Head Coach Tommy Amaker Comments from
Michigan Men's Basketball Media Day
Opening statement ... "First of all, thanks for coming. Welcome, everyone, to the start of our basketball season. We appreciate you being here. I think you're going to have a wonderful time interacting with our players. I really believe that some of you who have been involved with our guys the past couple of years now, I think you've seen that they're pretty interesting guys, and I'm very proud of them and very proud to be their coach.
"I think as we start this season, we're very optimistic about where we are and hopefully where we're headed. We're coming off of a successful year for us this past year, in a lot of ways. Certainly we want it to be more successful as we continue to climb the ladder, but we're very optimistic about this season and we're very hopeful. I think we've had a very solid work ethic this summer and obviously starting into the school year.
"I think as you look at our schedule, it's going to be very challenging right away for us. We're going to get tested right out of the blocks, being in the pre season NIT. I think there are a lot of things when you start to look at points for our program. There's optimism and there's hope. I think when you have those two elements in any endeavor you take on, that's a very good feeling. We deserve to have that. I think it's one thing to say you have it and you want it, but to have a program and to have the guys in the program that are deserving of that type of optimism and hope is even better.
"As you go on and look at our schedule, as I said, it's very challenging for us. I think as we open up the year, there are some big opportunities aw well as some big challenges and we're looking at that as the case.
"I've been asked about the expectations a lot and talked about it in different pre season basketball magazines, articles and some of you have asked me about expectations. We've always talked about expectations versus standards. Whatever the expectations others may have of us, maybe some of you or questions that you may think of, you can rest assured that our standard is always higher or as high as any expectation anyone could place on us.
"We've always thought of that word 'expectation' as an external word. We don't go by any external words for our basketball program. We go by the internal word, and that word is 'standard.' I know that's something that seems like it's a common thing that I've been hearing a lot of, the expectations of our season and of our program. But I think when you have those kinds of things that are thrust upon you, you have to feel good about it because people are certainly wanting or thinking or expecting good things. I think as we have kind of gone through the growth of our program, those are very positive things for us, to be thought of in a positive manner.
"Again, I thank you for being here. I think we're going to have a great group of kids to work with. I think you're going to enjoy that, as well. I'm looking forward to coaching them."
On using the NIT Championship as a springboard ... "Certainly we're going to try to utilize anything and everything at our disposal to become a championship program. We've done that in the NIT this past season. As you'll probably get a feeling talking with our players today, we're proud of that accomplishment, proud that we had a chance to hang a banner. Any time you can hang a banner in your arena, you have to be very proud of the significant achievement.
"But as we've told our players, the only way that we're going to become better is that we utilize it with the proper perspective and in the proper way. We think the proper way is utilizing it to make us work harder in the summer, to work better and harder and smarter in the fall and the pre season.
"I like to think that we've tried to utilize it as best as we can. I don't know what the trend is. I don't know if those teams that won the NIT going into the next year were highly ranked or picked to win the Big Ten, any of those things. But, I do think we have a solid nucleus of guys that are going to work hard and are going to stick to our identity and are going to play with a passion and pride they've shown thus far."
On the growth from within the team ... "I think when you look at the players we lost in terms of a significant player that played a number of minutes, we lost Colin Dill and we lost Bernard Robinson Jr. We lost two seniors and two captains. Certainly with Robinson, who our players had a chance to watch his first pre season game last night. They saw thought he played very well. They were commenting in the weight room working out today how he was doing a lot of the same things he did here, which was 10 points, 7 rebounds, I think, and 3 or 4 assists. He was an all around player. It made me think that Bernard was such a catch all, do it all player for our ball club. Also, certainly on the other end of the floor, he was our best defender on the perimeter.
"Even though we return with a majority of our team, we're losing an integral, key component. I think he allowed all the players to stay in a very natural comfort zone or level. That's a concern for us; are we going to be able to grow and to be able to expand
"I think we've gotten stronger. Now, is that going to make us a better basketball team We have yet to see that. I think some of the growth areas, I'm hoping we can become more consistent. I thought Bernard was a very consistent player. He and Lester Abram were probably our most consistent players this past year.
"We need to become a consistent basketball team. I'm hoping that we can show the maturity where we're not going to be careless and silly with the basketball as I thought we were this past year. I thought that was a function of somewhat being young and youthful, but we're no longer young. We've mentioned that to our players. We think we have a veteran team. We hope we're going to conduct ourselves and play in a manner that you would expect of a veteran ball club."
On how to be more successful as a team ... "Last year we won 23 games. We won a national tournament. When you look at making us a more successful team this year, we want to become more consistent. I think we know that internally more so than what others will see externally. I think sometimes obviously we just look at numbers and scores and make some assessments based on that.
"I don't know what our record was here at home, but we were very proud of having a very solid season here in Crisler with outstanding fan support. We want to make sure every time we step on this floor here, we take an incredible amount of pride in defending our home court. We were 16-3 last year with extra games because of the NIT, but a fairly strong performance there from our team. If we can be consistent and we can get better on the road, I think that's an area you see a lot of growth and improvement in a ballclub and a program, which is incredibly difficult in this conference. I'm sure every coach would say it about their respective teams. We're hoping we can become a better road team.
"I think you need leadership, you need maturity, you need toughness, you need to be good, and you probably need to be a little lucky to have a good road record. But every game is not going to be here in our home arena. Some of those areas, consistency, being away from home, taking care of home, I'm hoping that we can show we've grown in those areas to accomplish those goals."
On if the internal standards include the NCAA Tournament ... "It's a standard that only we talk about. I know making the NCAA tournament is certainly a sign of achievement. I think everyone from the outside looks at that and I think that's probably a fair analysis of us and our program. Are we going to be an NCAA tournament team
"It's just like every other ball club right now that's starting up tonight or tomorrow. Everyone has the dream of being in March Madness. Certainly we're no different. We said that a year ago when we found out we were eligible for post season, that we could have the same dream as everyone else. I'm sure all of our players will certainly tell you that a dream of ours is to be like everyone else at the end of the season, to be involved in that and to go as far as we can.Certainly that is a level of expectation, I would think, from the outside looking in at our ball club. As I said, our standards are as high or higher than that."
On if he feels he has put his stamp on the program ... "Well, I've been told this, and I didn't think of it this way, but I guess this is our first year with all the players that our staff has completely recruited and that we're going to coach. I like to think in a lot of ways, even with previous teams and previous players here under our guidance, we've been able to implement an identity, implement a style, implement a system that is fun to play and entertaining to watch and successful and works and wins and doing that hopefully in a first class manner. I'm hoping that as we talk about our identity and our implementing our way, I'm hoping we're down the road on that. But maybe this being the first year of having completely all of our players, maybe there's some difference to be seen yet."
On the leaders on the team ... "We have our three captains that were voted at the end of this past year at our banquet. We had Graham Brown was voted one our captains, Lester Abram was voted one of our captains, and Sherrod Harrell was voted as one of our captains. We think our team is in great hands when it comes to leadership. I think those were outstanding selections by the returning players to vote and decide who they thought should be the leaders and captains of their team.
"I also think we're going to have other leaders. They may not have a captain's title, but I think we have other leaders on the team. I think Daniel Horton is going to be one of those and I expect him to be. I expect him to be a vocal leader. I expect him to be a guy on the floor that's certainly going to be out there a lot for us. I expect him to take command of that. I expect a guy like Dion Harris, he's a sophomore, to raise his level in that regard, in his own way, within his own identity. I expect those players to emerge in that category. I think we'll see that out of those two kids. But also the three captains will exert their leadership, as well."
On what Daniel Horton did over the summer to improve ... "I think the best recipe for Daniel was the way that he finished last year. I thought he finished the season on an incredibly high note with the NIT, us winning that, winning five games in a row, and Daniel being voted the MVP of the NIT. I think there's nothing greater that you can have than to feel good about how you finished up. Now that should hopefully allow to you have some enthusiasm and energy and confidence going into the summer.
"I think he's worked extremely hard this summer. I think he'll be the first to tell you he's probably worked harder this summer than he has in previous summers. Obviously, part of that is how he finished, he felt great about. But also he may have felt he didn't play as consistently as he is capable of or that he wanted to throughout this past year."
On how Daniel Horton has improved ... "When we look at Daniel and areas for our ball club, we talked about leadership. We want to see him more of a vocal leader for our team. We need him to quarterback our team. We need him to defend the ball, and we need Daniel to score. I think as he quarterbacks our team, I'm hoping that his assist to turnover ratio is going to be better than it was a year ago. I think he'll be the first to tell you that he needs to shore that up or improve in that category.
"I think he's a player that didn't score as well this past year because we added some responsibilities. We may not have needed him to score as much as he did his freshman year because of different players and a different team. I think he wants to be a complete player. We think he's capable of being one of the better guards in our conference. Certainly if you're that, you can be one of the better guards in the country."
On if he has established the team's style and identity ... "I like to think that we have. I mean, I think kids like Bernard Robinson in the past, they were a part of this. I like to think what we did last year, two years ago when we weren't eligible for post season and how we played in stretches, that we implemented a style here and it started with defense. I thought we played with an incredible amount of passion. I thought our players had a blue collar identity, an attitude. I think that they know that. They recognize that. They're successful in that way.
"I think we've implemented a style that they enjoy playing in our system, which is an up tempo, fast paced type of basketball and pressure defense. I think they really are attracted to that at least we're hoping that. It's important that your players enjoy the way that you want them to play. I'm hoping that if you ask them those questions, they would feel that way."
On Ronald Coleman ... "You know, I've been very pleased, and some ways, not to say this to slight him, but in some ways impressed. Sometimes when you say you're impressed, you may have thought less of a person, so now you're impressed. I was never thinking less of him.
"I've been incredibly pleased and in some ways impressed with the way he's handled things thus far. Everywhere I've been, whether it's been on campus, the summer bridge program, academics, advisors, our strength coach, our trainers, this has been a young man that has shown maturity beyond his years in terms of his way of conducting himself. Now that we're starting basketball, he hasn't shown that he's a freshman in that regard. He hasn't been loose. He's been organized. He's been mature in that way.
"I'm hoping that we're going to see a mature player. I think Ronnie is 6'5" and a half, 6'6". He's strong. He shoots the ball very well for a guy his size. He's an outstanding athlete. I think he's going to help us defensively. I think he's going to help us in the rebounding area and I think he's going to give us an outside shooting touch as a player that's probably going to contribute in a lot of different ways, but certainly going play for us significant minutes."
On his expectations for Courtney Sims ... "We talked about with Courtney and that it's two things. I think we talked about with Courtney that it's important, two words; the two 'R' words; rebound and run. I think Courtney has great hands and he's added some strength and some weight. We're anxious to see what that does for him. Hopefully that doesn't slow him down or hinder his ability to run and to maneuver and be quick and agile. Certainly those things we're looking forward to working with him in that regard. I think one of the keys for our team, and certainly for Courtney's improvement, is if he can become a big time rebounder and if he's going to be a big guy that can really sprint the floor."
On if the team is getting a sense of the Michigan basketball tradition ... "I absolutely believe that they are. I think that it's one of the things that has been very important for us to host and to hold some of the alumni functions that we have and reunions. We've done that during the actual academic year, in the fall. I think one of the reasons behind that decision, is that our current players can witness former guys to return, and what it means to be a Michigan Man. That's important for us. That's important for our current guys to see it.
"I don't just mean former players that come back who happen to have been great players or still are great players. I mean, to be able to witness different avenues in life that a lot of former Michigan basketball players have taken and are very, very successful, very positive and doing very well. To see how they come with their families and the different things they're involved in, whether it's banking, business, real estate, graduate school, teaching or coaching. There a lot of different avenues in life that our former players are involved in. It's important for our current guys to see that so when they become 'a former guy,' it's another form of teaching that this is what they're supposed to do as well."
On if Lester Abram can fill Bernard Robinson's role from last year ... "To be very honest, I see Lester and he's focused, he's consistent, he improves, he's dependable, he's reliable. I really think a guy like a Dion (Harris) has more the capability and the aspects of his game to translate his game into a Bernard Robinson like stat sheet. Lester was third team all conference, he's one of our captains this year. He was our leading scorer. He's been a terrific player for us. I anticipate and would have no reason to think any other way that he's going to improve this coming season.
"I do think with a guy like Dion, he has the ability to be a play maker like Bernard. He has the ability to score. We're going to search and see if we can find who's going to be that player that's going to take on that role of being a defensive stopper on the perimeter for us. Whether that's Lester, Daniel (Horton), Dion, I don't know. Maybe Ronnie Coleman. I don't know who's going to emerge in that regard, but I think we have a few guys that are anxious to try to wear that hat and that mantle. That's good for us because I think they're learning that those are good things, to be known as a good defensive player."
On the team's health ... "I think we're pretty healthy. Graham (Brown) was a little banged up this summer. He was in and out of a lot of different, nagging types of things. But I think right now, going into the start of practice tomorrow, we should have a full slate of guys. Graham may be the only one that may not be a hundred percent, but I anticipate that he's going to be able to start out. He may not be a hundred percent and he may not be able to do everything. I think everyone else is very healthy."
On if anyone outside of the core group of players may have an impact ... "I was pleased with the summer of our program. I thought we had a lot of players involved in a lot of different things, in and out of basketball. I think it was a very productive summer for our guys. This is what this time is for. We don't have the ability to watch them play in pickup. The rules state that. We can only work with them up to four players at a time. But thus far we've been fairly pleased with their work ethic and their attention to detail.
"I think it's because we're not going to probably change a whole lot of things. They're comfortable with what they're doing. I think they like it. I think they're feeling good about themselves about how they played this last season. We're hoping we can have a lot of guys emerge and kind of surprise me in that way. Obviously, time will tell."
On the difference between this year and last in terms of NCAA sanctions ... "I guess this is the first question we had about it, so I think that's the difference, to be very honest. Probably at the conclusion of our meeting here, we didn't have any questions surrounding that or dealing with that. I think that's a huge step and a positive sign that we are just dealing with questions and concerns and basketball related topics for our team and our season. It's all things of optimism, of hope, expectations, standards, those kinds of things. I think in that regard, just in itself, it's incredibly positive for us that that is what we are dealing with for the most part"
On having a full compliment of scholarships for next season ... "It feels great. Riding along with both questions, obviously it feels that we are not battling things that we have no control over or that we feel like we're at a disadvantage. We feel like we have the same opportunities as other programs. Again, that doesn't mean everything works out in your favor, but you feel like you're starting on a level playing field. Once we get the final call of getting all 13 opportunities, again, you don't necessarily have to have all 13 of them used. At times we haven't done that in the past. But having the ability and the flexibility to make that choice, I think it's a really good thing."
On his expectations for Brent Petway ... "I'm looking for his athleticism and energy, again, the stuff you just mentioned. I think, you know, the main thing is that Brent brings energy. Sometimes a person that is an exciting type of player and that's one thing. I think we have some other guys that are potentially exciting players, but Brent Petway is an energizer. I think one of the other things is Brent is a very intelligent player, as well. We've been very impressed with his ability to pass the basketball. He's a very good passer. He understands the game. He's not just a run and jump guy.
"Certainly when you see him and you see some of the things he's capable of doing, it's above and beyond what normal people do in that regard. It's exciting to see that. I think he's one of the more popular players in the locker room and on our team from a fan perspective.
"He brings energy. I mean, you see him not only dunk the basketball; he runs the floor, he's an incredible shot blocker, he has great timing, he has quickness, he has very good peripheral vision, to be able to see things that we want to have players see things, especially defensively. When we're playing different defenses, he has great quickness and anticipation. I see him as a basketball player that happens to be a phenomenal athlete. We love that about him. I think when you think about Brent, the first thing I think of is that he's an energizer. As a coach, you can ask any coach I'm sure around the country at any level of basketball and probably in any sport, in a team sport, how valuable it is having someone who can energize your team or bring energy to your team. You put a premium on that."
On Chris Hunter ... "Chris was as integral a part of the run that we had at the end of the year as anyone. I guess he did get some notoriety and credit for it, but certainly having a healthy Chris Hunter really helped our basketball team. Physically he's a little bigger. I think going into the summer that was one of the goals; try to lift hard, build his body up, which he's done. We anticipate Chris is going to be a player. He should be competing and fighting for a starting position. He's earned that. He's played well enough to think of himself in that way. That's certainly how we think of him."
On Graham Brown ... "I'm not going to work him in; he's going to be in. Graham is a player for us that has been invaluable for our team. He's a guy that is one of the most unselfish players we have on our team and in our program. Sometimes we think of being unselfish as just a player who gives up the basketball. But in terms of Graham, being unselfish to where he gives up his body to take charges and gives up his body to set screens for his teammates. He's one of the best help defenders we have in our program. He's one of the most unselfish kids I've had a chance to coach. He's tough. He's been a two year starter. He's one of our captains. He understands, he knows what we want to have happen out there on the court. We need him healthy, but once he hopefully gets a hundred percent, Graham Brown is a player. He's carved out his niche and his identity."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423