I'm going to start off this blog with a disclaimer: In the next few months as the basketball season progresses, expect to see a lot more on basketball. My plan is still to come in and provide what I can on recruiting, football news and baseball season once we get closer to that.
Before we get to hoops, though, a couple topics for you to digest for feedback:
1. As a Canes fan how sick were you to see the Gators win the National Title with ease over Ohio State and become the first champion at the same time in two sports?
2. Do you think Jon Beason made the right decision to leave early?
3. How long do you think it will take the Hurricanes to get back to the national title game in football? And more importantly, how long are you willing to wait?
4. Did any of you get a chance to see any All-Star games -- namely the U.S. Army All-American Bowl? I've been told recruit Harland Gunn looked great opening holes for the West. I saw Nick Fanuzzi interception -- a badly underthrown ball. But I also was told he also made a few other nice passes between defenders. Your thoughts on recruiting are welcome.
OK, that's it. As part of my induction into the ACC basketball writers circle of trust, I've been asked to provide weekly notes to the other papers that go hardcore on hoops. The story below is what I sent to my fellow basketball writers regarding the Canes. In the other blog entry (Around the ACC) is what other writers sent me. I separated them for easy reading.
The idea of Lethal Weapon 3 was supposed to go into retirement at the University of Miami when Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite left for the pros this past summer.
Coach Frank Haith's goal entering this season was to go big and eliminate the idea the Hurricanes couldn't survive without in the ACC without a three-guard lineup. But after 6-9 senior center Anthony King went down last month with what has turned out to be a season-ending wrist injury, those plans have had to be scrapped.
UM (8-8, 1-1) debuted its first three-guard starting lineup of the season against the Wake Forest Saturday when senior Anthony Harris and sophomores Jack McClinton and Denis Clemente lined up for the tipoff.
"I didn't want our team to be that way, but injuries have made us evolve back into that," said Haith, whose team blew a 17-point second half lead and lost to the Demon Deacons 59-58 Saturday night.
"I thought our post guys were going to be the strength of this team, but obviously it's been the other way. So, the perimeter guys are our strength. A lot of that has to do with no King and inconsistencies with Ray Hicks and Jimmy Graham. But it is what it is and that's how it's played out."
Going big was going well for the Hurricanes early on. UM was scoring points in the paint with regularity and was beating teams for the first time under Haith from the inside-out. UM made it to 6-3 on Dec. 3 when it beat Georgia Tech with King in the lineup. But after his injury, the Hurricanes have fallen on hard times with freshman 6-8 Dwayne Collins roaming the paint and a cast of others struggling to help.
With his team struggling, Haith eventually had no choice but to go small again. He played his newest backcourt trio for the first time this season in Miami's 79-78 win at UMass, a game in which Harris exploded for a career-high 33 points and the trio combined for 59 points in the win.
Early on Saturday, it looked like the new lineup was going to deliver another victory. UM jumped out to a 21-5 lead and held a 17-point lead midway through the second half.
But after Clemente went down with a thigh contusion at the 13-minute mark, the game began slipping away. McClinton, who is averaging 18.1 points a game, assumed the point guard duties from Clemente and UM began turning the ball over as Wake turned up its defensive pressure. The Canes committed a season-high 12 turnovers in the loss. McClinton, though, wasn't making excuses. He didn't blame it on his sprained left knee, which could have a bulky brace on it for the remainder of the season.
Clemente, who replaced Harris at the starting point guard nine games into the season, told me Monday he will start when UM visits Maryland Wednesday night and assured me it didn't hurt.
But if his bruised thigh becomes a problem, Harris, who has made 60 of his 61 career starts at point guard, will return to his point guard duties. Haith said Friday he is hoping to use Harris on the wing for the rest of the season.
-- GETTING HIS CHANCE: Senior walk-on Keaton Copeland, meanwhile, became Miami's fifth different starter at power forward this season when he made his first career start at UMass. Copeland, who joined the team prior to the 2004-05 season, is small for the spot at 6-5, 245 pounds.
But Haith said he gave Copeland a shot because he provides the type of effort and gritty work he's been looking for from the spot all season.
"I've been wanting to give Keaton a chance at it for awhile," Haith said. "I just finally said, 'We're going to do it.' He battles at practice every single day. He's not as talented as those other guys, but he plays so hard. My goal is to have our other guys see how hard he plays and see that's what they need to bring if they want minutes. He's good enough where he can make plays."
Copeland had two points, one rebound, two assists, one block and a team-leading three steals in 17 minutes Saturday.
Sophomore Jimmy Graham began the season at power forward and made 10 starts, but has struggled and is averaging 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds. Junior Ray Hicks, who made two starts at the spot, is a player Haith said "needs to come off the bench to be effective.
The other starters have included 6-11 Junior College transfer Fabio Nass, who now appears to have fallen out of the nine-man rotation. Haith said 6-7 freshman Lawrence Gilbert, who made his only start against Nebraska, "is the most talented of the group," but "is still too green."
-- CHEST PAINS: Freshman guard James Dews had a good scare the day before UM's trip to UMass last week. Dews left practice and began complaining of chest pains. He was rushed to the emergency room and kept overnight. Haith said the doctors determined it was not his heart, but chest muscles that were overworked. He flew up to UMass and played sparingly.
Haith told me he expects Dews, who sunk the meaningless three against Wake Forest, to play a more significant role as the season progresses.
-- A FULL HOUSE: Haith said Monday he would like to have his team living on campus next season so they eat better.
Monday, as Clemente was leaving practice with a box full of food, Haith shook his head and said "that boy needs to eat." Clemente is listed a 6-0, 178-pounds. But he's likely lighter than that.
As of now, only freshman are required to live on campus. With new apartments already opened across the street from the Hecht Center, the athletic department is apparently interested in holding several rooms for athletes. The basketball team would be an easy fit with it being such a small roster.