ANN ARBOR — The University of Michigan is on the path of regenerating its noteworthy basketball program. Behind the elevation the UM basketball fortunes is Detroiter Manny Harris from Redford High School. The Wolverines’ junior guard is the linchpin for Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes in the 2009-10 season.
Case in point: last week the Wolverines battled No. 13 Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana and Harris was suspended for one game for an act of unsportsmanlike conduct during practice and had to watch as his Wolverines lost and important game 59-59.
Michigan proved the game just before the Purdue contest that it could compete with the best in the nation as it beat nationally ranked University of Connecticut, a team that made it to the Final Four in Detroit last year. That victory over UConn had all thinking, dreaming that the Wolverines were finally getting it all together for their crucial run through the Big Ten.
“That win over UConn gave us a lot of confidence,” Harris said. “I think we are starting to jell and we should be good for the rest of the season. I’m not sure what has went wrong this year, especially after we played well in the NCAA’s and had a big win in the tournament last year. Maybe our pre-season ranking was too high or maybe we have not lived up to the ranking. I do know that we practice hard every day and we put in the effort.”
It is a little puzzling that Michigan is playing .500 basketball and is under .500 in Big Ten Conference play.
The loss to Purdue surely showed how important Harris is to the Wolverines effort of the court.
“Manny is a great player,” senior forward DeShawn Sims said. “He’s our ‘Do Everything Kid.’ He plays all facets of the game and is a team player. He could look for his own shot all the time, but he tries hard to get everyone involved in the game.”
Added head coach John Beilein: “What I admire most about him is that he has grown so much as a person and player. He has a great opportunity if he continues to grow as a player and person.”
The intensity that leads to a person being an elite player can also be the thing that gets one in trouble, because they want all to produce and perform at a high level.
Harris is leading the Big Ten in scoring with 19.2 points per game. He had played in 85 straight games for the Wolverines before his suspension.
The 2009-10 All-Big Ten First Team and All-American is playing at a level that has many wondering if he will return for his senior year.
“I want to make to be an NBA player!” exclaimed Harris. “Who would not want the opportunity to play the game they love and get paid for it? But right now I’m completely focused on getting this team into the NCAA Tournament.”
To get to the level of an NBA player will require a lot of work and effort from Harris.
“I need to work on everything,” he said. “I want to improve my defense, dribbling, mid-range jumper and shooting. That is not to say that I can’t do any of these things, but to be the best player I can be I need to consistently work on improving my game.”
As an Academic All-Big Ten player, Harris knows how to use his guile and skill to get his team and himself to the next level. He noted that it is painful for him to look at the Public School League’s box scores and not see Redford High in the mix.
“It is like my school never existed,” he said. “I’ll never get over the fact that they closed Redford High.”
With Coach Derrick McDowell at the helm, Harris led Redford to the Class A regional finals of State Championships; they lost in the championship game. However, he was selected as Michigan’s Mr. Basketball and he also won the PSL City title twice while at Redford.
“The PSL is one of the best leagues in the country,” he said. “It is physical and defensive.”
Harris also credits the LeBron James Skills Academy with taking him to another level. The 20 college players in attendance split into four teams for full-court scrimmages following three full days of instructional workouts and an evening of scrimmages with James and company.
“I’m not saying I’m as good as LeBron or Kobe,” Harris said, “but the things I learned watching them and going to camps has made me a better player and person.”
Michigan’s “Do Everything Kid” is the centerpiece of the Wolverines run at a NCAA Tournament berth.
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