It was odd to see Michigan basketball’s announcement Wednesday that walk-on Corey Person would be returning for a fifth season. After all, Person isn’t a primary rotation guy and has played in just 22 games in his four seasons. So why all the fuss about a guy who doesn’t even impact the game?
But Person does — just in an almost-invisible way.
During the pregame introductions, which aren’t always seen on TV, Person is the one greeting all the players as their names are called, with unusual handshakes and gestures. He’s the one in the middle of the huddle getting the team excited and ready to go. During timeouts, he’s one of the players that talks before the coaches give their instructions.
So much of the attention went to Zack Novak and Stu Douglass as seniors last year that many didn’t notice Person’s subtle contributions. By all accounts, he’s an excellent practice player, but may not have the skill level to play during crunch time with the starters. Some might say his highlight came during the semifinals of last year’s Big Ten Tournament when he scored seven points in three minutes during the blowout loss to Ohio State. He would say that wasn’t important — because the team lost.
That’s the mentality of a guy on the practice squad — it never really is about you, your stats or playing time. If Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke aren’t adequately prepared, that’s more of an affront to Person. It means he didn’t do enough in practice portraying the scout team’s top guard.
This season will be one of expectations for Michigan, with a preseason top-10 ranking and a top recruiting class. U-M should be in contention for its second straight Big Ten title, but it may not only be because of the guys in the regular rotation — Corey Person will have done his share too.