Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Basketball Cheerleader

I went to a preseason Packer game on a rainy night in August. By the second half, Brett Favre had been replaced by Aaron Rodgers, Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck were sitting out and I was slightly losing interest. So I turned to critiquing cheerleaders (something I take pride in). And there she was, on the end, an oddity in the cheerleading world. A fat cheerleader. This was compounded by the fact that she looked confused and was always behind. I just couldn’t stop staring at the trainwreck that was the fat cheerleader.

And then me being me, I thought of basketball. Michigan basketball to be more correct. Our basketball team is the fat confused cheerleader of our university’s athletic program. The basketball team in Ann Arbor has the disadvantage of existing at a football school. To overcome such adversity and remain in the spotlight, they would actually have to be successful. You know, kind of like they were with the Fab 5 in the 90s and Cazzie Russell and company in the 60s. But instead we’ve been on the outside looking in. No March Madness appearances in Tommy Amaker’s tenure, although the NIT championship in 2004 was then considered promising. And we haven’t won the Big 10 (officially) since 1986.

Our fat cheerleader had gone on a diet. They’ve shed the weight that was Tommy Amaker, but will that make them relevant again? Although I was not here when Tommy was hired, I hear that there were high expectations. And for what? In his four year coaching record at Seton Hall, the Pirates got to the big boy tournament once, reaching the Sweet 16. They exited the NIT in the first round the other three years. On a positive note, he did end up with a 108-84 record with the Wolverines, well above .500. Another thing he could do well was recruit. Courtney Sims was highly regarded coming out of high school in Boston. But, this brings me to one of his faults; he just couldn’t develop his players’ raw talent or size. Sims, for example, at 6-11 seemed unable to jump for rebounds ending the 2007 season with 6.2 rpg. Compare this to Chris Kaman in his junior season at CMU. At 7-0, he averaged 12.0 rpg, improving each year by about 4 from his freshman campaign. Courtney started at 4.7 rpg in 03-04 and improved his average by .5 each season. You could say it’s not fair to compare a MAC player to a Big 10 one, but Courtney is off in Europe somewhere and Kaman, horrible hair and all, is in the NBA. That’s all that matters. Surely Sims could have shown similar development as Kaman had Tommy made that a priority. Finally, according to someone close to former Wolverine Reed Baker: “With how much they practice, they should be able to dribble.”

John Beilein, our new weight-loss trainer attempting to make us less embarrassing, is trying to bring the success he had at West Virginia here to Michigan. In his 5 years in Morgantown, the Mountaineers went to the NCAA tournament twice and actually got to the Elite 8 in 2005. The next year the team went to the Sweet 16. Last year, exiled to the NIT, Beilein’s team won the thing. Take that Tommy. Supposedly, Amaker put too much stock in seniority, alienating some of the younger players. Beilein has stated that his team will be based on talent. That’s nice to hear. Who knows what will happen this season. Beilein’s system needs a couple years to take hold, so the results may not be much different from last year. The team has lost Kendric Price, Reed Baker, Phil Devries and recruit Alex Legion, but the team’s mentality should change for the better, making this coaching change worthwhile. Maybe, by the time I graduate, we’ll have a successful basketball team again. I just hope I’ll be able to spell the coach’s name by that point.

-Cheryl Friedman


Anonymous said...

And what were you doing at a Packer game?

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