On his first regular-season game as U-M's head coach ... "You know I have thought about that. I am anxious to soak in the moment. It was quite special for me to walk out in the exhibition game and I'm sure I'll feel even better on Friday night. I'll feel great if we win when I walk off the floor Friday night."
On the impact of the opening game ... "I think more than anything else is not to get sidetracked on last year and what transpired. It is our opening game. It's a home game. It's an opening night for us. It is the start of our official basketball season. I mean it is going to be extremely exciting for our program, our coaches and obviously, I think it goes without saying that our kids are going to be excited. One of the things I mentioned a while ago, that I thought was going to be important for our confidence, was the start, the beginning, how are we going to begin the season It is important that we get off to a good start. It is important that we get off to a good start in our opening game. I think those things go without saying for a team that is in transition, a team that has had some question marks, a team that people are waiting to see what happens. So, I think it if we do the things we have been practicing and working towards we will be fine. I am confident that we'll be fine."
On his comfort level ... "We are still going through the process, as I've said a while ago, there are going to be many firsts for us. We had the first exhibition game and now it is the first official game, then we are going to have the first away game. So there are going to be a lot of firsts to be able to evaluate our team. I think as we go through the process I think that we have a decent feel as a coaching staff for our kids and some of our limitations, some of our strengths and weaknesses. We feel pretty comfortable right now with our personnel and knowing who we are. Do we need to get better Yes. Do we need to improve Yes, in a variety of different areas. But I like our team. I like the fact that our kids have worked hard and are willing to listen and learn. I am anxious to get this year started and to be very competitive. I think that is the word we are going to use -- competitive."
On the limitations and strengths of the team ... "I'm hoping that one of our strengths is going to be our ability to shoot the basketball. I am hoping that. I felt like I was right about that after the first game and dead wrong after the second. So, I'm not sure where we are going to fall in line with that. But I am hoping that that is going to be a strength of ours. I am hoping that a strength of ours is going to be our competitive desire to defend and create some havoc defensively. I don't mean by pressing or scrambling. I mean by getting down and guarding people and having a blue collar work ethic. We know that we aren't a very deep team on the frontline. That goes without saying. So we know that that is not one of ours strengths so we are going to have to do things to offset some of those weaknesses."
On Oakland ... "We have a lot of respect, obviously for Coach (Greg) Kampe and what he has been able to do at Oakland ... for how they have played. Obviously, they have been a very well-coached team. I do not know him, but to have just watched his teams and seeing what he was able to do against us last year has been impressive with how he uses his personnel. They have a system that they seem to be very comfortable with. You know, we are going to try and implement our system. So, our system is we are going to hope that we can defend people. We are going to hope that we can defend the three-point shooter, defend the three-point line. But they also have a post guy. They are not a one-dimensional team. They are a solid basketball team. They are a veteran team and they are a team that is looking to go to the postseason and maybe win their conference and go to the NCAA Tournament. They are certainly a team that is capable of doing that. We certainly have our work cut out. We're new and we're getting started with our system ... trying to develop our identity and certainly Friday night is going to be a monumental challenge for our team."
On talking about last year's game against Oakland ... "You know, I haven't brought that game up to them. I haven't brought that name up to them. I mean sometimes you would expect the obvious. They recognize that was a very tough loss for us last year and opening game. Those are things that I am not sure you have to bring up in a certain way. We're trying to make sure that we are talking about what we are going to do, not what we did, what we are planning to do and what we are working toward and how we've been working towards getting to a certain moment. This moment is for us to have our opening game against an in-state opponent ... an opponent that has enjoyed some success against us."
On using last year's game tape against Oakland ... "You can certainly look at that tape, but again that was a complete year ago and they played a lot of games after the game against us. So, I'm not sure that tape ... you want to try to get the most recent tapes and most recent games to do your scouting off of. Certainly we are going to look at that tape to see what was effective for them against us. But I think the bulk of your scouting is going to come from the most recent games you can get your hands on of an opponent."
On the health of the team ... "Obviously, we talked about in the media day for us, one of the keys for our team this year is going to be our health. I think we have seen already that we're not as healthy as we need to be. I think that is a direct result when you look at our exhibition season thus far, with the two games and our practices thus far, we haven't had a team that we've been able to put all the bodies that we were hoping to have, to use and to play with, out on the floor yet and I think that has hurt us in continuity and familiarity. I am not looking at that as an excuse, I am just giving you an overview of where we have been and hopefully how that won't be something we won't keep talking about throughout this year. It certainly has effected us in how we can try to bring our team along, but I think overall I have been real pleased with the effort, by the enthusiasm, I think our kids have had a great collective work ethic ... not just one or two guys working hard. I think our leadership has been outstanding and those are some of the things that are going to carry us through in tough times that we could possibly endure."
On LaVell Blanchard's injured ankle ... "LaVell practiced yesterday. He showed some signs of the ankle still being a problem for him, but not a great deal. I was impressed that he didn't show signs of visibly being hurt. He went through the entire practice. He had to come out a few times and you could see him every so often favor it, but not to the degree that I was anticipating. I was pleasantly pleased. Now today, sometimes after playing on it can sometimes be the worst part the next day. So, I am anxious to see how he is going to feel this afternoon."
On Blanchard's playing status ... "I assume that he will play, but I assumed he was going to play in the exhibition game too. So, that threw us off because we had him pegged in to start that game. He tried it in warmups and didn't feel comfortable and really didn't really feel good at all. So we went of the advice of our trainers, doctors and LaVell's obviously. Again that is a day-to-day decision in whether or not he is going to be able to play."
On Josh Moore's status ... "I think with Josh, it has seemed to be a daily observation of how he is going to feel, what he is going to be capable of doing. I've been pleased with his attitude of how he has attacked his injury. He has been proactive with it. I think that is a great sign for Josh. Our medical staff and our trainers have been very proactive in trying to get him to be aggressive in attacking it. All the different things we can possibly do, trying different methods and working with him in the pool, different stretching exercises, getting him in maybe twice a day in terms of treatment to see if he is able to go for practice that afternoon. So when it comes to games we are going to have to address it and evaluate it as the games occur. I am not trying to give you a slider here, but I am just telling you exactly how we see it at this moment."
On the role of Chris Young ... "As significant as anyone. There's no one on this team that is going to have a greater role than Chris Young. Does that mean he is going to be our leading scorer I have no idea. But his role, his contribution, his leadership, his ability to anchor the middle for us, his help-side defense, his communication skills, his experience ... there is no one on this team that is going to have a greater role than Chris Young."
On the role of Leon Jones ... "He is our oldest player. I say that respectfully. He's our oldest guy and we expect a lot out of him. Whether that is starting, coming off the bench, being a slasher, being a three-point shooter, being one of our key defenders on the perimeter ... on the other end of the floor. There is a lot that we are putting on his shoulders. I am hoping that it is not too much. I think he has enjoyed that role thus far that he has been that player we have asked a lot of things from and we are going to need a lot from him. I think Leon is a player that can give a lot ... no question about it."
On the contributions of the freshmen ... "I think with the freshmen, the majority of their contributions to this team, I firmly believe are going to come on a daily basis in practice. I think if they can bring the energy, their enthusiasm, their work ethic and their talents and abilities to compete every day in practice I think that is going to allow our freshmen to have the greatest contribution to this ball club. That doesn't mean they are not going to play, they won't score or play significant minutes or play some outstanding basketball, to lead us to some victories. Again, I think the greatest contribution any young kid can give us now is the ability to come every day with a workmanlike attitude, to be competitive and to work in practice."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423