March 8, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team will enter Sunday's (March 10) matchup with second-ranked Indiana just one win away from earning a share of the Big Ten regular-season title for the second year in a row.
In a conference which has seen at least two teams ranked in the top 10 all season and as many as six teams ranked in one week, coming out on top after a grueling 18-game conference schedule is no easy feat -- and doing it in back-to-back seasons is even more remarkable.
Sunday's matchup could prove to be extra special if Michigan secures the win and a share of the conference title, but it will be memorable regardless for the Wolverines' five seniors, who will run down the tunnel for the last time and be honored prior to tipoff.
In addition to Michigan's five seniors -- Eso Akunne, Josh Bartelstein, Blake McLimans, Corey Person and Matt Vogrich -- the program will also honor members of Team Maize, as well as its senior managers.
Senior Day will be bittersweet for three managers who have been a part of the program since their freshman year at Michigan. Seniors Danny Ackerman, Matt Sawyer and Brandon Verlinden each earned their roles as managers soon after stepping foot on campus for the first time. Three complete strangers, who migrated to Ann Arbor from three different states, soon developed a strong friendship and gained the trust of the players and staff.
After two years of hard work and dedication to the program, the three gained more responsibility and began traveling to all road games with the team. They have seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows throughout their four years and are hoping their final game at Crisler Center is a memorable one and ends with Michigan cutting down the net for the first time in their careers.
The Wolverines held a media roundtable on Friday (March 8) prior hosting Indiana on Sunday at 4 p.m. inside Crisler Center. Fans are encouraged to wear maize-colored clothing for the official "Maize Out" and arrive early for the senior recognition ceremony.
U-M Senior Manager Danny Ackerman
On his experience as a manager for the U-M men's basketball team ... "My experience working as a manager for the men's basketball team has been invaluable. Coming in as a freshman when we were 15-17, I have learned so much as I have watched and helped the coaching and support staff bring the program back to where it should be. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I think about my college experiences -- whether it was traveling to Maui or winning a Big Ten championship -- because I have been so lucky to experience all of it, especially to experience it alongside the great friends I have made within the program."
On his favorite game/favorite moment as a manager ... "Our coaching staff starts every meeting or film session with the same responsive greeting that ends in Coach Beilein saying 'We are going to be ...' and the players responding 'champions.' The best moment of my four years so far was when we gathered for a meeting after we celebrated clinching the Big Ten championship last year. Instead of the usual ending to the greeting, Coach Beilein said 'And we ARE ...' with a thunderous reply of 'CHAMPIONS!' Nothing feels better than accomplishing a goal you focus on for over a year. I only hope there is more to come before it is all said and done."
On what he's learned and what he will take away from his time as a manager... "I have learned so much from our staff and players, as well as the other two head managers, Brandon (Verlinden) and (Matt) Sawyer. My time as a manager leaves me confident and prepared for whatever tasks and goals are in front of me because I have learned so much about hard work and what it takes to succeed. Throughout the highs and lows of my four years, I have learned how to both soak in the good times and weather the bad times."
U-M Senior Manager Matt Sawyer
On his experience as a manager for the U-M men's basketball team ... "My four years as a manager have been incredible. This experience has lived up to every bit of the hype I associated with it when I started in September of 2009. The highs and lows of the season have been exhausting each year, but all of the moments that have nearly made my heart stop made this job all the more fun. Even more, I have a brotherhood in Michigan basketball that will last a lifetime."
On his favorite game/favorite moment as a manager ... "College Game Day in 2012 was the most memorable experience for me. I am an Ohio kid, so every game against Ohio State is personal for me. Being able to play the Buckeyes on the biggest stage in college basketball, while being such an integral part of the team, was awesome. More importantly, we won the game on our way to a Big Ten championship."
On what he's learned and what he will take away from his time as a manager... "I have learned so much during my time as a manager, but the most significant takeaway has been the importance I have learned to place on each moment with the special people in your life. 'Make today your priority' has become my mantra, and it has become such after so many small moments that have had a huge impact on me as a member of this program. I've come to appreciate the commonplace occurrences now, knowing that they may not seem so common when it is time to reflect on them."
U-M Senior Manager Brandon Verlinden
On his experience as a manager for the U-M men's basketball team ... "My experience with the team has been great. I felt part of the Michigan basketball family from the very first practice and over the past four years have met friends and made memories I will remember forever."
On his favorite game/favorite moment as a manager ... "My favorite moment as a manager was when Coach Beilein gave me the opportunity to dress for the Michigan State game my sophomore year. It was the final home game of the season, and I had been practicing with the team for a few weeks when Coach Beilein allowed me to suit up and run down the tunnel wearing the Maize and Blue uniform. Dressing for the University of Michigan was something I used to only dream of and because of this opportunity, it is now something that I will never forget."
On what he's learned and what he will take away from his time as a manager... "There is so much that I have learned since I first became a manager as freshman. I learned a great amount about the game of basketball from the coaches and players, but I also learned many off-the-court lessons, and that is something that I never expected. Our Michigan basketball core values are really something that has stuck with me these past four years, and I am sure that they will not be forgotten as I transition to life after Michigan."
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423