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November 25, 2001The praise continues to roll in for Tommy Amaker's first group of fall signees at Michigan. "Tom Amaker has had a really sensational recruiting class," Bob Gibbons of the All-Star Report told the Ann Arbor News recently. "You look at the class in its entirety, and it's very complete."
Warren Wilkins of EliteHoopRecruits.com stated his opinion in a Sporting News roundtable of recruiting writers that Michigan signed the fall's No. 2 class.
"I really like the class that Tommy Amaker brought in at Michigan," Wilkins explained. "He brought in Chris Hunter (6-11, Gary, Ind.), who didn't play anywhere near his capabilities over the summertime. But this kid is very talented. He's got very good athletic ability, he's tremendously skilled for a big guy, he can put it on the floor, he can play on the interior and he can pop out and hit the mid-range jumper."
Greg Swaim of GregSwaim.com agreed. "Tommy Amaker goes into the state of Texas and go head-to-head with everybody in the country -- not just the state of Texas -- and gets Daniel Horton (6-2, Cedar Hill, Texas), who's just a terrific player," Swaim commented in the same roundtable. "And then you get Lester Abram (6-6, Pontiac, Mich.) in-state. (Amaker)'s going to do real well in-state, but with the other schools he's been at -- Seton Hall and Duke -- he's got some national connections that will help. I like the big kid, Hunter, too.
"I have their class ranked No. 8. You'll see Michigan turn it around within two years time. Maybe this year they'll struggle, but next year they'll be better and the year after that, they'll be in the national picture again."
Some of the Wolverines' recruits already are in the national picture -- with their high school teams. Abram's Pontiac Northern team claimed the Class A state championship in March, and this fall the Huskies have received frequent preseason top-25 consideration despite losing guard Ricky Morgan, now at Iowa State, from last season's team. Northern is ranked No. 11 by Student Sports, No. 12 by Hoops USA and No. 15 by USA Today in preseason rankings.
In a recent article by the Oakland Press on his signing, Abram (right) was clear about his objective for the coming season. "The goal is to play 28 games," he said. "That's all the games to get to the state championship."
Northern coach Robert Rogers said that his Michigan-bound senior has stepped up his game since his junior season. "A lot of people might not say this but Lester is a better defensive player than he is an offensive player," Rogers said. "He's very good playing defense. He never backs down from anybody, he wants to check the toughest kids. And he's really worked hard on his passing. He's passing both ways, with his left hand and right hand. Look at him, he's just a happy camper."
Abram's comments to the Press led the paper to conclude that his happiness is attributable to his signing with U-M. "This has always been a goal," he said. "The first time I put that jersey on I'll be like, 'Man, my dream came true.' I'll be playing for the team I always wanted to play for since I was little."
Michigan high schools have not yet begun play, but another signee's team has gotten the chance to start proving it deserves its preseason recognition. Horton's Cedar Hill team was voted the preseason No. 1 team in Texas' Class 5A, and HoopsUSA.com ranked it No. 15 nationally.
Cedar Hill opened the year with victories over Midland and Midland Lee. In the first game, which his team won 74-56, Horton (right) hit 9-of-19 field goals, including 3-of-7 three-pointers, and 6-of-8 free throws for 27 points. He also tallied six rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in the win.
Horton's brother Jason, who runs the point for the team and is widely regarded as one of the top sophomores in the nation, deferred to Daniel in the scoring department, posting a modest total of four points. But Jason filled the lead-guard duties to the tune of nine assists and four steals against Midland. In its second game, Cedar Hill rolled past Midland Lee, 89-53.
More recently, Cedar Hill laid an 85-43 drubbing on the alma mater of former Wolverine Maceo Baston, Dallas Spruce. After building a 40-27 lead at the half, Cedar Hill rode a 45-16 second half to an easy victory. Daniel Horton scored 19 in the win, complemented by seven from his brother.
Hunter and Gary West Side experienced a more inauspicious opening to their season when they crossed the Illinois state line to take on Chicago Farragut and its highly recruited senior post, Elliot Poole. The result was a 66-55 loss for the Cougars, with Poole posting totals of 21 points and 11 rebounds to Hunter's nine and four.
The third U-M signee to have begun his season, 6-10 center Amadou Ba (right), helped his Bridgton (Me.) Academy squad get off on the right foot, posting a 76-67 win over Redemption Christian Academy, which sent sophomore point guard Avery Queen to Michigan two years ago. Ba has found himself pushed to the forefront of Bridgton's post picture by an injury to its 7-2 Missouri signee Giedrius Rinkevicius.