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Gober Previews Miami!

The best four starters for the Miami Hurricanes (+1.8 ppg, +4.2 rpg, -1.1 apg, 4.8 bpg, 43% fg, 35.1% 3-fg, 6.8 3-fg made/g, 67.3% ft, +15 ft attempts, +22 blocks, +0.8 bpg, +39 steals, +1.3 s/g, +0.7 to/g, 0.9 a/t, opponents: 42.6% fg, 36.1% 3-fg, 8.1 3-fg made/g, 0.9 a/t) last season return for the Hurricanes’ second season in the ACC. Those players and Miami’s other returning players are joined by four solid freshman recruits who comprise the 5th best group of ACC recruits coming into the conference for the 2005-2006 season (behind Duke, UNC, NC State and GA Tech).

Considering that Miami finished just one game out of 4th place in the ACC standings in its first season, it could be argued that the Hurricanes have arrived as a good bet to finish in the upper half of the 2005-2006 conference standings in the talent-depleted ACC. It should be noted, however, that Miami had a better record than only 3 ACC teams in its first season in the conference and that the Canes’ Sagarin Predictor power rating and overall performance indicate clearly that Miami has not yet arrived as a solid challenger to the top-25 teams nationally or the established upper echelon teams in the ACC.

Even so, Miami might find its way into the upper half of the ACC standings this coming season due to the exodus of talent from the ACC after the 2004-2005 season, especially at its closest upper echelon competitors, UNC and Georgia Tech.

From last season’s surprisingly competitive team that finished 7-9 in the ACC and tied for 6th place, Miami loses one key component, 6-8 departed senior PF William Frisby (8.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.2 a/t, 44.7% fg, 36.4% 3-fg, 83.6% ft).

Frisby provided inside muscle and accurate shooting for a team that was dominated almost completely offensively by its outstanding guard play. Losing Frisby means more to Miami than some observers might expect, since Frisby was the only inside player for the Canes who could shoot accurately facing the basket, as his 3-point shooting and foul line accuracy attest.

Although the talented guards for Miami gave the Canes the ability to excel offensively last season, teams were able to successfully attack Miami from the perimeter and focus on defending Miami primarily on the perimeter.

Opposing teams hit a higher percentage of 3-point shots and even more 3-point shots per game than the Hurricanes, suggesting that the talented Miami guards need to provide more defense for the Canes to improve and challenge for a place in the upper division of the ACC standings.

Without Frisby around to provide a decent inside scoring presence for Miami, ACC teams almost certainly will be able to focus even more pressure on Miami’s outstanding guards defensively, taking energy from the Canes’ guards that they will need to improve their play at the defensive end of the court.

In its three-guard system, Miami started 6-2 junior 2G Guillermo Jose “Superman” Diaz (18.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.1 a/t, 45.6% fg, 36.3% 3-fg, 70.8% ft, 2nd Team All-ACC), 6-2 senior 2G Robert Hite (17.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.8 a/t, 41.7% fg, 38.1% 3-fg, 86.6% ft, Honorable Mention All-ACC), and 6-2 junior PG Anthony Harris (12.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 0.4 spg, 1.5 a/t, 38.2% fg, 33.1% 3-fg, 70% ft).

Perhaps Guillermo Jose Diaz earned the nickname Superman because even the NBA scouts acknowledge that he has at least a 45-inch vertical leap. Though it may sound unbelievable given that only one player among 75 players tested by the NBA for athleticism in connection with the 2005 NBA Draft, Georgia Tech’s Will Bynum, could exceed a 40-inch vertical leap from a standing position, there are claims that Superman Diaz, a former member of the Puerto Rican Junior National Volleyball Team, has exceeded a 50-inch vertical leap.

Regardless of the measurement of his leaps, Second Team All-ACC player Diaz is the best pure athlete in the ACC again this year just as he was last season.

Joining Diaz to make a terrific combination of scoring guards is Robert Hite, who is a better pure shooter than Diaz and a fine athlete in his own right.

Though Hite and Diaz are small at 6-2 to fill the 2G and WF positions defensively, their athleticism allowed them to combine for 9.3 rebounds per game.

At PG, Anthony Harris provided the ball-handling for Miami at the rate of a 1.5 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Harris also is an offensive weapon for Miami, combining with Diaz and Hite to give the Canes over 48 points per game.

As if the Canes needed any more firepower at the guard position, 6-0 freshman PG Denis Clemente (Prep Stars # 72) is a jet-quick athlete and explosive scorer who can help push the tempo for Miami. Clemente will more than fill the role played by departed 6-2 senior PG Brandon Okpalobi (0.5 ppg, 0.9 apg, 0.6 spg, 20.7% fg, 0% 3-fg, 27.3% ft), a former walk-on who had none of the scoring ability possessed by Clemente but excellent ball-handling ability.

Providing some depth for Miami at the 2G position, but not nearly the caliber of Diaz and Hite, are 6-4 senior 2G Eric Wilkins (1.5 ppg, 36% fg, 0% 3-fg, 47.1% ft) and 6-2 soph 2G Antoine Mayhand (0.8 ppg, 19.2% fg, 17.6% 3-fg, 50% ft).

The WF for Miami in 2004-2005 was usually 2G Hite or some combination of Hite and 2G Diaz. The Hurricanes now have other options at the position, especially defensively, with the arrival of 6-7 freshman WF Adrian Thomas (Prep Stars # 68) and 6-6 freshman WF Brian Asbury (Prep Stars # 80).

Thomas is more physically mature and has shown the ability to compete inside. Asbury is a rail-thin athlete who can shoot accurately from outside and provide defensive help with his long arms and quickness.

Another option at WF is powerful 6-7 soph Raymond Hicks (1.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 50% fg, 57.1% 3-fg, 44.4% ft), though Hicks could play inside at PF. The likely starter at PF for Miami next season is 6-10 senior PF Gary Hamilton (4.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 52.6% fg, 45.2% ft).

Hamilton proved his worth last season as a physical inside player and rebounder in the role of Miami’s top inside reserve.

Anchoring the frontcourt for the Canes will be 6-9 junior PF Anthony King (6.3 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 bpg, 53.2% fg, 49.2% ft, 1st Team All-ACC Defensive Team), who will fill the center position and be a defensive force for Miami. With 3 blocks per game, King forced teams away from the basket where the Miami guards could use their quickness to harass taller ball-handlers. Neither King nor Hamilton, however, has displayed anything close to the shooting ability facing the basket of departed inside player William

Besides Hicks, 6-8 freshman PF Jimmy Graham (Prep Stars # 136) provides the hope of some inside depth for Miami.

A truly big man, 6-11, 335-pound, senior C Glenn Batemon (0.5 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 22.2% fg, 40% ft) provides depth at center, but Batemon appears to be limited by his weight and knees to a half-court style of basketball that does not suit Miami’s stable of quick and speedy athletes.

Even more than last season, the Canes will be dependent on the quality of their talent and depth at the guard positions. Though teams will find Miami’s guards to be among the best in the ACC, the inside offensive game for the Canes may be almost non-existent with the departure of PF William Frisby and the loss of his accurate shooting from the field and the foul line.

Probable starters King at C and Hamilton at PF will get rebounds and provide defense inside for the Canes, but teams will key on the Miami guards defensively if King and Hamilton do not provide increased contributions on offense.

Though Miami lost a key ingredient from its 2004-2005 team, the roster for 2005-2006 is much deeper following the addition of 4 freshmen who could contribute right away. Denis Clemente may prove to be another exciting and spectacular guard on offense for Miami, and Thomas and Asbury provide the Hurricanes with quality and depth at WF, both of which attributes were missing last season.

If Graham can contribute inside, especially in terms of offense, Miami could show improvement from last season and compete for a finish in the upper half of the ACC and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Comparable teams to Miami from last season, Virginia Tech and Clemson, suffered more significant player losses than the Hurricanes, and Miami brought in the better recruits. For that reason, Miami should finish above the teams trying to avoid the ACC cellar without difficulty.

Certainly, Miami cannot expect to have a better opportunity to challenge traditional ACC powers in the ACC standings than the opportunity that will exist in 2005-2006 following the departure of 9 ACC players taken in the first 39 picks of the 2005 NBA Draft (M. Williams-UNC, # 2; Paul-WF # 4; Felton-UNC # 5; May-UNC # 13; McCants-UNC # 14; Hodge-NCS # 20; Jack-GT # 22; Ewing-DU # 32; and Wafer-FSU # 39), numerous other All-ACC caliber players, offensively and/or defensively, including John Gilchrist-MD, Jawad Williams-UNC, BJ Elder-GT, Devin Smith-UVA, Sharrod Ford-CU, and Jackie Manuel-UNC, and still other major contributors to their teams, including Taron Downey-WF, Will Bynum-GT, Luke Schenscher-GT, Carlos Dixon-VT, Elton Brown-UVA, and Adam Waleskowski-FSU.

Given the ability Coach Frank Haith has shown to recruit top quality players, Miami may be building a program that can compete at some time in the near future for an upper division finish in the ACC standings regardless of how deep the talent pool for the rest of the teams in the ACC may be.