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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2008

Wolverines welcome Beilein, Lucas-Perry

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The upstart Michigan basketball team will have its old coach and a new player for its in-state road game against Oakland Saturday.

Wolverines coach John Beilein, who missed UM's game last weekend suffering from vertigo, will be back on the bench Saturday. And at his disposal for the first time will be Laval Lucas-Perry, a talented guard who is making his Wolverines debut after transferring from Arizona last year.

Beilein stayed home for the Wolverines' 91-60 triumph over Eastern Michigan last Saturday because of acute peripheral vertigo brought on by an inner ear infection. It was just the second game he's missed in over 30 seasons as a head coach. Associate head coach Jerry Dunn took his place.

Lucas-Perry, who is from Flint, Mich., played five games for Arizona last year and was allowed to retain his freshman status for this season. Considered one of UM's top players coming into the year, his teammates have managed to go 7-2 without him and earn wins over top-5 teams UCLA and Duke.

"The addition of Laval Lucas-Perry is going to be an adjustment," Beilein said through a university spokesman. Friday's media availability was canceled because of inclement weather.

"Eventually it will be a very positive adjustment, but getting him into the mix is why we love coaching," Beilein continued. "It's putting the puzzle together, and that is what is going to be interesting. I love what our team has given us so far, but we have to play harder, we have to play smarter and we are going to get better. But it's not going to be overnight."

The Wolverines have two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. Harris leads the Big Ten in scoring with 20.9 points per game, and Sims is the conference's second-leading rebounder (8.0 rebounds) and third-best scorer (16.6 points).

Beyond those two, UM's staff has settled in with starting guards David Merritt and Stu Douglass and forward Javohn Shepherd. Guards Kelvin Grady, Zack Novak, and C.J. Lee have contributed off the bench.

Lucas-Perry is a 6-foot-3 point guard who is heralded as an all-around player. A two-time all-state selection at Flint's Powers Catholic High School, he averaged 21 points and eight rebounds as a senior. He averaged four points and 1.6 boards in 10 minutes per game with Arizona before transferring.

"I'm just going to take it slow, let the game come to me, play my game and get my teammates involved," Lucas-Perry said through a university spokesman. "I'm going to go out there and do what I do best - score the ball, shoot the ball, pass the ball, whatever I need to do. [Playing again] is like an early Christmas present."

It doesn't sound like Lucas-Perry will start Saturday but is at least slated to play.

"We will see how comfortable he is when we first get him in the game," Beilein said of Lucas-Perry Friday. "He's going to have to play through some things, but that is OK. When we played the first game of the year and we had a couple of turnovers or missed a few shots, you couldn't take the whole team out. You let them play through it because it is the first game of the year.

"I think he will go through similar growing pains."

Saturday's game is a home game for Oakland (7-5) and will be played at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The last time UM played in the Detroit Pistons' home building was Dec. 21, 1996, when it beat Arizona 73-71 in overtime.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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