I've written about Michigan basketball several times already this season, and I've often stressed the Wolverines' need for a consistent third scorer to complement guard Manny Harris (20.3 ppg) and forward DeShawn Sims (16.9).
On Saturday, that player may have arrived.
Laval Lucas-Perry, a transfer from Arizona who had to sit out Michigan's first semester, made his Maize and Blue debut against Oakland at the Palace in Auburn Hills, scoring 14 and helping Michigan win 89-76.
In only 10 minutes of first-half action, "LLP" came off the bench and connected on four three-pointers to lead all scorers at the break with 12 points. In six minutes of playing time in the second half, he hit two free throws.
At any level of basketball, coaches will tell you that it's not wise to rely on one or two scorers. Three (or more) is always the ideal number, especially for a team with hopes of competing for an NCAA Tournament spot.
Harris and Sims have been consistent offensive contributors all season. In the win over UCLA, they combined for 33. In the win against Duke, 45. In both those victories, one of the freshmen sharp-shooters carried some of the scoring load as well—Stu Douglass scored 10 against the Bruins, while Zack Novak dropped 14 on the Dukies. In Michigan's first try against Duke, the Harris/Sims combo went for 35, but nobody else had more than six.
On Saturday, the star duo totaled 35, but it was Douglass' 12 and Lucas-Perry's 14 that made the difference. Douglass and Novak are true freshmen, and do most of their damage from the outside. While they've been playing better than most could've expected, they are still rookies and will likely experience the typical highs and lows that most college freshmen do.
That's why LLP is so important. Instead of Michigan relying on its freshmen to contribute significantly in order to win, with Lucas-Perry scoring, 12 to 15 points from either freshmen should be considered a bonus. That could only work, of course, if Harris, Sims, and Lucas-Perry can routinely fill up the stat sheet.