Weekly Press Conference -- Coach Amaker and Players

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

Previewing Michigan's intrastate matchup with Michigan State

Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker

On Michigan State ... "They have been one of the better teams this year and certainly their program speaks for itself. Their home-court environment has been one of more difficult places for anybody to go into and compete and play. We have one significant road win in our conference already. We are very proud of that and we are hoping that we can be competitive and go in there with some fight and some vigor to make it a very competitive environment for both programs."

On the rivalry ... "It is always a spirited game for a lot of reasons. In terms of fans following it, in terms of the state being somewhat divided. It brings a lot of excitement and passion out. Not just in our sport, but in other sports as well. I think for a lot of reasons it becomes a game that is circled and earmarked for a lot of people. I am sure the kids in both programs recognize that. We recognize that the season isn't going to end for either team on a win or a loss based on this game. Certainly both teams are going to give it their all to make it a joyous evening."

On his relationship with Tom Izzo ... "I like to think that we have a solid relationship, one that is built on mutual respect. I am very fond of Tom. I think I have made that clear for a variety of reasons. I admire what he has done and the manner in which he has done it. Certainly we know we are going to compete against one another and be very competitive in every aspect of our programs. I think he expects that, but I think he is a terrific guy and obviously he has been a terrific coach."

On making the rivalry competitive ... "I think we have made it competitive. When you talk about rivalries you have to be very competitive in that regard. I think that has taken place. We haven't been able to win as many games as I would have liked for us to win, but certainly I think we have been very competitive. The last two games of last year were tough games. Certainly their win here was a come-from-behind victory and a gut-wrenching loss for us, but I think you will see two teams that will compete very hard against one another."

On Michigan State's offense ... "I think they've been a very explosive basketball team. I think they've scored in bunches. When you look at their team and try to analyze their team they don't have an obvious weakness. They have been shooting the ball extremely well. They are the nation's best free-throw shooting team. They are shooting it terrifically from the three-point line. They also have an inside threat and a presence that is as good as any that I have seen in terms of the post in Paul Davis. I think he is tremendous. I think they are a very old basketball team in terms of their seniors and their leadership. I think they are a team that should be reckoned with throughout this whole season."

On rebounding against Michigan State ... "That's a concern obviously. They've been very strong with that. They don't give up any second chance opportunities. We are going to have to do a decent job of keeping them off the glass. We need to do a good job of having positive offensive possessions because we may not get many opportunities based on the way they have played in the past, limiting their opponent to one opportunity, if that one. Certainly that is an area of concern as well."

On Paul Davis ... "He is a tough guard in terms of matching up and trying to guard him. He is a player that can also step out and shoot the face-up shot. In terms of getting it inside, they do a lot of four-around-one, at least it seems like it breaks down into that. They space the floor very well with shooters out on the perimeter so you can't give a lot of help. A lot of times if it's a one-on-one match up, it is probably in his advantage. We are going to have to be cognizant of that and see if we can somehow give help without giving up the three-point shot as well."

On controlling the tempo of the game ... "They are very explosive and they are a team that has scored a lot of points. They've been one of the top scoring teams in the country this season. It is important that we value the ball. It is important that we are not giving up easy baskets, which is easier said than done with that team. It that becomes controlling tempo then it is, but we are not going to hold the ball. We are going to play to win and we're going to compete. We are going to go in there with our own game plan and strategy and I think our kids will respond and do the best that they can."

On being frustrated over having a different team throughout the year ... "Obviously you have up's and down's. You are going to fight through different situations. There are a lot of things that go on with teams behind the scenes that we are not privy to at times that are disjoining and distracting at times. I think for us, I'm not frustrated. We're competitive and we're going to battle and we're going to see if we can find ways to get our job done. I like the fact that we've been able to come up with some solutions this year. We haven't come up with enough, but we've been able to find different combinations. I give our players all the credit for their ability to bounce back and revamp their games and embrace a different role from let alone week to week, sometimes day to day. For me as a coach, it is very exciting to be able coach kids who are willing to buy into that and maybe reverse it the next week because of the situation and circumstances. I'm not frustrated. I'm excited and we're trying to find solutions that will help us do the best we can with what we have."

On if the team is used to adversity ... "I wouldn't say we are used to it. We are a program that is in progress. That's obvious. You are going to have some setbacks. We've had those before and I am sure we are going to deal with some more in the future. I think it's important that we handle things in a proper manner and an appropriate manner. I like to think that every step of the way we've tried to do that. We may not have always been right, but I think at the time we have made decisions based on a variety of circumstances on and off the court that we have tried to do what we felt is right."

On how Daniel Horton's suspension effects the preparations for Michigan State ... "It certainly doesn't help our team. We are recognizing that we have been a team that has been in flux and this is another issue that is on the forefront that is going to require another one of our players to be out. We are always hoping to have a full lineup and a full team and we haven't been able to have that for a variety of reasons and this is another reason. It doesn't help."

On Dion Harris serving as the primary ball handler ... "We've been in this position before. He has handled it for us in previous games and certainly the majority of it is going to fall on his shoulders."

On if there is more pressure on Dion Harris ... "There are a lot of things that will fall on different players, but certainly as you look at Dion and his play for us and our backcourt, a lot does fall on his shoulders. That is not always the fairest thing to say, but it is probably very accurate. I think he's a youngster that welcomes that."

On the play of the frontline this season ... "I think our front line has given us what they can. Obviously as a coach you want more out of everybody, but overall I have been pleased with their production. I think we can rebound it a little better. Especially, he's out now, but Chris Hunter was scoring a lot for us, but I wish we could have gotten more rebounds out of him when he was playing and playing well. I do feel as a group that our front line has been pretty solid for us."

On the frontline being more productive ... "We've asked them to do more. They've responded and obviously when we've been fragmented with different players up front we've still have gotten solid contributions. Even J.C. Mathis has been able to give us some solid play. At Penn State he had nine points and six rebounds. I think when you look overall what our front line has been able to contribute, it has been pretty solid."

On Graham Brown ... "I think Graham makes a lot of things easier for a lot of guys because he does a lot of dirty work. Not many players think of that as something that is very complimentary when it can be the ultimate compliment from a coach. It certainly is in the way I am speaking about it for Graham. When you have a player that embraces that and identifies that role with an identity of being blue collar and all the things he does for out team, he becomes a team favorite, a fan favorite and a coach favorite. With Graham Brown and his presence being back with our team and the spirit he brings and the way he plays, his unselfishness is one of the main things I have always loved about him. A lot of times you refer to unselfish as someone giving up the ball. There is no more unselfish player on our team than Graham. Someone who is going to be a help defender. Someone who it going to talk. Someone who is going to help his teammates out in every scenario. I think in that regard we have a terrific young man who has given his all for our team and our program."

On Courtney Sims contesting Paul Davis' shots ... "I think they key word is to contest. If we are contesting shots and specifically we are doing that on the interior, I think he'll be able to pick his spots better on when to block shots. The key for us is to contest shots. We need to feel like we can contest shots, specifically on the inside of the court."

On Brent Petway's play ... "Weve seen Brent expand his game. Something we talked about going into the season is his feel for it and his ability to pass the ball. Some of those things are very much underrated. You can see his confidence in his foul shooting and his confidence with the ball. Those are good things and I'm hoping we will continue to see that growth out of Brent."

On what Brent Petway's showmanship brings to the team ... "I would never characterize what Brent does as showmanship. He brings a great deal of passion and energy when he plays. It is very genuine. He is one of those individuals that is not doing anything to offend anyone. He is very excited about what he has been able to help and do and excite our team. I apologized to him after the IU game when he blocked a shot and I reached out and gave a five. It hurt my hand and I thought it hurt him. We need that. Those kinds of things become contagious for your team as long as it's channeled and done in the right and proper way. Certainly that is the way we feel Brent has showed his emotions in how he plays the game."

On having shot blockers in Courtney Sims and Brent Petway ... "We are hoping we can be a threat in that regard. We haven't been as much this year as we were a year ago. Hopefully we can get back to that. It allows us to extend our defense and be more aggressive on the perimeter. When you have players that can pressure up top and if they get by someone and go to the hole, it changes things when they know that there are people in there that can change their shot or intimidate them or block their shot. We need to have a little more of that within our team."

On the progression of Ron Coleman ... "I think that at this point and time he recognizes that it is an everyday battle. I think sometimes as a freshman, everything you do is looked on as being gravy because you are a freshman and it is exciting to look at the future of this young player. I think the bar has been raised for him. He sees himself now as an older player in the program. He is a marked person. When we step out of this environment and go elsewhere, he has seen how difficult that can be when you are a person or a player that people are actively trying to stop or slow down. I think he is going to have to raise his level. He knows that. It is easier said than done. It's not like he isn't trying, but I think he recognizes that through this season thus far."

On the progression of the program towards its ultimate goals ... "It is hard for me to look at the big picture in the middle of the season. I like to reflect on things when the season is over because things can change daily and even hourly. I can tell you I've been very proud of the progress we have made thus far. I think that this group has done a tremendous job of fighting through things that no one could have foreseen happening. That's not an excuse and I don't want it to be thrown out there as an excuse or a catch phrase. It is what it is. To be able to say that our team is fighting and clawing and competitive I think is very accurate and we're very proud of that."

On having an 'us against the world' mentality ... "Anytime you go on the road it's going to be us against a lot of people up there. I think our players know that. Weve been on the road before and we've been in tough environments before. I think when you have those scenarios you have to close ranks a little."

Junior Forward Graham Brown

On playing Paul Davis ... "Paul Davis is a great player. He is one of the best big guys in the Big Ten. I can't wait to play against him. I played with him a couple of summers ago and I can't wait to get back against him. It's just going to be fun going down there to Breslin Center and trying to get a victory."

On his approach to Paul Davis ... "My approach to every player is to go out there, play as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help the team. That's the same way I am going to approach this game and I hope everyone else will do the same."

On playing at Breslin Center ... "Everyone talks about how tough it is to play in front of the fans. I just go out there and play my game. The fans don't really bother me that much; you just go out there and do whatever you can to win. Some people get affected by that, but I feel that it is not something I can speak of today. I just play my own game out there."

Sophomore Guard Dion Harris

On the Michigan State game ... "We lost to Michigan State twice last year, so obviously we want to come in this year and get a win."

On playing Michigan State without Horton ... "I think this might be the most difficult game for me going into it without Horton. They have athletes on the perimeter and I know they'll be guarding like they always do, so this will be the most difficult game for me without Horton."

On Lester Abram help from the bench ... "He knows the situation; he knows he won't be available until next season. So, I think he understands what he has to do coming into next season. He always talks to us during time out and halftime, and is always encouraging us and telling us what it looks like what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong out there on the court."

Sophomore Forward Brent Petway

On keys to the game ..."We just can't bail them out by getting them in the bonus early. They have five jump shooters and three-pointer shooters, so they have great shooters and you can't let them get to the line and kill you in that aspect. You have to play solid defense when you play there. You can't turn the ball over either, because they'll make you pay."

On what a win at Michigan State would mean ... "I think it would mean a great deal, especially coming off a two-game losing streak after we had a six-game wining streak. We came here and lost to Wisconsin, who was a tough team, and we have another tough game coming up Thursday night, so if we can win this game it will definitely get us on the right track."

On the Breslin Center ... "It is one of the toughest places to play in the Big Ten, by far. They have a nice little student section going on over there. They're loud and they try to get in you're head a lot. I like places like that. I play to the crowd, so I think I'm going have a lot of fun in there Thursday night."

Sophomore Forward Courtney Sims

On Paul Davis ... "He is a tough person to play against. He is athletic, he has good post moves. He is just a tough player. Everyone is coming after him. He is really the marked man in the Big Ten. I think he made first team last year for big men, so he is a marked man and he has to deal with that every night. I know that must be tough, because I am getting a lot more concentration from other teams, so I know that is tough on him also."

On playing against Big Ten big men ... "I like playing good players. I mean it was tough playing (Wisconsin's Mike) Wilkinson. I have another tough match. It seems like there are a lot of good big men this year in the Big Ten."

Freshman Wing Ronald Coleman

On Michigan State as a big game ... "We don't try to look at one game, in particular, as a big game. Every game for us is a big game and we just have to go in and treat every game as a big game. Going in and playing Michigan State is another game; we have to go in and try to focus on the win."

On what concerns him most about the Spartans ... "They have a great team. Personally, I have not had any experience playing against them. I have seen them play and I know they have a good team. We just need to have people to go out and guard and want to get a victory. It's a road game and it's going to be tough to play in Breslin Center; I know that. We have players who can go and block that out; we just have to go and play hard."

On playing in a hostile environment like Breslin Center ... "I have never played in the Breslin Center, but we have been to other places like Indiana; it was loud there. Penn State, it got pretty loud there. I know all the fans are going to be on us, but we just got to go in and fight; block all those things out."

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

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