Miami has a long ways to go to be a legitimate ACC team, but they are
nonetheless light years ahead of where they were a few short years ago.
They're going to have to overcome the loss of Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite,
both excellent guards, although Diaz sometimes hurt his team by getting outside
the team game and going solo.
Miami also had some problems last year with Anthony Harris, who lost his
confidence after being injured and never fully recovered his swagger.
He should be back to his effective self this season, and if not, Denis
Clemente was a reasonably promising point guard as a freshman. It should
be a strong point for this team, and if they can run together, so much the
Senior and Durham native Anthony King should be one of the better big men in
the conference. So far he hasn't lived up to that promise, but it's his
last-go-round, and it's his time. He's somewhat limited offensively but is
a solid defender.
After those three players, Miami has a lot of questions. They expected
a lot out of 6-7 swing player Brian Asbury, who had a frustrating season for
Coach Frank Haith, who attributed his erratic play to nerves. Miami will
be really happy if they get a solid season out of him.
Jimmy Graham came in last year with optimistic comparisons to Ben Wallace,
which apparently meant he has to gain skills to match his potential, as Wallace
has done. Or maybe it was the hair.
They also gain Siena transfer Jack McClinton to offer more depth in the
backcourt. Freshmen Dwayne Collins (6-8, 232) and James Dews (6-3, (198)
will also play. Dews averaged nearly 28 points in high school, so he knows
how to put the ball in the hoop, which could be a rare skill this season for the
6-3 Omari Buncum and 6-7 Lawrence Gilbert also join the team.
Miami took some ridicule for recruiting Fabio Nass, a 6-11 guy who impressed
next to no one as a JUCO. But Haith said this summer that you take a risk
on a 6-11 guy, and so he will.
There are a few other players on the roster who might contribute - Landon
Glover, Raymond Hicks, Adrian Thomas, Keaton Copeland, Jonathan Stratton - but
none of them have distinguished themselves so far, and no particular reason to
expect them to do so this year either, although you never know.
Watching what Haith does this season is going to be really interesting, and a
fair measure of his talent as a coach. His first two seasons, he had Diaz,
who is a spectacular physical talent, but who could either force Miami into a
game or force them right out. Teams learned to let him go to an extent
because it crippled the rest of the team.
With Hite, Harris, and Clemente, Miami had the players to run a three guard
offense, and it worked reasonably well.
Who will step up for them this year is a really good question. They
have as many question marks as anyone in the league.
Nonetheless, although they aren't as powerful as the upper echelon teams in
the conference, Miami is immensely better under Haith than they were before, and
he is sifting through to get players who can help them improve. This year
might be a bit of a dip, but the program increasingly appears to be on solid
ground, a fact underscored when Oklahoma pursued Haith after Kelvin Sampson
bolted for Indiana, and Haith turned them down to stay with the 'Canes.
When Miami joined the conference, who would have thought that in a couple of
seasons, there might be more optimism around that program than around State,
Wake or Maryland? Things are changing, and Miami fans should take note.