ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team held its annual media day today (Tuesday, Oct. 14) in Crisler Arena. Head coach John Beilein, his staff and all of the players were on hand to speak with the media.
Prior to the media availability, the Wolverines hosted the "Game Day Experience" for the media. All media in attendance went through what the Wolverines go through on a typical game day.
Starting off with film work in the U-M locker room with Beilein, the media headed to the floor of Crisler for a simulated walk-through with the U-M staff. To close out the game preparation, the media read through the scouting report and fast facts before heading to a pregame meal.
Follow a game scenario, abox score and recap was distributed. The coaches from each media team -- Maize, Detroit Free Press' Mark Snyder and Blue, Ann Arbor News' Jeff Arnold -- then held a press conference with members of the 2008-09 Wolverine team asking the postgame questions. Following the role-reversal, Beilein held his first presser of the season and players were made available.
Beilein and the Wolverines begin practice this Friday (Oct. 17). Michigan opens the season with an exhibition contest against Saginaw Valley State on Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. at Crisler Arena.The regular season will tipoff when U-M hosts the Ann Arbor Regional for the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer at Crisler Arena, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 11-12. U-M opens against Michigan Tech on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
Below are quotes from Media Day:
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement... "We are ready to roll. We are going to start (practice) Friday. We are going to go into our normal cave where we go for 20 hours a week, and a light bulb will not get changed in the Beilein house until March. We are just so much involved in basketball that it is incredible. We have a team right now that is in the best shape of their lives, and I thought last year we were in great shape. What we just did on the track and in our test areas yesterday was extremely inspiring and just makes me enthusiastic about what type of young men we have coming back within this second year. We have grown a lot, both on and off the court. I think our new additions are going to help us in some key areas, on and off the court, and we are ready to take on another tough schedule. We have the possibility of playing as many as five other high-majors as part of our non-conference schedule and then we go into the Big Ten season with 18 games, so it could be very challenging for us, it will be challenging for us. We'll have ups, more ups than last year we hope. We'll have downs; that's a constant. You are going to have those times whether you are the best team in the country or you are struggling, but we will just keep fighting through and focus on the goal of just getting better every day."
On the learning curve from year one to year two... "As you have heard me say many times, learning curve is different with every player. Some players can pick things up in two weeks and sometimes its two years. Whether it's a system or it's just college basketball, being disciplined enough in college basketball. So the learning curve is always different, but I do know that when we go out and begin those drills, the ones that we have done this summer, there was a comfort level with the speed that we have to play with, the thought process and the skill level that we have to play with that we didn't have last year."
On expectations for this season... "I've always learned to expect everything, but I would be disappointed if we are not consistent for a longer period of time during games. Rather than have those inconsistent periods where we don't score for 10 minutes or eight minutes, I think we will be much better in those areas. We have three seniors who, albeit have not had a great amount of experience, but are three of the best kids I have ever been around. We have two juniors that really just have one year under their belt. Yes, DeShawn Sims did play as a freshman, but averaged two points a game in the Big Ten and Zack Gibson never played major minutes (as a freshman). So we have a lot of very young players out there and I still think we will see some of those things that we saw last year that bothered us all, but hopefully we will see less of them."
On the growth of the team last year... "I think we found out during the last 10 games of the regular season that we could play toe-to-toe with anybody for 30 minutes. The 40 minute game is what killed us on five of those occasions. We won the other five. The Wisconsin game (in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals) was just what Wisconsin does to people. But I think that we learned that the players were getting more and more comfortable with college basketball. Now we have to push them to understand that it's not okay to play even 39 minutes, you have to play all 40 every time. They have done their job. They are in great shape. Now we need them to be tough-minded enough to push through and play like a veteran team, even though we are still going to be a very young team as far as game experience."
On the areas that need improvement... "The most obvious area is our shooting, our offense. We scored 61 points per game, which is almost the exact same number that had been scored the year before in the Big Ten, but for a team that is going to shoot threes, we were the worst (three-point) shooting team in the Big Ten. With how hard these guys have worked and through the additions we have on the team, we should see those percentages go up. As those percentages go up, the way people guard us will change and the number of scoring opportunities we can create inside the arc will increase. I think that will be the obvious thing and our assist numbers will go up because our skill level, once again through practice and through the addition of our new players, has been enhanced.
On the focus for the team this season... "If you just think about winning, winning, winning and you don't think about improvement, improvement, improvement, you will never get to that winning part. It's going to be about getting better and improving every single day that we are out there. We are still working hard to establish a culture of hard work, of touch every line, of doing everything the right way as much as humanly possible. Pretty soon that become habitual and it just starts to flow. I've done this before and we are going to do this again. These puzzles are never the same and there are always parts of them that will be very different. But I saw some things yesterday with my team that reminded me of what I think Churchill called one time, "it wasn't the beginning of the end but it was the end of the beginning" and we need to get to the end of the beginning, and I don't think we are there yet. This is how we do things everyday and we still aren't quite there yet."
On DeShawn Sims' role... "I think that DeShawn (Sims) would like to play more inside. It was almost as if last year was like they do in European situations. They teach big guys to play on the outside and then move them inside, and that way there skill level will be at a higher level. I think because he played outside, it is going to help him play inside, even play him as our five-man if we really want to play small ball because he can do that."
On the freshman class... "Our hope is that they will push every one of our returning players and we'll go out there and we'll throw the ball up and for a week or two we'll just watch. Then we'll start to get an order of who will help us the most early. If it's a freshman, it's a freshman. If it's a senior that used to be a walk-on, it's going to be him. Or if it's guys that played 35 minutes a game last year, it's going to be them. For two weeks here, we are going to see what we have and then start to decide how much each player will play. But we are going to try to get seven or eight guys on the court that are out best seven or eight and try to play them and everybody's job on the team is to try and get into that top seven or eight. Last year, we played 10 or 11. I don't see that happening."
On Zack Gibson... "Last year, if you doubled his minutes, except for blocked shots, he'd have pretty good stats. For a kid that we think is a very good shooter, but only gets to play 10 minutes a game, it's tough to get your rhythm going. If he's out there 25 minutes a game, I think you will see a player that is very comfortable. He has had a great fall, a great summer and I think you will all be excited to see him."
On the possible rotation in the post... "I think we'll have to see how the freshmen come along, obviously Ben Cronin, or if we did go small, where Peedi (DeShawn Sims) adapts in there. We'll try to have a better mix. We didn't throw it inside a lot last year because it wasn't our best way to score last year. This year, I think we will be better. Zack (Gibson) and Peedi (DeShawn Sims) have another year under their belt. When Ben (Cronin) becomes completely healthy it will be very interesting to see what he can do as an inside presence."
On Laval Lucas-Perry... "I think he can play either guard spot. He can really shoot the ball. He can really play defense. We have noticed in the first weeks of practices that he gets loose basketballs and that is very important, to have guys that will stick their nose in there and he has done that so far."
On a win number for the season... "No numbers and I've never had a number. The number I want to look at is that we have two hours and 15 minutes out there. Let's get better and then all of the sudden that win number at the end of the year will usually be one that you like. Last year, we didn't like that number. Our players didn't like that number. But if we work hard enough in practice, we will change that number in the right direction."
On the deeper three-point line... "We did all our tests yesterday and one of those tests we were 13-for-13. It didn't affect us yesterday. Now will it affect us with a hand it our face We'll have to wait and see."
U-M Fifth-Year Senior Guard C.J. Lee
On the start of the season... "We're excited to get this going; the guys have been working hard all summer and during the preseason. I think the entire team is anxious to get the season started and it should be a good year."
On the keys to success... "The keys are to just sustain. Sustain during every practice and every game, and that's not easy. I think the main thing we have to do is hold each other accountable and hold ourselves accountable so that we can reach our main goal and that is to go out every night and in every practice and give it our best shot and do the things we have been taught to do."
On his last season of college basketball... "I haven't really thought about it in terms of this being my last year. The one thing I have thought about is the building of this program and getting it back to where it is supposed to be. We need to take steps in the right direction like we did last season, but we need to take even greater steps and I see this season as a stepping stone to where we are trying to get to as a program."
U-M Fifth-Year Senior Guard David Merritt
On the season... "I'm excited; I think we are all excited. I think we are excited to show how much we have been working all summer. Everybody is coming in here with a great attitude, a lot of motivation, more discipline, more together and we should see some improvement."
On the keys to this season... "Discipline in going to be a huge one. Last year, we were young and we made young mistakes, so learning from those mistakes is going to be huge. Along with that discipline is sustained effort. If we can work as hard as we can for 40 minutes, then a lot of outcomes will change."
On year two under Coach Beilein... "I think it's more comfortable. Last year we came in here not knowing what to expect with the offense and the change in defensive concepts. We have a great core group of guys back that have had one year in the system and hopefully that year will help us."
On the leadership of the seniors... "As seniors, I think that myself, C.J. (Lee) and Jevohn (Shepherd), our job is to foster a sense of leadership on this team and to motivate our teammates to come to practice every day and do as much as they can. If I can do that every day I think I'll be doing my job."
U-M Senior Forward Jevohn Shephard
On the offseason workouts... "Guys have been gelling and we have been working a lot harder. We saw that what we did last year wasn't enough and how hard we were working wasn't hard enough, so we definitely have to pick it up, and we have this year thus far. We just need to keep improving on that and let the chips fall in place."
On goals for the season... "We are obviously looking to be in the championship game, so however many wins that is going to take. We aren't going to sell ourselves short and say if we win one more game than last year that's an improvement, we are better than that. We just need to keep working and improve."
On keys to improving this year... "We need to trust the system. Last year, we were a bit skeptical and it showed, so we need to believe in ourselves and believe in the coach as much as we believe in ourselves."
U-M Senior/Junior Forward Zack Gibson
On the upcoming season... "I'm excited; it's a new year. We've got some new guys on the team that are great, as well as the returning guys and we've all been working really hard so it's going to be different than last year."
On being an experienced guy on the team... "It's been fun just getting to know the younger guys and kind of taking them in and showing them how to manage their schedules as well as basketball."
On the comfort level with Coach Beilein's system... "I think all of the guys who have been here are pretty much on the same page with the system and the speed we have to play with and the new guys are picking it up fine. They're working really hard and they'll be fine."
On new strength and conditioning program... "Coach (Mike) Curtis' program is great. All of the things we do in training directly apply to what we are doing out on the floor, which is very helpful and practical. I think we all agree that we're in better shape than we ever have been."
U-M Junior Forward DeShawn Sims
On the differences in year two under Coach Beilein... "It's kind of like coming back to High School your second year. You broke in your first year of high school and in your second year you walk around with a swagger because you know where your classrooms are and you know your teachers. It is kind of like that."
On the preparation level of the team... "People have come in mentally ready. You may not see it in their faces; their minds have been ready from the end of last season up through today."
On his role with the team... "My mindset is I want to be a guy that everyone on the team looks up to from 1-14, so if I carry myself with the aspiration of being the best, doing every workout hard, competing and always being energetic, then it will trickle down through the 1-14 guys. "
U-M Junior/Sophomore Forward Anthony Wright
On the upcoming season... "The season is promising. We have a great recruiting class and the veterans have a year under our belts, so we are looking to push through and push forward."
On keys to improving this year... "The key to improving is our approach. We finished off last year 5-5 and before that we were 5-17. It's a matter of coming together and pushing through adversity."
On the comfort level in year two under Coach Beilein ... "Last year, we were always on an incline. This year, it's so much more comfortable. It feels good. There are so many schemes and so many plays and it just feels good where if we run one play, naturally we can switch plays. Now things are more natural than robotic."
U-M Sophomore Guard Kelvin Grady
On moving on from last year... "To make this year better, we have to forget about last year. Not in the sense that we forget about what we learned, but we can't think about it and focus on it. This team has stayed really strong. We're all really good friends and I think that helped us learn to rely upon each other and that will pay off this year. This year is not going to be like last year."
On keys to improving as a team... "The main thing is we have to be consistent. Offensively and defensively, we just weren't consistent last year and had long periods where we struggled. I think our shooting has really improved due to hard work and that will definitely make a difference and as long as we put out maximum effort, we'll have a chance."
On the comfort level with Coach Beilein's system... "I think it's going to be a lot better this year. Now that a lot of the guys have experience in the system, it's going to be easier to run offensively and execute for forty minutes. The new guys are starting to pick it up pretty well also and the older guys just have to make sure that we bring them along with us and show them what we learned over the course of last year."
U-M Sophomore Guard Manny Harris
On the upcoming season... "The fans need to be ready and stick with us because we are trying to make something happen and we are working hard every day to be a great team."
On what he learned as a freshman... "There are so many things that I learned. I could start anywhere, but the biggest thing that I slacked on last year that I can do better this year is being a vocal leader, making sure that I get through to the team with what we need to do. How I'm going to do that is by working hard myself everyday and in every practice so that it will be easier for them to listen to me."
On the mindset of the team... "I think we are having a lot of fun and at the same time we are trying to get each other to believe that we are a good team and we can be a good team. You have to believe in that and you have to work hard every day. We are not a team that can take days off."
On the comfort level of the team in Coach Beilein's second season... "Comfort level is key. As a team, we are much more comfortable with each other from communicating with each other on and off the court. With Coach Beilein, we have gotten used to him and know what to expect from him and he knows what to expect from us."
On his focus during offseason workouts... "The whole time I was working out I would just think about Michigan basketball and putting Michigan basketball where it needs to be. I worked on communications skills, trying to lead by example, lead vocally and every way possible."
U-M Sophomore/Freshman Guard Laval Lucas-Perry
On this season... "Last year, sitting and watching the team play, I think we progressed and this season I think that we are going to surprise a lot of people. I think we have the chance to make the NCAA Tournament."
On having to sit out the first half of the season... "It's hard to go out and practice as hard as you can but not get to play in the games until a certain date. But I'm going to keep on going out there, be the best I can be and help the team gets some wins by just doing what I can."
On the biggest improvements since last season... "I think we all, as a team, did a lot of growing up. Everyone is going to have problems during a first season, but I think we grew as people and we grew as a group. Growing and learning from last season's negatives we can turn those negatives into positives to help us be better on the court, be better in our academics and do better at helping each other."
On Mike Curtis' strength and conditioning program... "The thing I like about Coach Curtis is that he has high expectations of us. He expects us to go at 110 percent every day and when we don't, we're going to be punished for it and we are going to learn from it. We are going to learn that we have to go at his pace or we are not going to get better, we're not going to win and we're not going to progress as a team."
U-M Sophomore/Freshman Center Eric Puls
On this season... "We are really looking forward to this season. We have been working hard all summer and all fall and we had a really good preseason, so we are ready to get started.
On moving on from last year... "Last year was a tough year, but we've got to believe in ourselves. We know we can do better than that and we just need to make sure we are getting better every day.
On gaining strength in the offseason... "I got a lot stronger. I was lifting five days a week every week and I gained 15 to 20 pounds. I learned to play at the college level, I practiced everyday and played on the scout team and it helped me a lot."
On new strength and condition coach Mike Curtis' program... "I really like it. His program is really scientific, a lot different from what we had under Coach Plocki. It's really working well. I am starting to see results already, I feel faster and my vertical is getting better."
U-M Freshman Center Ben Cronin
On transition from high school... "Just getting used to the different life style. I'm a lot busier now with practice and lifting and school and just everything, so it's a little tough to get used to, but so far I'm really enjoying it and the older guys have been great. They pick us up for practice every day and help us out whenever they can so that's been really nice."
On his role on the team... "Well I'm just getting back from injury, but the rehab is going really well so I'm hoping to get out there soon. I'm just going to work as hard as I can. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get some good minutes and help the team out, but I'm just focusing on working hard and getting better."
On Coach Beilein's System... "Coach Beilein has been recruiting me for a long time so I had a pretty good feel for his system coming in and how a big man can work well in it. With a great shooting team, it really opens up the inside and that's where I hope to fill that need. So as far as his system, it's different of course, but I feel that I'm getting a pretty good grasp on it."
U-M Freshman Guard Stu Douglass
On Coach Beilein's system... "I was recruited as a shooter and that fits his system pretty well, but as far as learning the intricacies of it, it's a work in progress. Just making sure I'm fundamentally sound and studying tape and talking to the older guys is really going to help me, and I feel I'm making solid progress getting a handle on it."
On his role on the team... "We haven't gotten into too much besides training, film, and shooting, so it's tough to really know, but I think shooting and playing consistent defense are where I'm going to be able to help the team out most. I'm really just looking to get better in all areas of my game and doing whatever it takes to help the team."
On deeper three-point line... "You know, I tried not to think about it at first, but I guess it was kind of affecting my shooting just because it was a little different. But now that we've done our shooting every day it really isn't in my mind at all."
U-M Freshman Guard Zack Novak
On offseason workouts and the upcoming season... "We've been working really hard and I think that we are all excited to see what we can do. We think that we have a pretty good team here."
On his role as a freshman... "Right now, I'm just here to help this team win any way that Coach Beilein sees fit. I don't really know what that is going to be right now. We'll see once practice starts, but I just want to help get some wins."
On the differences between high school and college... "Strength. Everyone is a lot stronger than in high school. I used to be one of the strongest guys on the court and now there are times when I get pushed around a little bit. Finishing at the basket, everyone is so much longer, just getting to the rim doesn't mean you are going to score; then comes the hard part, actually finishing it. Little things like that that might not seem obvious but can be a big difference."
U-M Freshman Guard Corey Person
On the upcoming season... "I think the upcoming season is going to be an improvement from last season. I have seen a lot of improvement from the games I watched from this year to last year. So I think this definitely going to be a better season. Last year was a learning season. This year, we are still going to be learning, but it is going to be a good season."
On the role of the freshman class... "We are going to try to push the guys, learn from the guys and step in and be prepared for anything. Coach always likes us to be prepared and be versatile and be prepared for anything."
On the differences from high school... "The intensity of the games, the speed of the game, it's a change of speed and everybody knows it is always a change. The physicality of the games, the tempo of the games, everything is sped up and is increased."