... "Certainly we are very excited about the prospects of our basketball team finally hitting the floor. I think we've been around here now for about six months and we feel very good about the progress of our program. We're looking forward to putting the next phase in which is to start official practice, which will begin tomorrow night. I think our players have worked hard in the spring and summer and the preseason.
"This is an exciting chapter in Michigan basketball. We certainly feel that way. That's the way we're approaching it. I'm pleased with the effort and the work ethic of the team and now it's time to move forward with the challenging schedule that we have and all the things that we've tried to put in place to see how it's all going to come about for the upcoming season.
"I've been pleased with our leadership. I think our tri-captains have been just very instrumental in leading our ballclub up to this point. Chris Young, Rotolu Adebiyi and Leon Jones have done a terrific job of leading our ballplayers and showing the way as seniors, as veterans and as captains.
"I think any time you're looking for a successful season, a successful program you're going to rely on the leadership. That's something we're starting to rely on this year -- our senior leadership, and our veteran leadership, some of the other players that aren't seniors but will play significant roles in the leadership of this ballclub this season."
On the excitement of today being Media Day ... "It really is a great day for our basketball program. It's another beginning for us. It's another first for us. We've already had a number of those thus far and we're going to continue to have a lot of those throughout this season. There's nothing bigger than today for us -- to be able to say that this is one of the official starts of our basketball season. To have our kids come here this afternoon and for you to speak to them and ask how they're doing or what they see or how they feel and where they want to go, I can't wait to read about it."
On anything that's caught him off guard as of yet ... "I think things have gone better than we could have anticipated to this point. We've gotten a tremendous amount of support throughout the administration, through our fans. I think there's an excitement about our basketball program. There's an enthusiasm that's been lacking somewhat (in years past). We've been proud to try to earn that now. I think that's something that we want to go out and show and prove and be a part of for the future of this school and this program. There's nothing that has really surprised me. We've been very pleasantly pleased with the direction that we've gone thus far."
On the type of offense he plans to run this year ... "I think this ballclub is going to be a team that's going to start on the other end of the floor with our defense. We're going to try to be a half-court, man-to-man defensive team. If we can strive to adapt to that philosophy, to have that identity, I think our offense will flow. I think we'll be a team that's going to try to take advantage of early opportunities. I think we're going to be a team that's going to really have to use good discretion in shot selection. I think our margin for error is going to be very small. I think defensively, we're going to need to be very solid. We need to count on one another. We need to have great communication. We need to do a couple things. One will be to block out and rebound the basketball to give us an opportunity to go down the floor. We're going to use a secondary style of break if we don't have anything that we would consider a primary break. I think that will give us good structure, good balance and being able to move the ball in order to create good opportunities to score."
On the excitement around campus for the basketball team ... "I've seen it throughout the campus. I've seen it with our students. We're officially making the Maize Rage an organization on campus. The administration is doing things with changing the seating arrangement of our court here at Crisler Arena. We're moving the students closer to the floor. Those are the kind of things that are bringing about a different kind of atmosphere and environment and enthusiasm. Our students are extremely important in where we want to go. To have their support, to have their presence at our games, is going to be vital for this year, but also in where we want to go with this basketball program."
On where he thinks the strengths and weaknesses lie in the team ... "I think we've tried to identify some strengths and weaknesses in our team. I think right now we recognize that we aren't that deep up front. I think we have a ways to go with our front line because of being limited there in our size. I think we need to make sure that Josh Moore and Chris Young are healthy, which right now they aren't completely 100 percent, but I'm not sure anybody is in the preseason, banged up a little here and there. They need to be healthy and then we need to keep them out of foul trouble. I think that's going to be one of the keys for us -- how our front line can stay healthy and stay on floor for us throughout the season. We talked about five things in the press conference when I was introduced a few months ago right here. We talked about being passionate. We talked about being prepared. We talked about being honest. We talked about having fun and we talked about being Michigan. Those are the core things of what we're trying to implement with this team. Regardless of who's going to play what position, what kind of offense we run, we want that to become our identity for this basketball program."
On the adaptations the team has made to new team rules ... "I think our kids have done a really good job with discipline aspects or anything that we've asked them to do. They've been wonderful about it. We've implemented some different things as what would normally happen in a new transition. I think they've been willing to adjust and adapt to certain things that we've done in a different way. We haven't had any major concerns when you think of discipline or problems. I think the kids have done well in school. We certainly have conducted ourselves in a way that we all would be very proud of being here at the University of Michigan."
On what the first order of business will be for practice tomorrow ... "We've gotten together as a staff and we've gone over a few practice plans. We're talking about how to implement certain things and we're basically striving to have a really good, spirited workout tomorrow and we're going to talk about two things, concentration and effort. That's the way we're going to evaluate and judge our first workout. We need the concentration and the effort out of all of our basketball players."
On who the leaders of the team will be this year ... "I'd like to think all of them, but that's a question that would be great if you ask them this afternoon. We were very pleased to be able to award three walk-on kids scholarships this year, three seniors. That's a great thing for our basketball program. That shows a lot of commitment, a lot of passion. It shows what those kids have been able to do in this program to be awarded that. We're not just talking about the LaVell Blanchards, the Bernard Robinson Jr.'s, the Gavin Groningers, the Chris Youngs, we're talking about a complete basketball program of having everyone on the same page, on the same team, wearing the same jersey. To be able to have a moment where we could do that, given the circumstances with available scholarships, I think meant a lot to our ballclub. Sometimes as a walk-on player you realize how hard it is and how much work you put in. But to show that they've been the recipient of a full scholarship for their senior year, that shows a lot of passion and fun both ways."
On the development of LaVell Blanchard ... "I think it can be difficult on a player to try to learn different spots and different plays, but we wouldn't ask him to do it if we didn't think he could do it. LaVell is very versatile. Anytime you are versatile, in our opinion you become more valuable. We think he's as valuable as anyone is. For him to be on the wing, as we talked about Bernard (Robinson Jr.), to put LaVell to play power forward to post up, to step out and shoot the ball because he can really shoot the three, to be our leading rebounder. The things that he's been able to do, his effort and his toughness that he's put into this program is very much, in our eyes, appreciated. We need to see him now do the same things and develop more of a leadership role on this team and we think that those are things he can do to become a better player and have us become a better team."
On Bernard Robinson Jr. ... "We just want to get Bernard healthy. He had mononucleosis this summer and so that has set him back somewhat and he hasn't been 100 percent yet and we've kind of spotted him at certain times to take it easy, to try this and not go full-tilt. We're concerned with his health right now more than anything else. But we all know that Bernard is a very talented player and this sophomore year can be a very tough year after a kid has had a really good freshman year, on an individual basis. He's a known quantity now and he's a marked man somewhat more than he was last year. I think that's going to be one of the keys for Bernard this year, is to adapt to being somewhat of a guy that people put into a scouting report to pinpoint him. In terms of positions, he's a versatile player. We anticipate that he's going to be able to play some forward, some wing, some guard. We know we're going to need him on the floor."
On the confidence of Gavin Groninger ... "The one kid that has done as well as anyone with his play and his confidence and his work ethic has been Gavin Groninger. I think he has really put forth a great effort in the spring, the summer, and even into the fall. I think confidence wise, he appears to be a much more confident, relaxed player. That's a good thing for our club. We need our veterans to play like veterans. Sometimes when you work hard you really feel better about yourself but you also need to see some of the rewards and dividends. A kid like Gavin who worked really hard and played on the Big Ten All-Star team this summer and played very well and saw some of the fruits of his labor. Those are the things that as coaches and as teachers that you feel a lot of pride knowing that this kid is moving forward. I think that we've seen this in other players, but no one more than Gavin."
On Avery Queen and the point guard position ... "Avery right now is our most experienced ballhandler that we have. He played a lot of minutes last year as a freshman. I think he can bring some of that to the court, to the table for this team. He needs to bring the leadership that comes along with that experience of handling the ball and being in that position. I think that you look at Marcus Bennett, Dommanic Ingerson and Michael Gotfredson as kids that are going to be ballhandlers for us. There's going to be competition there, which is what I think any coach at any program wants to have on a daily basis. I think we'll have that competition. We've already had that in the preseason with conditioning and workouts and when the kids have had open gym and pickup games. That's been very good. I think Avery, being a veteran has given him a leg up at the point guard position."
On the expectations for Dommanic Ingerson ... "First of all, he's a freshman so that's going to be hard. I don't have the experience first-hand of being in the Big Ten, but I have some experience with comparable leagues and my anticipation about the Big Ten is that it's a tough league to be able to come in and do a lot of things early. I think he has some ability and some talent that I think he has a chance to be a good player. We're very fortunate to have him here because he has the talent and he's a good kid, he's a bright kid, he's worked hard in the preseason. I'm very pleased with all of our freshman kids and what they've been able to bring to the table so far, which has been a really good work ethic. More than that, they've listened to the upperclassmen. I think when we start to see some of those signs, those are good things for the development of our young kids as well as our team."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423