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NCAA Tournament Notes : With Fisher, Fear Factor Eliminated for Michigan

Times Staff Writer

Instead of falling apart, Michigan’s basketball team has banded together since the defection of Coach Bill Frieder, who left for Arizona State two days before the start of the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament and was replaced by assistant Steve Fisher.

How to explain it?

“When the head coach is here, you try too hard to do everything right,” forward Sean Higgins said last week. “But since we’re used to Coach Fisher being an assistant, we’re taking advantage of more situations on the floor because we’re not afraid that Coach Fisher will come down on us like Coach Frieder would.”

Michigan leads the nation in field-goal percentage and forward Glen Rice is one of the nation’s best outside shooters, but the Wolverines rely only so much on finesse.

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They pack a wallop, too.

“Hitting a Michigan screen is like running into a brick wall,” said guard Junie Lewis of South Alabama, whose Jaguars lost to the Wolverines, 91-82, in a second-round game. “I tried to belly-up to Rice, but then here comes (6-foot-10, 230-pound) Terry Mills. It hurt. I finally started going around.”

Mark Koenig, a sophomore from University High in Los Angeles, made the Michigan basketball team as a walk-on.

“I’ve been mistaken for a member of the band,” said Koenig said, a 6-foot junior, who was named to Dick Vitale’s all-walk-on team.

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What role does Koenig play for the Wolverines?

“He doesn’t get a lot of playing time even in practice, but there’s no better cheerleader,” Fisher said. “The best part about Mark is that you don’t know he’s there. You put him in practice for two minutes and it’s like he’s playing for a national championship.”

Koenig, who aspires to be a sports attorney/agent, hopes playing basketball will help him make contact with future clients.


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