Encouraging Signs From The Basketball Program
Even though Football Season is upon us, every now and then a slight glimmer of light appears from the far off universe known as basketball season. As it is far off in the distance, sometimes it takes information a while to travel to those of us who wait patiently for its arrival. Today was a day that patience was rewarded with some encouraging (but not in the slightest bit earth-shattering) news.
Rivals put up a nice fluff piece on Tommy Amaker. Yada Yada, NCAA is the goal, blah blah, should've done better, yada yada, pressure every year to succeed, blah blah blah blah blah.
If you can make it through the piece without wretching, you will be rewarded. At the bottom, almost as a throw in, are some comments from Lester Abram about the incoming freshmen that got me a tad bit excited. He told Rivals that he expected big things out of this group. I expected to hear Sims name be rattled off and praise about how good he is. That wasn't the case. Two names got mentions that I was not expecting: Ekpe Udoh and Reed Baker!
When Udoh committed it was widely known/assumed he would be a project. The basic assessment was great rebounder, loves the put-back, no game with back to the basket. I figured Udoh was two years from any type of contribution other than fouls and garbage minutes. Abram's comment on him caught me by surprise.
"I think Ekpe Udoh is going to be a surprise. He really surprised me with how well he could play in open gym. I didn't know he was that good."
I didn't know he was that good. Excellent. I'm all for a steal of an underrated 3 star. If Udoh can play quality minutes this year, his size and bulk will come in extremely handy against OSU and MSU. While no one is going to stop man-child-beast Greg Oden, having a second viable big man option after Courtney Sims will be a huge boost for the team this year.
Hearing Reed Baker's name surprised the hell out of me. Abram said "Reed [Baker] has been knocking down threes all summer." Huh? The same Reed Baker that caused Bakermania? Yup. Apparently during his cycling between the Citadel, Birmingham Southern, Air Force, and Michigan, Baker spent some time in the gym.
The fact he can hit from three is a welcome and surprising.. um.. surprise. Other than Horton, no one on this team could hit with consistency from beyond the arc. Didn't stop them from trying, but that's for another day. If Baker can rain three's in game conditions, his pick up looks less like the last desperate gasp of a dying coach and more like the addition of a decent back-up.
A decent back-up at a position where Michigan is incredibly thin until 2007 is a nice thing to have. Would I have preferred his spot be filled with a 4 star Center? Hell yes. However, if the kid can shoot and distribute the ball competently, well, he'll do till Harris and Legion get here.
For the time being he looks like he'll at least play at Smith's level from last year. While he won't be as flashy, hopefully he won't make as many silly mistakes either. If we get freshman-Smith-type ball distribution mixed with an actual jumpshot (something Smith is desperately seeking) it'll be a successful freshman year for him. He sure as hell won't set the world on fire, but an outside shot may make his commitment worth it.
Like I said, sometimes good news takes a while to get here. Sometimes the good news is big, others its small. This was one of the latter times. However, it does make me feel a little better about the 2006 class. And that makes waiting and watching worth it.