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Posted on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Emotions under control, Tim Hardaway Jr. now is the Michigan basketball team's catalyst

By Michael Rothstein


There was a time this season when Tim Hardaway Jr.'s emotions on the court were a detriment for the Michigan basketball team. file photo

Tim Hardaway Jr. is an emotional player, the guy whose demonstrative nature can rally his Michigan basketball teammates.

But there was a time this season when those emotions were a detriment. As quickly as he'd fire up the Wolverines by pounding his chest after a 3-point basket, he'd show his frustration when things weren't going well.

“If somebody missed a shot or something, he just wanted to win and he’d be like, ‘Oh, man,’” sophomore guard Darius Morris said. “I’d be like, ‘Dude, it’s not the end of the world.’”

To Hardaway, it felt like it. This was in January, when Michigan was skidding to a 1-6 start in Big Ten play and everyone on the Wolverines' roster was struggling.

His frustration was evident. He’d stand in the corner, waiting for a pass that never came.

When it didn’t, he’d mope on the court, and his teammates noticed. It was the only time this year when the freshman guard from Miami acted like, well, a freshman.

To understand why the Michigan basketball team opens NCAA tournament play Friday against Tennessee (12:40 p.m., TruTV), all one needs to do is look at Hardaway and see how he’s loosened up.

“It just affects people if they see it from afar or see it out of the corner (of their eye),” Morris said. “If you miss a shot or make a mistake on the court, you want to see someone positive lifting you up. He’s doing a better job of doing that.”

Hardaway's progress stems from a series of meetings with players and coaches following a 69-64 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 22. Since, he has been the catalyst for Michigan’s turnaround, averaging 17.6 points since the Wolverines won at Michigan State on Jan. 27.

His ability to blow up on a team -- like when he scored 20 points in the second half of a home win over Michigan State -- motivated everyone else. He carried the Wolverines to wins over Iowa and Penn State — each critical in the NCAA tournament run.

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It all started in those meetings, where the message to Hardaway was constant and clear.

Calm down. You’re good. Trust yourself.

“It lifted a lot of pressure off me,” Hardaway said. “Before that talk we were just playing hard and I was playing out of control.

“If we didn’t have that talk, that would still be carrying over to right now. Ever sine then, we’ve been playing on a roll.”

The emotions that helped Hardaway over the past month were hurting him before.

He forced shots, taking too many 3-pointers because he was unsure of his role as a freshman who had as much talent as any player on the roster. He longed to play perfect basketball and it wound him up so tight that his shoulders started to sag if he missed a couple shots.

His mouthpiece hung out of his mouth. He started to pout. And teammates and coaches could tell their star freshman was getting angry with himself.

“There are some young men that don’t pout, they just go into a different world,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “And you can’t even reach them. They are thinking about something else.

“At least I know that he’s upset. Some other guys, you don’t know what they are thinking.”

That has never been a problem with Hardaway.

Former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway Sr., says his son has always shown his emotions outwardly. Father said son always tries to play perfectly — even though it will never happen.

So father’s message was the same as those from his teammates and his coaches.

“I talked to him about that, about trusting yourself, trusting your abilities," Hardaway Sr., said. "Keep going out there in practice and work hard. When you’re watching film, see what you can do to help your team and go out there and try to practice it and do better.

“And stop shooting threes. Shoot wide open threes, shoot rhythm threes, but stop shooting threes all of the time. Try to get to the basket and make some thing happen at the basket.”

When Hardaway Jr. started doing that, the pouting and shoulder sagging began to disappear. He replaced it with positive emotions, the type of things his teammates can use themselves and feed off of.

No longer would Morris look over to the freshman and see a sad sack. Instead, he saw a player who was relentlessly positive and excited.

At various points this season, Hardaway has been unable to control his emotions. He has used his hands to create antlers on his head after a big play, held three fingers out after critical 3-pointers and given full out karate chops, like after Michigan clinched its Big Ten quarterfinal win over Illinois last Friday.

Elongated fist-pumps became the norm. Yelling and screaming became an every game occurrence.

After games, though, Hardaway denies some of the emotion. He openly said he didn’t make antlers after one game — even though everyone inside Crisler Arena saw it happen.

“I don’t know why I did that, don’t know why,” Hardaway says now. “I think, I don’t know how to explain it. I just want to go out there and have fun while I play. That’s why, I want to say.”

The fun has continued for Michigan and for Hardaway, who made a late push to become the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year and likely would have won the award had it not been for Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger.

He won three of the last four Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards and was unanimously named to the league’s all-rookie team. He passed every expectation he, his teammates, coaches and father even had for him.

“Way better than I thought,” Hardaway Sr. said. “Way better than I thought. Exceeded all of my expectations.

“I’m happy for him. He works hard at it, cares for it and he’s looking good while he’s doing it.”

All stemming from one emotional turnaround.

Michael Rothstein covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.


Jake Church

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 3:21 a.m.

Big Time Timmy, can't wait to watch him grow. He isn't going anywhere for a while and I can't wait to watch him get better. Go Blue let's get a win tomorrow.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

THJ's growth has been a pleasant surprise. Usually, it takes until at least the sophomore year, and often longer. Growing up around his Dad and other NBA players has to have helped immensely. HIs dad became a star with his mental game much more so than his physical game. THJ has a chance to be like his father but with a more athletic body. I hope we at least get two more years out of him.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

I've said it before, but Hardaway is the best freshman I've seen come in here in quite a while. He's a future star with a big upside. It's going to be exciting to see how much he can improve in the next few years. I'm really impressed with his athletic ability and how he can hit the big shots.


Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

Yeah timmy! I think he'll rain some key 3's tomorrow and help us pull by the slouching UT team.