Head Coach Tommy Amaker Comments from
Michigan Men's Basketball Media Day
Opening statement ... "A lot has happened with our basketball program, some very positive news has taken place. As you can imagine, we are very excited for the prospects of this season, and more importantly, we are very excited about our basketball program. Something that I really want to emphasize this afternoon is that our program at this juncture is healthy. We like the direction where we're headed; I really love our team. Weve had an opportunity, as you all know, to already work with our kids for 10 practices, and we went on a foreign tour; we played three games in Toronto.
"I'm really excited about the future of Michigan basketball, and that's because of the youngsters that you'll be getting a chance to speak to. I'm hoping that you'll come to the conclusion that weve come to that we have some great kids. We're very excited about the prospects of this program and certainly this year. We will hopefully get an opportunity to play with the same passion and the same pride that we displayed last year. I think when you start thinking about the future of this team and this program, you can look back a little and recognize that there was a lot of passion and pride that was displayed last season, and we never want to lose that. That's what we want Michigan basketball to always be."
On the team's response to the NCAA decision ... "I haven't sensed anything different from our players, which I love. People ask me if our kids work harder - well no, we worked hard before. I am proud of the fact that this was certainly great news and a great opportunity for our kids to have the same dream as every else when you start college basketball this time of the year. That's what it is - we have the same opportunity and the same dream. We have to go make it a reality, but I like to think that we've maintained a work ethic. The way we go about conducting business here for Michigan basketball in the same manner. I'd be nave to think that internally as they talk amongst themselves and talk amongst their families, I'm sure there's a renewed enthusiasm and some excitement there, but nothing to do with our work ethic."
On the postseason ban being lifted ... "It really allows us to not have the stigma attached to these kids and our program right now. I think that's the most important thing; that cloud has been completely lifted. We are just as everyone else. You can't have any of those stigmas, and I think that is appropriate; I think that is right. We are very appreciative of the good fortune that we can hopefully receive here in a few months. It has allowed our kids to feel as everyone else in college basketball feels at the start of the season; you feel like you have same dreams and excitement as your counterparts."
On the impact of the postseason ban being lifted on recruiting ... "I think weve been very fortunate. Our staff has worked tremendously hard in terms of recruiting and putting ourselves into a position of a viable option. I think we've answered that bell a few times despite the distractions that weve had to face. More than anything else, it freed us from having that burden on our shoulders and to carry that and balance those things and still try to conduct and run and improve a basketball program."
On the preseason trip to Toronto ... "We like to think that it will be an advantage, but time will tell. I've heard some coaches say that you have to be careful of overdoing it, and I'm trying to be very cognizant of that. I like to think that it can be a very positive thing for our team. We're a very young basketball team. Many people around college basketball are young, but certainly we are with our team. We have nine freshmen and sophomores, and so when you look at our roster and our team, maybe to have a couple extra days here and there and a game or two, we're hoping that can pay dividends for us down the road."
On his expectations for the season ... "I've always viewed 'expectations' as an external word, and we like to view our basketball program in terms of the word 'standard.' That is an internal word. We are about our own internal standards, and believe it or not, more than likely or most of the time, our standards are going to be higher than anyone else's expectations. Whatever the expectations may be for Michigan basketball, you can rest assured that our standards are as high or even higher."
On the attention received by sophomore Daniel Horton ... "He is going to be a marked individual, and that's something we've been talking to him about over the summer. He certainly had a terrific freshman year for us and for himself. I think it goes without saying that coming into your next year, you're going to have different defenses and attention focused on him. It's going to be more difficult and tougher, but the ways you combat that is that one, you have a greater work ethic and you improve, and he certainly has that trait, and two, you like to think that our team can improve where we're not going to rely on one individual night in and night out. I think that when you become a team that you can have different weapons and different options, and that's yet to be seen from our ball club. I do think that's something that we are striving to do right now, and that's the best way for one of your players, who's going to be a marked person, to be able to blend in when necessary. I think he's looking forward to that; I think he's learned that we have other options that can really help this ball club this year."
On the youth of the team ... "We're very excited about the youth of our team. You can look at that in a number of different ways. I'm going to be scratching my head, as all coaches do, with a lot young players and youthfulness on the club. I thought our youth, a year ago, was as big of a reason that we were able to have a winning season and turn things around for our program as any. I thought their youthful enthusiasm, they didn't know any different. They came from winning environments, winning families, winning programs, so that's what they were accustomed to, and I thought that really bode well for our team. I'm hoping that will continue. We have brought in a few new kids that come from the same types of environment, and we're anticipating that will fit in very nicely to our other younger players, who are just sophomore now. I'm hoping that will give us the same youthful excitement and enthusiasm that we had last year."
On being ineligible for last season's postseason ... "Certainly last year was a unique year in that regard, but we approached every game and every situation, because we were playing; Michigan was involved. It was extremely important for us. Again, it goes toward our internal standards, not what expectations on us are or what someone says we're eligible to play for. We had a saying last year that we may not be eligible last year, but we can deserve. We're big on earning and deserving, and I thought that was critical for a young team. We are eligible for something this year, but you still have to earn it and deserve it. That's never going to change for our program."
On having so many returning players ... "I think anytime you start the year off with team that includes players that have played significant minutes for us and played key roles; we're excited about the prospects. I'm excited about the potential of this team; I'm excited about the potential of our program as we hoping start to grow and really develop. This year is a year that we can make another statement, make a mark, and I thought we did things in that regard last year, and why not this year for this team."
On what he has learned already this season ... "I learned that our older guys, and our older guys are sophomores but they're veterans for playing for us, have really taken a roll on this team in terms of helping to lead our younger freshmen players. They're not, obviously, far removed from when they came in as freshmen. I learned that we have the makeup of a team that's willing to sacrifice, to really share the ball. I was very impressed and pleased with our ability to be unselfish. We played everyone. It was just a good moment for our ball club, and I'm hoping that we can look back and think that it was the start of something very special for our program. I also learned that we have some very tough decisions, because we have a number of players who are competing for opportunities to play. Things could get tough in that regard, but that's the kind of good decision as a coach that you want to have."
On competing with Michigan State ... "We are never gauging ourselves or comparing ourselves to anybody else. We respect (Michigan) State and many other programs that have had a considerable amount of success. We like who we are, and we like how we're coming about and how we're developing. I like our pride and our passion. We like who we represent, and we represent the University of Michigan. We're very proud of what we do and who we are and how far we've come. We're also cognizant of how far we have to go, and I think certainly they have set the bar high for a number of programs in the country. We like our prospects of trying to reach that bar."
On disappointing fans if U-M does not win this season ... "I would want them to be disappointed; we would want all of us to be disappointed if we don't reach our standards. I don't know what every fan's standard or expectation may be, but I'm hoping that we'll never become a program or a situation where people aren't disappointed when we don't do well. Being at Michigan, one of the great things I've learned and been a part of so far is that things are kept in the proper balance and perspective and hopefully that will continue. We talked initially about having a lot of passion for our program, I think we've displayed that in how we've performed on the floor. I think our fans have displayed that for us, especially the students, coming out to support our team. We need patience; we talked about that a year ago, we need to have passion and patience. Sometimes it's hard to bring those two words together. We also need some perspective. We are going to be young; we're going to be fighting and clawing. I think everyone has really respected the pride weve shown in wearing that uniform, and that's never going to change."
On the role of senior Bernard Robinson Jr. ... "I expect everything from him, and I'm not going to back off of that. He knows that, and he's the kind of player that does it all. Hopefully, he's going to be able to live up to that standard that we've set for him to be that kind player and that kind of person. He has to do it all for us. I think he really enjoys that role where he's counted on to be that person. He's not pigeon-holed to do one of two things for us; we need it all from Bernard. We need it all because he's capable of giving it all."
On the post players ... "We'll have more depth there, and when you have more depth, it gives you more options. That can be good and bad. It's exciting to know that we have some options. A year ago, I sat here and talked about how deep I thought we were going to be on the perimeter. Time will tell how many of options we'll have and how deep we'll be, but as of now, it bodes well for our team that we have options. Competition is going to be very high and very fierce, which is what you want. If you look around to any high-level program and successful programs, you have that competition on a daily basis."
On Daniel Horton playing so many minutes ... "I think sometimes less is more. I know with Horton, there were times last year where we played him more minutes than we would have liked to. He played tired; he paced himself. Those are the things we're hoping to get away from. Less minutes may bring a higher production. I think we've seen that a lot with some players over different time periods that when they don't have to pace themselves and they're not playing tired, they become more of an efficient player. That's something I'm looking for from Daniel - efficiency. He's certainly very talented and had a phenomenal year for us - if we could improve his efficiency and if we can keep that energy level up on the defensive end, we've done a pretty good job so far this year."
On the three freshmen players ... "I think our freshmen really fit. They really fit with our team, with our program, our university. I've been very pleased at our freshmen kinds and how well they've adapted and tried to fit in, and I think their teammates will say that. They have a really good work ethic. They're going to bring a certain talent that I think we're going to be able to utilize somewhat this year, to what degree, we're not quite sure. Certainly they all are talented enough and, we thing, capable enough to contribute to this basketball team."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423