Man of the people

AS A LEADER OF THE SCOUT TEAM and a player who was asked by coach John Beilein to come back for a fifth year, senior guard Corey Person has seen it all. He's witnessed Michigan's struggles to rebuild under Beilein. He's experienced the thrill of making the NCAA tournament after a long drought. And he's now enjoying his last year on the squad -- one in which the Wolverines have a legitimate shot at a title. But for fans that fill the Crisler Center, what they've seen (and love) is Person's dancing. Go ahead and check out the center of every Wolverine pregame huddle; Person is the man in the middle, pumping his arms and rocking his torso while the other players sway around him. He may not play many minutes, but he's a contributor.

"A guy was telling me the other day that a kid ran up to him in the store and tapped him on the shoulder, then started doing the dance. The guy was like, 'What are you doing?' And the kid said, 'I'm doing the Corey Person.' It's somewhat different than it used to be, because with us being on a bigger stage now, the dancing is more recognizable to people.

"I always try to be the conductor to the orchestra, just trying to make sure everyone is on the same page. With us having so many freshmen, I'm just trying to help those guys as much as possible because there's no other conference like the Big Ten.

"You saw glimpses of the potential of these freshmen in the summer and preseason workouts, but you know you aren't playing against the top competition yet. Once we got to New York, though, for the NIT Season Tip-Off, you saw that those guys were still producing on the big stage. That's when I knew those guys were talented.

"At the beginning of the year, I told them a story about what it was like my sophomore year -- the year after we broke the streak and made the NCAA tournament. We came back ranked like top-15 preseason, so there was a lot of hype coming in. But we ended up not doing as well as we were supposed to and didn't make the tournament. The lesson was that just because there's hype about what we are supposed to be as a team, that doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen.

"For us to be where we are now, bringing Michigan basketball back and the fans back, it's crazy. I thought the program was headed in that direction, but I never thought I would still be here to witness it. Once I got here, it was a rebuilding stage, but to get to where we are at this fast -- I thought it would be a couple years down the road, after I graduated and was off the team.

"The Ohio State game was the craziest atmosphere I've ever seen. The tent with the fans camping out the night before, to the point where we left almost three and a half hours before the game, and there was already a line of 200-300 people outside. They weren't even letting people in for another two and a half hours!

"There's definitely a sense of urgency with this being my last season. It's just making the most out of every day and trying to help the team as much as possible. One of the sayings that assistant coach [LaVall] Jordan always tells me is that 'freshmen want to play, sophomores want to start, juniors want to score, and seniors want to win.' That's what it's about for me right now."

Everett Cook is a co-managing sports editor and basketball writer at The Michigan Daily.

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