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Beilein: Chris Webber's return to Michigan 'great step in the right direction'

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Former Michigan basketball player Chris Webber, center, goofs around on the sidelines during the first half Saturday in Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach John Beilein was hoping to link up with former Fab Five member Chris Webber while he was in town this past weekend.

However, Beilein said the moment never materialized and a meeting never took place.

“We did not intersect, but I think it was a great step in the right direction that he was here,” Beilein said Monday. “Whatever we can continue to do to keep those two different entities keep moving together and moving closer to a reunion of everyone, of every basketball program that we've had here in the past is all good.”

More: Chris Webber reflects on 'love' he felt in Michigan return

Webber was the centerpiece of a Michigan team that reached the national title game in 1992 and 1993, but things turned sour when his ties to former booster Ed Martin and a payment scandal led to the Final Four banners being removed from Crisler Center and a 10-year disassociation ban, which ended in 2013.

It has led to a rocky relationship between Michigan and Webber, who was back on campus to serve as an honorary captain for the Michigan football team’s game against Penn State this past Saturday.

Webber received an ovation from the Michigan Stadium crowd when he took midfield for the coin flip and his return to Ann Arbor is a promising sign that the two sides are working toward making amends.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said Webber spoke to the team on Friday. However, Webber did not attend the basketball team’s exhibition against Northwood that same night.

“It was great,” Harbaugh said following the Penn State game. “He had a tremendous message to the team. It was neat watching all our guys wanting to get a picture with him afterwards. That was really cool. Some guys played football or played basketball 20 years, and people kind of forget you. But he’s somebody.”

Beilein said this past summer he has been working to “build bridges” between Webber and the basketball program and remains hopeful a long-awaited reunion will come one day.

“It would be great,” Beilein said last week. “Since I came here 12 years ago, all of that, getting everybody back, former Michigan players to be really connected to the university again. For whatever reasons, whether they were or not, the whole idea is we’re one big great family, and let’s get everyone connected again.”

Slam dunks

Beilein said he expects freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis to start at the four and sophomore forward Isaiah Livers to come off the bench against Norfolk State just like the exhibition against Northwood.

“I do like the rhythm that (starting) team has but more than that, I love having Isaiah Livers come off the bench and really he can take three positions,” Beilein said. “He can just push somebody to a two or go in and play the three or he can go in and play the four. That's really helpful to us.”

… Beilein said the team voted for this season’s captains on Sunday, but he will wait until Tuesday to announce them.

“It won’t be a big surprise,” he said.

Norfolk State at Michigan

Tip-off: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: BTN/950

Outlook: Michigan will hold a pregame ceremony to raise its Final Four and Big Ten tournament title banners to the rafters…Michigan coach John Beilein is one win away from his 800th at the college level…Last season, Norfolk State finished 14-19 overall — its first losing season since 2010-11 — and fourth in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with an 11-5 mark.

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins