Nov. 3, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team held its last practice prior to the start of the 2011-12 season on Thursday (Nov. 3) inside Crisler Arena, followed by a media roundtable with coach John Beilein and a few players.
The Wolverines will tip off the season with an exhibition contest against Wayne State on Friday (Nov. 4) at 7 p.m. in front of their home crowd. The game will be shown on BTN.com (subscription required).
This week, the team got the opportunity to move into their new home, the Player Development Center. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the entire program with the new facility and the start of the new season inside the newly renovated Crisler Arena.
Here's what Coach Beilein and some of the players had to say in anticipation to the start of the season.
U-M Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement ... "I was speaking with someone this week about getting ready for the season. I can remember the days where there were like five weeks at a time -- you didn't play until Thanksgiving -- and you started October 15. Now you're talking about two weeks of playing at least an exhibition game. Now we're as ready as we can be, but I don't feel that we have so many things that we have to do. Our veterans have been very good at teaching and helping. But then there's a lot they have to recall, and they have to execute properly. We've had good practices and we had a good scrimmage. We're making progress but it's never as fast as I'd like it to be."
On the point guard position ... "I think we had 11 or 12 assists out of the two of them, between Stu (Douglass) and Trey (Burke) the other day, so that was good. They're learning every single day, but Trey so far has shown some really progressive steps because it's so natural to him. Those two are the ones who will have the ball most of the time."
On what freshmen must do to earn playing time ... "I just think that they must show they're moving in the right direction while they're not impeding the team's progress. They're all going to move at different speeds. So far, Trey has moved at a very comfortable speed and has helped the team grow. It's sometimes atypical for a freshman to do that, just like Tim (Hardaway Jr.) was last year a little bit."
On what he would like to see against Wayne State ... "I'd like to see us defend really well so that we can run the floor. All teams need to get easy baskets to win. One way to get easier baskets is to fast break. The only way we can fast break is -- you've all heard me say one hundred times -- you have to get the ball on the 25- or 35-yard line. You can't get it on the goal line. We have to defend, clean rebound and outlet. We've got to defend, turnover and run."
On what impressed him the most about the scrimmage this past week ... "There were times when a veteran group was out there and they looked like a veteran group. There were other times that they had a few turnovers -- those old 'what were you thinking' moments. But there were some times where you could tell that they had some confidence in the strength of playing together."
On not buying into hype ... "We don't want to kill the confidence, we love the confidence. But I've had several teams over the years with similar expectations and usually there are points in that season that are very difficult. They have to bounce back out of it. We're prepping with them and saying that this is no different than it's ever been here. We have chips on our shoulders. We are trying to prove that we are around to stay, and it's going to be a battle."
U-M Senior Stu Douglass
On his favorite part of the new practice facility ... "There are a bunch of things, collectively. Having our own players' space is great. In the old locker room, we had film in there and coaches were in there. Now it's kind of our own little space and now we can go up and have our own film room, instead of having everything combined. It's nice to have the separation a little bit, even though it's still a family atmosphere here."
On what makes this team special ... "I think that we adapt to whatever situation we need. We can reevaluate our goals in the middle of the season and adapt how we need to play -- adapt roles for different guys that might change during the year. I know specifically for myself last year, my defensive role changed a lot in the middle of the Big Ten season. We started to roll when I could relieve Darius (Morris) from some of those defensive duties and open him up more on the offensive end. Top to bottom that's been happening."
On what it's going to be like running out of the new Blavin Tunnel in front of a home crowd ... "It's going to be crazy. They're talking about how everyone is going to be waiting for us. It's going to be very exciting. It's something we've waited for for a long time to get in here. To finally get to experience that and get the season underway, I can't really describe it."
U-M Sophomore Evan Smotrycz
On the team settling into the new PDC ... "It's been pretty unreal. Even though a lot of it isn't done yet, this is just a place where I'll come to practice an extra half hour early just to hang out in here. There is a lot of cool stuff. I just love being in the locker room; there's just something about being in a new place that's brand new."
On his favorite and most challenging part of preseason ... "Probably my favorite part is just being back together as team, rather than everyone doing their own thing in the summer. My favorite part is just doing more team things together -- seeing movies together, having dinner together. My least favorite would have to be the running. I think if you ask anybody they'll say that, but it's good for us and gets us ready for a tough November."
On having a different mentality going into this season ... "I think this year it's more executing the stuff I was learning last year with enthusiasm. Just playing every play hard since I don't have to think about what I'm doing. I know what I have to do, I just have to play every play hard and take no plays off."
U-M Sophomore Jon Horford
On whether or not his mentality has changed in his second year ... "My mentality is going to be similar to what it was last year. I'm just going to go in and do the best I can and let things work themselves out. As long as I play hard and play for the team, I just feel that everything will work out in the end."
On his favorite and most challenging part of preseason ... "My favorite part of preseason is just hanging out with the guys and playing ball with the guys and competing. We have a lot of fun as a team. We get along and there aren't separate groups among us -- it's just like a real team. The most challenging part is probably getting up in the morning -- just getting up for those early lifts right before class."
On running out of the new Blavin Tunnel into Crisler Arena for the first time ..."I'm really excited to run out of the tunnel for the first time into the new arena. Everyone is really excited about the season -- players, coaches, fans and all. I think it's going to be a real cool experience."
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423