Moments before the two would face each other in a pickup game
this summer at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan guard Louis
Bullock met his idol, former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas,
for the first time. Bullock smiled anxiously and attempted to
introduce himself. Alas, he was speechless.
So it has been for the Wolverines lately, quiet in the shadow of
greatness. Despite top-ranked recruiting classes in 1994 and
'95, Michigan has not won an NCAA tournament game the last two
years and is still paddling furiously in the tumultuous wake of
the Fab Five, which went to the Final Four in '92 and '93.
"Following the Fab Five to Michigan is like driving down a road
into a dark tunnel and realizing there is no way out the other
side," Bullock says. "We need to find another road."
What they really need is a driver with a strong sense of
direction. Perhaps he will be junior college transfer Brandun
Hughes, who arrived in Ann Arbor this fall and brashly pulled on
jersey number 4, Fab Fiver Chris Webber's old number. "Wearing
his number is no extra pressure," says Hughes, who averaged 28.2
points per game at Barton County (Kans.) Community College last
season, "especially if I help bring home a national title,
something Webber never did."
Michigan fans would like to start with a Big Ten title,
something the Wolverines have not won in the last 10 seasons. In
pursuit of that crown, Michigan will rely heavily on Bullock, a
sophomore who averaged 13.5 points last season. The inside
scoring load should be carried by 6'9" forward Maurice Taylor,
who is so talented that his 14.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per
game last season constituted a sophomore slump. Sophomore Robert
(Tractor) Traylor is also back; he averaged 9.0 points and 5.9
rebounds as a freshman, despite playing just 19 minutes per game
because of foul trouble and oxygen deficiency, the latter
attributable to the fact that at an estimated 330 pounds, he was
not in shape. Responding to taunts of "Dough Boy" from his own
teammates, Traylor has worked hard to drop his weight to 300 and
decrease his body fat from 24% to 14%.
The roster is also thinner this season. The departure of two
potential starters, Willie Mitchell and Albert White, during the
off-season left Michigan with its shortest bench since the days
of the Fab Five, an era the current Wolverines hope to consign
to ancient history. "We're all a little sick and tired of
comparisons to the Fab Five," Taylor says, "but, heck, we know
that the only way to crawl out from under their shadow is to
start doing something fabulous ourselves."