality shots, eventually those balls will go in the basket if they have not gone in before. We did not take quality shots in our previous game and sometimes you can take poor shots and still make them and that is a little bit of fool's gold. We took some poor shots and we did not make them and I think our kids recognize why we did not shoot it well was because of the quality of the shot."

On Daniel Horton ... "We have a couple of guys, not just Daniel, that I would like to see be more consistent in scoring output. Daniel is a big weapon and big threat whether he makes baskets or not and I think that is a huge asset for our team and I think he knows that. I think it was the Northwestern game where he took five or six shots and made one or two and I thought that he played a pretty solid floor game. He certainly did not shoot the ball well in our previous game but I think Daniel is going to be fine. It is a long horse race and Daniel started slow last year and progressed quite well as the year went on."

On Chris Hunter coming back from surgery ... "We need Chris. He will be an added bonus for our team as the year goes on. Another player in the front line for us with one year of experience who had a really solid year for us last year and was our most improved player on our team so we missed him and we need him to get back to full strength. He is not there yet, he does not have his timing or wind yet but those are things we can work on and we anticipate as the year moves on that Chris will be back to more of a normal pace for his minutes on the floor."

On playing in hostile environments ... "Obviously the Breslin Center is considered one of the tougher places to play in the country and it will be a tough atmosphere for our team. Managing the game, managing the crowd, timeouts, four-minute segments if we can play in a certain manner, taking care of the basketball, having poise, our huddles and being able to communicate and all the little things are going to be magnified when you go on the road and especially when you play in a tough environment. As a player, it is tough. You have no one cheering for you. At home you get some energy from doing the little things. When you are at home, you get cheered for that. I think the little things as coaches you try to emphasize, in your home court environment your players get recognized for those types of things. It is harder because those are the things you really need to do on the road to be successful and you're not getting that reinforcement other than your teammates and coaches. That is why it takes a very mentally tough team to win on the road. The home court environments in the Big Ten are second to none in my opinion. I've had the chance now to be in a couple different leagues -- three different leagues -- and none are better than the home court environments that you have in the Big Ten."

On Michigan State ... "We recognized the schedule that they have played and the tough road that they have had. They have been competitive with opportunities to win in all of those games with the exception of maybe the Duke game. You look at a few possessions here and a bounce of the ball there, their record could be a lot different. Michigan State was picked by the media and coaches as the team to beat in our conference and we are just starting the conference schedule so that hasn't changed. I am sure that is their attitude going into it and certainly we recognize how talented they are and how tough they are going to be at home."

On rekindling the basketball rivalry with MSU ... "First of all, it's just important for us to be competitive period. I would like to think that we have done that, not just with one other program. We want our program to be very competitive and we are trying to become a winning, first class and elite program ourselves and we think we are on the road to doing some of those things. I think sometimes when you have a rivalry or you compete against another program in your state or local program that has that status and you have some success whether that's the game we won last year or faring a little better in the opportunities when we play them, I think it helps our program. We recognize how good they are and they are a measuring stick for a lot of programs and a lot of people and we are hoping to strive to be a program such as theirs."

Senior Wing Bernard Robinson Jr.

On what knowledge he has passed down to the other players about MSU ... "I have let them know that they have to be alert. It is going to be a totally different environment out there. This rivalry is one of the best in the country. You have to go out and be focused and try not to do too much. You know that the crowd is going to say things to you. I just try to let the guys understand that a lot of things go into playing on road, especially against Michigan State."

On the importance of getting a win ... "This is definitely a big game for us, probably the biggest one we have had all year. We need to get back on track and get into that winning column again. We have to get everyone back to where we want to be at, and that is winning games. We let one slip away here at home and we were disappointed about that. Now we have to go take it out on Michigan State and show that we are capable of winning anywhere."

On his memories of playing at the Breslin Center ... "I played there back when I was a freshman, and I think there is a different atmosphere there. The crowd and the student section is something you do not see every day at other arenas. That is what I wanted to warn our guys about, playing in that kind of environment. That will be the key for us; basketball will take care of itself."

Sophomore Guard Daniel Horton

On the importance of a good start against Michigan State ... "It is important to jump out and get an early lead in the game, especially when you are on the road. We jumped out to a 6-1 lead against Indiana, but then we started taking some questionable shots and allowed them to get back in the game. Our coaches have been really pleased with the way we have been starting games. We just have to keep that going and try to jump out to an early lead against Michigan State and play from there."

On how the Wolverines match up defensively against Michigan State ... "I feel that we can match up with anyone defensively. We have good size on the wings and in the post. Our guys can cause a lot of matchup problems offensively and defensively. If we can come out with a tough mindset and can box out on rebounds, I think we will be fine."

On whether his amount of scoring plays a role in the success of the team ... "I just need to be more consistent shooting the basketball. It is not a matter of scoring a lot more points; I just have to make the shots that I take. If I can do that, then I'll be fine."

Sophomore Wing Lester Abram

On what a victory would mean to this team ... "If we can go out a get a win on the road, I feel that it will be a big confidence booster for our team. To go into a hostile environment and come out with a win will build tremendous character for this team."

On whether he has read about Michigan State and the tough year it is having ... "I don't really read the newspapers. I know what kind of team that they have and what kind talent they have. They have a talented bunch of guys and I am sure they will bring it all together at some point. So, we really do not pay attention to any records."

On the importance of getting off on the right foot against the Spartans ... "I think getting off to a good start is very important for us. We cannot get down like we did against Indiana and expect to come back on the road. We really have to have a good start."

Freshman Guard Dion Harris

On the importance of the game ... "I think this game is very important. It is a big game, an instate rivalry. I think we really need this win, and Michigan State does too. You never want to lose two in a row in conference play. It is really important to pick up wins in the Big Ten. We just gave one away last Sunday at home, so it is important that we get this win."

On his expectations of the atmosphere at the Breslin Center ... "I expect it to be crazy. There will be a lot of fans there and it will be really wild in there. We just have to go in and do what we have to do to get the win. As far as I now, we have not won in East Lansing in a long time. I think this would be a good win for our team and for our program."

On what the seniors have told him about playing in East Lansing ... "They have told us how tough it is to play Michigan State on the road. Bernard (Robinson Jr.) and Colin (Dill) have both been up to the Breslin Center and have told us that we need to be ready. We just have to go out and play hard. It is not going to be easy."

On what a win against the Spartans can do for Michigan ... "We have to prove that we are taking that step up to be back to the program that we were in the past. I think this game will tell a lot about us after the loss last weekend to Indiana."

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

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