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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Sunday, September 05, 2004


I must admit I was a skeptic.

After all, four years at Seton Hall had yielded little more than a 68-55 record. Including a disastrous final season of potential gone wasted and team chemistry gone awry. Coaching Andre Barrett, Eddie Griffin, and Marcus Toney-El, Tommy Amaker could do no better than a first-round NIT exit. When Amaker went (mid-)west, I figured he was abandoning one rebuilding failure to commence another.

But after three years at Michigan, the Amaker project can be (prematurely) termed a success. Although he has amassed only a 52-41 record in Ann Arbor, Tommy has successfully built for the future and repaired the school's image. Of the nine Wolverines who played significant minutes for the NIT Champs this past season, eight are back for this year's campaign. Led by Daniel Horton, the Wolverines have the size and skills to compete with the country's best and should early on establish themselves in the Top 25. Further, according to Mike DeCourcy, Michigan's 2005 recruiting class is in "great shape" and Amaker is primed for a "huge" 2006 class.

Among the 2005 signees is Jerret Smith. Asked why he chose Michigan, Smith responded, "There were a couple other schools that recruited me, but [I chose Michigan] basically because of [Amaker] and the relationship he has with the kids." Sound familiar? Michigan freshman Ron Coleman echoes a similar theme, "When coach [Tommy] Amaker came here and started turning around the program, I knew this was the place for me. He's a great coach, and I really think he'll help me take that next step."

Fair enough. But will the Wolverines take the next step? The Detroit News' Jim Spadafore believes Amaker's club will learn from and capitalize on its late-season success. Drawing parallels between two NIT Champs, Michigan's 1983-1984 squad and the school's 2003-2004 edition, Spadafore suggests the Wolverines are ready for a run in the NCAA Tournament. I agree. Along with Horton, Lester Abram, Chris Hunter, Dion Harris, Courtney Sims, Graham Brown and Brent Petway give Amaker a corps of offensive weapons. Solid team play (lacking at Seton Hall, but in abundance at Michigan) on defense will put the club over the top, enabling a selection committee invitation to go dancing in March.

Then is Tommy Amaker's success in Ann Arbor a done deal? In his own words:

"There's an old saying, and I've said it before, I think we might be on the right track, but if you stand still you'll get run over. I think we have the nucleus of some really good things to come for our program. We really like the players we have, the kind of kids that they are. But we still have to continue to get better."