Weekly Press Conference -- Coach Amaker and Players

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

Previewing Big Ten Tournament (March 11-14)

Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker

On the team's growth during the season  ... "I think when you are young, and we've all discussed that ... I don't want to, obviously, touch that. I think you are always looking for opportunities to grow and to develop. I think as we've seen our team throughout this season, I think we've seen that in different pockets, especially we have seen it our frontline players. I think with Courtney (Sims) and Brent (Petway) in particular, you've seen how much they have grown through the course of the year. As we continue to move forward and enter the conference tournament, I am hoping you've seen Daniel Horton's play, maybe one the better games he has been able to play for us thus far in the conference. Again, he is just a sophomore, but you are hoping you can still point to moments and situations where we can learn from, we can grow and as individual players as they continually do that. I think that is really going to help our team. I think as we've seen Daniel play well at Northwestern, we look like a different ball club. I think the confidence of our team is raised to a different level when he was playing at a high level. So, if we can feed off of that, build on that we have a chance to continue to grow."

On playing in a tournament atmosphere ... "I think with kids now, they have been in a lot of tournaments throughout high school and summers and certainly obviously in the collegiate ranks. They recognize what it is. It's one and done as the terminology goes now. Survive and advance is another phrase we hear a lot. Our kids our excited about it. This is the time of year that you dream about. This is the time of year you work all summer, preseason and fall and to a certain extent through the course of the year, the winter months, to really get to this point of your basketball season. I think we're excited. I don't think we'll be feeling pressure ...  at least I hope we won't. I think we will be excited to play. I think our kids will approach it in that manner and try to control the things that we can control. That is what I am more concerned with our ballclub. As long as we can keep bringing the effort and we need to execute better and stay unselfish. I'll be very pleased."

On the improved play of Daniel Horton ... "Obviously, the Northwestern game was hopefully a start of good things to come. I'm hoping that he has not been pressing in previous games. I would like to think that he wasn't. Sometimes you cannot play as well, but you do not have to press about it. I don't think he has done that. I think one of the things we saw was that he was not in foul trouble. It allowed him to stay aggressive throughout the course of the early part of the game. He found a nice rhythm and flow and it really helped our team, and got out on the break, scored some easy buckets. He got some easy buckets early. Any time you are a player that is used to putting the ball in he basket and you can get a couple of layups. It does wonders for your confidence, your game and your scoring. If we can keep him on the floor, keep him out of foul trouble and allow some things to develop, I like the way Daniel can potentially play for us. I think we have seen outstanding play by Daniel and certainly our game Saturday was another performance."

On Big Ten Tournament title being wide-open ... "I think it is. And to be very honest, friends and difference people around the country, everyone's talking the same talk about the league tournaments, their conference tournament. I think most of them feel it is wide open. You probably have one team that is going to be the favorite, but I just think looking at our tournament specifically and our conference. I think all of our coaches feel that everyone is going to have a shot. I think the key is going to be what team, certainly, gain that momentum quickly within the tournament. Can you get off to a good start in the tournament And maybe start something that kids start to believe and start playing completely to win and not to lose. That is what tournament atmosphere is all about. It's what March Madness is about. That is what we are going to see this upcoming weekend."

On people saying that only three teams from the Big Ten will make the NCAA Tournament ... "Quite honestly, no one on the committee has made that statement that I know of. So, I really listen or pay attention to all, no offense to folks in here, some of the things you have said  ...  I don't pay attention to all of that. I don't waste time trying to figure out what person has said this and what commentator has talked. I am not sure they are the ones that are going to have the most information or input on what's actually going to happen. I think our conference is extremely tough. I think every coach, I'm sure every person in their own league feels, league play is hard. I don't care what league you are in. I think league play, especially when you look at the history of this conference, it is been one of the better conferences in the history of college basketball. We're very proud of that."

On the Big Ten not getting any respect nationally ... "I mean I have heard some of the things that have been talked about, but I don't follow it. I don't get into dialog or debate about it and try to convince people. We are who we are. I think we are pretty darn good and the history of this conference has been great and I think whatever teams are going to make the NCAA Tournament field, in my opinion, are probably going to do well because that is what history has shown."

On whether U-M will have a chance at the NCAA's with a couple more wins ... "Yes, I do. I feel like when you look at our league right now, I think we have a number of teams, other than the top three, which would be Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan State, I think they are going to get consideration for the NCAA Tournament. I really believe that. However this starts to shake out this weekend, we will start to get a clearer picture of that.

On the talk of the Big Ten only getting three bids to the NCAA Tournament ... "I would be hard pressed for a conference like the Big Ten, although it's happened before when a conference of our stature has only gotten maybe three teams in. I think when you look around at our league and I think when it shakes out, and what teams are going to do this weekend I think we are going to see more than three possibly get bids."

On assessing a team's effort based on conference tournament play ... "I hope that is not the only way that people are going to pass out grades. I think that's unfair. I think everything has to be taken into account, the year, the schedule, I mean all the things that get thrown into the mix. Certainly the conference tournament play will be one of those factors, but it shouldn't be the only factor. Sometimes because it is the last thing that you see, I think sometimes people may assume it weighs more or less. I think I would imagine it weighs more because it is the last thing most of us are going to get a chance to witness. I don't know if that's always the correct formula. To look at the last thing and to make a determination based on that."

On whether making the NCAA Tournament defines a team's success ... "I don't necessarily define our team and program by other people's definition of success. We will be able to find our own success and our own standards. Obviously being in the NCAA Tournament would be a monumental step for our program, but that's not the only way you define, for us, success."

On Iowa ... "Obviously, they are a team that has shot the three-point shot against us very well. We have not done a good job of defending three's this year in our league. This is a ballclub that is probably feel very confident. They have had a tremendous amount of success in the Big Ten Tournament. I think they will be very confident. And I think you look at (Jeff) Horner. To me he has always been, in my opinion, the key to their team. We had a chance to witness it here when he didn't play as well and we were able to win and do some good things. And we went to Iowa City, he played his heart out and I thought he was the difference in their team. He always concerns me. He's tough, he's relentless and I think he is a heart-and-soul kind of guy. So, this is a ballclub that has been able to do wonders with limited personnel and some distractions with their program and team. I think Steve (Alford) has the team playing very well coming off a big win at Purdue. It will be a very competitive, spirited game and I think that both teams are anxious to play."

On Daniel Horton not being selected to an All-Big Ten team ... "I think it is obvious. Daniel didn't have a year, in my opinion, on the level of the other players who were deserving of that honor. I think that is the nature of it. There is no mystery about it. I thought the players who were voted in for the teams, you have to feel like that was very accurate and deserving of those players. I think Daniel will be the first person to say that those players had better years. That is going to happen sometimes and hopefully we can have a better year in the future. I am sure Daniel will work hard to improve his game. But we have other things, knowing he is not concerned with individual honors, other players aren't either. We're certainly focused on our tournament and Iowa."

On the role Bernard Robinson Jr. will play this weekend ... "You need veterans. You need experience, and certainly Bernard has an abundance of that with our team. The most I should say. It is going to be critical for him to display that. Lead the way when it comes to that for our team in this tournament. He certainly stepped up with that shot (at Northwestern). That big three that he made for us. Just a huge shot for our team. I thought that basket and Courtney (Sims) tip-in could, even Lester's (Abram) layup were three big baskets for our ballclub. But I do think, obviously, Bernard's leadership and his being a veteran ballplayer is going to have to pay dividends for us to be successful this weekend."

On the importance of making the NCAA Tournament ... "For our players, this is what kids play for. When you start the year, your dream is, one of the things that happened to us, we were afford the opportunity to be postseason eligible. And the postseason that everyone dreams about is March Madness. That is what you work for and I think that would be a huge statement for our players if we were able to participate. You also look at opportunities, again we are postseason eligible at the beginning year, I think there is a good chance that we can make that a reality for this program this year and be wonderful and terrific for all the reasons we all know that some how we were involved in the field of 65."

On whether freshmen are worn down at this point of the season ... "I don't know that. I think for young players, I don't think you ever really know with freshman players going into this time of the year. It's been a long season for them already. We have all seen some of the moments where you can point to being a freshman at this point in the year, or they have hit the wall or they are up-and-down, tired and worn out. All those things have been accurate for our freshman. So, I don't know how to answer that questions, but I do think the feeling in our lockerroom with our team and our program is of excitement, of anticipation and I think we will be, very much, that type of team come Friday afternoon. And I know our freshman, for us to advance in the tournament, our freshman are going to have to play some significant roles as they have all year."

Senior Bernard Robinson Jr.

On if he feels pressure heading into his final games ... "It is like when you have a certain time to do something, like when you have 30 seconds. Then when 25 seconds come, everything gets a little faster in your head and it is harder to think. That is how I have been playing. I can feel that we are getting down to the last few games. I think that is just normal nature to play like that. When you feel the end coming, you have more urgency than most other players do and most other people do. That is with anything in life."

On if he is doing anything different to help ensure success ... "I think the main thing is to stay focused and make sure your focus is on the court. It is just the same things that have been going on, but you have to stay focused. That is the main idea. My main emphasis right now is for me to be focused."

Sophomore Lester Abram

On if the team is playing itself in a way ... "Yes. Everybody has to come to play and everybody has to step up. It cannot just be one or two guys and then one of the guys who is supposed to step up just vanishes. I think everybody has to play well in this tournament for us to be successful."

Sophomore Daniel Horton

On being injured for last year's Big Ten Tournament ... "I don't look at it as I really got a chance to experience playing in a big game like that. I played, but I wasn't 100 percent. My focus now is to get prepared to play at a high level on Friday."

On if he expects to repeat his performances of the last two games ... "I think you can go out and try too hard. Especially in big games, like Friday, if you try too hard you end up not being as successful as you hope. I am just going to go out there and play like I have done the last two games. Last game (at Northwestern), I think I was more assertive going to the basket and just being more aggressive on offense. I am just going to go out there and play. If I have to go out there and do that again, then that is what I am going to do. At the same time, if those guys get it going early, it is my job to get them the basketball."

Freshman Dion Harris

On if there is pressure on the team to do well at the Big Ten Tournament ... "I don't think it is pressure. I think we know what we want to do. Now we just have to take it one game at a time and try do that."

On if he has hit a wall this season ... "I think I was on my way to hitting a wall. As far as the Northwestern game, I think I played well and I want to just take it from there. I think that helped snap me out of hitting the wall and I just want to build on that performance."

Freshman Courtney Sims

On his expectation for his first Big Ten Tournament ... "Everybody is going to try and grind it out and work hard. I expect somebody who it not supposed to win it to win it. Everybody wants to go to the NCAA Tournament and everybody is saying the Big Ten Conference is kind of down. I think everybody is going to be trying to fight to get that bid to the tournament."

Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423

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