Friday, December 3, 2010
Guy Has a Hoosier Future; IU Aims For Savannah State
So Guy-Marc Michel can practice with the Indiana Hoosiers after all. The NCAA offers concession, if not a heart.
For now, that will have to do.
Coach Tom Crean has just wrapped up a practice session. He has seen what the 7-foot Michel can do and knows what he could have done for the Hoosiers. He is the team’s best rebounder, the coach says, and it is not close. He is a hard worker and a future pro. IU coaches will work with him to prepare him for that. They will not give up on him or toss him aside like unwanted trash. That is not the Indiana way. It is not Crean’s way.
“I’m glad he stayed with us because this is his family now,” Crean says, “and we want him to be very successful moving forward. We have to make sure he has a future.”
Michel is forever ineligible to play at Indiana for two reasons. One makes sense in a by-the-book, rule-is-a-rule kind of heartless way. One does not.
In 2006 Michel started taking college classes, which started the five-years-to-play-four-years clock. That was in France where the rules of amateurism and college eligibility are different. Michel took those classes while he was a high school senior. In fact, he took them in the same building. There was no intent to actually enroll in college, but the NCAA saw it differently. That means Michel’s eligibility window ends next spring.
The other main factor was that Michel, while playing for a club team in France, signed an agreement to move up to the club’s high-level squad if asked to do so. Which he was, which meant he played with and against pro players. That’s a NCAA no-no.
But the biggest thing was that the NCAA viewed that signed agreement as if it was a pro contract, even though Michel received no money and wasn’t trying to trick anyone. It would seem to fit no common sense definition of a pro contract, but common sense is not an issue here.
So Michel cannot play and that’s a shame. It limits his ability to improve and hurts IU’s prospects all because, when it comes down to it, he did nothing wrong.
“It’s very disappointing to say the least,” Crean says. “We want to make sure Guy has a chance, has a future. He’s going to be a student assistant coach for us. Our plan from there will be to help him become a professional. We would like him to get his degree, certainly. He’s doing an excellent job in school.”
The NCAA sometimes gets an unfair rap. It does not make the rules. Member schools do, often because some coach has pushed the boundaries of what is, and isn’t acceptable. The NCAA enforces the rules and, as Indiana basketball has discovered, this can be a tough process when you do something wrong.
In this case, though, wrong didn’t happen. Yes, this ticks Crean off.
“I have trouble with seeing any wisdom in the decision. It’s an unfortunate situation. It’s extremely disappointing that there wasn’t any leniency given at all.”
Michel will continue practicing with the Hoosiers. That will make his teammates better as well as himself. Crean says Michel is the second-hardest working big man he’s ever had. The hardest was Robert Jackson, a forward on Marquette’s Final Four team a few years back.
“Everybody works in practice,” Crean says, “but I’m talking about the desire to be better and to do extra things all the time. He’s going to continue to learn about the game. We’ll help him with that. He’s going to continue to be a huge part of the program. He’ll be with us every step of the way.”
The next step comes at Assembly Hall against a bad Savannah State team, although when you have won just 16 games over the previous two seasons, as the Hoosiers have done, there is no such thing as a bad opponent, only big opportunities.
Savannah State is another one of these struggling non-conference teams designed to build confidence for a program that can use it.
But the Hoosiers are winning, and while their 6-1 record does not leave people confusing them with, say, top-ranked Duke, they are leaving an impression. Sports Illustrated, for goodness sakes, in this week’s Drew-Brees-As-Sportsman-Of-The-Year issue, lists the Hoosiers -- and we are not making this up -- as one of eight Big Ten teams that “should” make the NCAA Tournament.
Perspective would suggest that’s a little ambitious, that a more likely scenario is a NIT bid that will jumpstart the Hoosiers for years to come.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. For now the focus is on Savannah State, bouncing back from the Boston College loss and learning to guard the dribble better.
“We have to make sure we continue to execute on offense and show improvement in the areas that we weren’t as good in the other night,” Crean says. “It’s getting ready for a game in a short period of time, but it’s also making sure we eliminate game slippage as much as possible.”
Figure the Hoosiers will do that against Savannah State. They just won’t do it with Guy-Marc Michel.