AL HAMNIK: Manny, Manny kudos to Wolverines' Novak

2010-05-21T00:00:00Z AL HAMNIK: Manny, Manny kudos to Wolverines' NovakBy Al Hamnik - Times Columnist
May 21, 2010 12:00 am  • 

CHICAGO | Five minutes with most NBA Draft prospects and you can tell if they have character; if you can pay them a fortune to represent your team and not lose sleep at night.

You know they've got game, but can you trust them?

Five minutes is all it takes.

Do their faces light up when talking about the game? You need that, rookie or vet, in an 82-game season.

Are they arrogant and self-promoting?

Do they seem bored or distracted? Texting during media or coaching interviews is a no-no.

Are they sincere and caring?

Such questions are never-ending today. A roster devoid of character can bring a franchise to its knees.

Michigan guard Manny Harris, an early entry in the June 24 NBA Draft, got high marks in all areas at Thursday's NBA Draft Combine. He admitted his faults, pointed out his positives, and when I asked about a teammate from the Region -- Chesterton's Zack Novak -- Manny did hesitate responding.

The Wolverines had a disappointing season, finishing 15-17 overall, 7-11 in the Big Ten.

Harris led Michigan in nearly every offensive category, averaging 18.1 points per game. Novak, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard, was the No. 3 scorer at 7.4 ppg for a team that was 6-16 on the road.

"It's tough to really say what happened. But I know my teammates and myself went out every game and fought as hard as we could. We all gave a 150-percent effort," Harris said. "We lost eight games by six points or less. We just weren't able to close 'em out."

Harris already has worked out for San Antonio and Houston. He patterns his game after the Spurs' George Hill and even resembles Hill. Talking about the future makes it easier for Harris to smile again.

And at Michigan, the future could be Novak.

"I told him to keep working and try his best to keep the team together and win games," Harris said. "Zack Novak's got heart. He's a hard-nosed guy who plays great defense and is the first to dive on the floor. He can shoot the ball real well.

"If he was taller, it'd be even better. But he's not and he still does a great job with what he has."

Novak also struggled, shooting 31 percent from beyond the 3-point line, and that always had been his strength.

Harris compared his all-around game to being a half-step behind that of Ohio State's Evan Turner. He also said he has that killer instinct you can't teach, a trait he shared with Novak in Ann Arbor.

"Zack Novak is a fan of mine and I'm a fan of Zack Novak's," Harris said. "He works extremely hard, will do anything for the team, and as long as they got Zack Novak, they still got a shot at being good.

"Coach (John) Beilein saw something in Zack Novak and Coach is a genius, so he knows," Harris smiled.

When Novak signed with Michigan, there were skeptics throughout Northwest Indiana who believed he could not handle the speed and physical nature of the Big Ten.

Well, he's started 53 of 65 games since stepping foot on campus. Apology accepted.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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