Friday, December 29, 2006

Meet The New Face Of Michigan Basketball

He'll Be Blocking Your Shots For The Next Three Years

Epke Udoh. Provide him with meats and cheeses. He is your new king.

Despite a name that sounds like it belongs to a Bond villian, Epke does not possess their inherent knack for not killing his prey. To the contrary. If Epke had a role in Thunderbolt or Goldfinger the world would be under S.P.E.C.T.E.R.'s control and Sean Connery would be in little pieces slowly dissolving on the ocean floor. He has that certain Idon't know what about him. A hunger to play and an anger that people are stupid enough to try to post him up. He's something special Michigan fans. Savior it. There's a big man on campus who can play both ends of the court that Ed Martin didn't pay for. This is a big deal.

Udoh threw a block party for the Crisler arena crowd, stoning 9 Army shots in 29 minutes.

No. A Block Party.

On top of that he contributed 8 points on 4-9 shooting, dished an assist and swiped two steals. earlier this year Lester Abram predicted Udoh would have an impact on the team, I just don't think anyone thought his impact would be this significant. He's become Amaker's first choice off the bench in any situation and has proven in a very short time that he can contribute not only with his defense but by pouring in some points as well.

Michigan has been hampered by insufficient efforts out of its starters when faced with decent competition. The UCLA and NC State games were exhibits 1A and 1B. Dion Harris has been a disaster as a combo shooting/point guard. Harris has played as though he is unaware that missing more shots than your teammates are taking is a bad thing. Sims has been decent but inconsistent and lacking any real fire. Abram and Petway might as well not be playing at this point, as Abram has played like he is afraid to shoot or touch anyone and Petway's offense is limited to the area five feet above the rim. Tired of this lack of fire and productivity Amaker benched his whole starting line up. The result was a 62-50 Michigan win over Army.

In what can only be described as (I can't believe I'm writing this) a smart coaching decision, Thomas Amaker started Reed Baker, Jerret Smith, Deshawn Sims, Epke Udoh, and Jevohn Shepherd. Following Michigan's embarrassing blowout loss to UCLA, Amaker sent a message, loud and clear to his starters "put in the effort or ride the pine."

In an attempt to salvage a season, and no I do not think it is premature to say that, Amaker benched his underperforming upperclassment and started a bunch of unknown underclassmen. A bold move considering if it didn't pay off and Michigan lost to a less than mediocre Army team while benching its starters, it's safe to say Amaker would have lost his only disciplinary weapon/motivational device over the team. Instead of his decision blowing up in Michigan's face, it looks as though it will pay huge dividends forthe Maize & Blue as the season goes on.

In his first start as a Wolverine Reed Baker showed why Amaker took a flyer on him, despite never seeing him live. Pouring in a game high 19 points on 5-5 3 point shooting and being perfect from the free throw line, Baker set the offensive tone for Michigan. In 29 minutes of action Baker committed only a single turnover and pulled down 4 boards. Not bad for a kid whose scholarship travels and travails are well documented. Following his performance it is safe to say he is Michigan's best outside shooter (not that there is much competition).

The Follow Through of a Pure Shooter

Much maligned PG Jarret Smith also flashed some promise. Despite sinking a single 3 pointer on 6 field goal attempts, Smith dished 4 assists while turning the ball over only twice. More importantly he went to the basket, getting six shots from the charity stripe and hitting 4 of them. Smith also grabbed 5 boards, and collect a block and a steal. Maybe all he really need was playing time, we'll have to see, but he still has to learn how to shoot from the floor.

Finally, DeShawn Sims shone bright as well. Scoring 13 points and pulling down 8 rebounds Sims was a force around the basket. Recruited for both his obvious offensive skills and his defense, Sims played mad as all players of his position do. Even in still shots you can see something in his eyes. This is a young man we will all be excited to watch develop over the next few years.

This is not to suggest that everything was fixed in a night. No. To the contrary. Dion Harris was still bad. Despite playing only 22 minutes he still took, and missed, more shots than the other reserves and Jevohn Shepherd combined. At this point, when Harris is on the floor anyone seated around the basket should be afraid because the ball isn't going anywhere near the rim. Petway can't hold onto the ball or deliver it to players on his own team as evidenced by his 4 turnovers and one assist in 11 minutes of play. Of those coming off the bench, thankfully, Lester Abram was the most productive. He seems to have gotten the message that more is expected out of him. Lester grabbed 7 boards and contributed 6 points (1-1 from the floor) in only 12 minutes of play. Instead of standing around waiting open shots he attempt to create something and was rewarded with 5 shots from the free throw line. We're going to need much more of this from him.

Michigan showed us yesterday that there are more weapons in their quiver than the warped arrows they've used so far this year.

I know its only Army, but I'll take it as a good sign.

Nice job Amaker. Keep it up.


At 11:33 AM, Blogger Kenny said...

Thanks for the recap Dave, it's tough trying to follow the team out here with barely any national coverage. Looking forward to seeing the team tomorrow on ESPN2.

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Jake said...

Not bad, and I certainly hope the maize and blue fair better today than last time they were on national TV. I have a slight correction though, Udoh's first name is Ekpe, not Epke. Easy mistake to make though, so it's alright. It should be interesting to see who gets the start in the big one vs. G'town.

At 5:46 PM, Anonymous BBB said...

Great info, I hope Udoh does as well at Baylor as he did at Michigan.


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