Monday night's end of the year men's basketball banquet was loaded with news. Here it is in a nutshell: Anthony King's future will be decided in a week, Jack McClinton says he can run the point, UM is going to build a practice facility, coach Frank Haith wants to play the Gators, '08 Top 10 national recruit Devin Ebanks will visit the first weekend in May, '07 freshman recruit Freddy Asprilla is still a maybe, the Canes may not be done recruiting for next season, UM's 2007-08 home schedule looks sexy, and ESPN's Andy Katz says the Canes could be a Top 25 team next season.
Now that I've got your attention, let's begin with King.
Haith said after attending last week's Final Four and the National Association for Basketball Coaches meetings he feels there is still a 50-50 chance King will get to stay at UM next season. King, who played in eight games before missing the final 24 and having wrist surgery, needs the NCAA to increase its current maximum permissible number of games played for a medical redshirt from 20 percent to 30 percent. As I reported in Tuesday's edition, King is currently at the 25 percent mark. Haith said even if the proposal is shot down, the NCAA could amend its increase anyway to 25 percent, thus allowing King to return next season. The NCAA will vote soon and a decision is expected to be made either April 16 or 17 according to Haith. But even if King is granted his wish and allowed to return for another season, don't expect him to be 100 percent. When King accepted his award Monday night from his teammates for being dubbed "The Ultimate Teammate," he was still wearing something protective -- either a soft cast or bandages -- on his wrists. Haith said King would likely not be able to return to full health until sometime in July.
Jack McClinton, meanwhile, who was named Team MVP, told me he's not worried at all about making the move to point guard (LISTEN TO AUDIO). McClinton played the point a lot more toward the end of the season when Denis Clemente was suspended for the team's final five regular season games. On a side note, Clemente, who was released from his scholarship last week and will not return to the team, was not at Monday's banquet. But it wasn't because he couldn't attend. Haith said Clemente was invited, but chose not to. He said Clemente is still attending classes at UM and is looking to transfer. I've heard rumors of Clemente being linked to Kansas State and former Miami High coach Frank Martin.
Back to McClinton. He told me he played point guard in prep school two seasons ago and ran the point at Siena. Although at times, he struggled with his dribble last season, he says the area he needs to work on most is his decision making, something he says he plans to work on while playing against pros in several camps in his native Baltimore this summer. Check out the complete audio interview for more.
As for UM's practice facility, it appears likely to become a reality. Three UM sources told me Monday night the school and the city of Coral Gables approved the building of a basketball practice facility, roughly between $4-6 million, in the grass area adjacent to the BankUnited Center. One UM official told me President Donna Shalala is spearheading the effort for the facility, which would have two full courts and six baskets and a locker-room for both the men's and women's team. "It's going to help us compete recruiting -- big time," one UM assistant coach told me. "Everybody is using that against us right now."
One of those teams could be two-time defending national champion Florida, whom Haith said he would love to have back on the schedule in 2009 because the Canes do not have an opening for the Gators in 2007-08. The Hurricanes last played the Gators on Dec. 22, 2005 in Miami, that after beating the Gators on the road in 2004. Haith said he and Florida coach Billy Donovan need to speak to each other instead of through third parties in order to make it happen.
As for the Canes schedule, there will be several sexy match-ups at home including dates against defending ACC champion North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, former Big East rival St. John's and a likely showdown with Georgia at the Orange Bowl Classic. Miami's biggest non-conference road game will be against Mississippi State, which beat UM at home next year. In addition to that schedule, Haith said UM has been invited by ESPN to play in nationally televised preseason tournament in Puerto Rico.
Speaking of ESPN, analyst Andy Katz recently put UM into an interesting category in his initial Top 25 for the 2007-08 season. Here it is verbatim: Teams we'll regret not having, but reserve the right to toss in here after we know all the early-entry fallout: Davidson, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Washington, NC State, Miami, Providence, Virginia, Maryland, VCU, Alabama, Butler, BYU, Southern Illinois, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Georgia, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU. Katz by the way has Kansas as the No. 1 team in the country, followed by UCLA, North Carolina, Memphis and Ohio State. Coach Frank Haith was proud to bring that recent development up Monday night at the team banquet. Hurricanes radio voice Joe Zagacki pointed out during Monday's ceremony how several major analysts at the ACC tournament -- Dick Vitale and Billy Packer -- congratulated Haith throughout the rest of the ACC tournament on how well UM finished its season.
One thing that is not over for Haith and his assistants after last season is recruiting. When I asked him if he was going on vacation somewhere, he laughed. "It's recruiting season," Haith said. "There is no vacation." After the dead period ends on Friday, Haith and his assistants will go back to work. But it won't be just on the Class of 2008. Haith reiterated Monday only two of his 2007 freshman have fully qualified -- point guard Edwin Rios and power forward Julian Gamble. Haith said center Freddy Asprilla, who attended 9th, 10th and 11th grades in his native Columbia, still needs the qualifying test score to get into Miami. If he doesn't get in and King doesn't get his medical redshirt, Miami would have two open scholarships. Haith is not allowed to discuss potential recruits, but when I asked him what he would focus on if Asprilla and King are not on the team next season, he simply smiled and said "good players." "We've got several guys on the burner," Haith said. "But we don't know what is going to happen yet."
One of the best players Haith is after, though, isn't a part of the 2007 class. Devin Ebanks would be part of UM's 2008 Class, and likely the most decorated recruit at UM ever -- even more than Darius Rice. Ebanks was recently rated the No. 1 small forward in the country by Scout.com and the No. 10 player overall. Ebanks is said to be visiting UM the first weekend in May. The Hurricanes hope to make quite an impression because Rutgers, Georgetown and now Texas -- Haith's former team -- all appear to be closing in on trying to sway Ebanks away from UM. Ebanks named UM as his leader last month and Haith and his staff have been following him around at all of his AAU basketball games.
In other tidbits, I spoke with freshman Dwayne Collins, who was awarded The Chairman of the Boards trophy Monday night. Although Haith didn't make a big deal about Collins' future position -- power forward or center, Collins told me he'd prefer playing the power forward spot, which would allow him to play face up to the basket and "block more shots." Collins said he's also been excited about the fact of being reunited with Rios, whom he won a state title with at Miami High in 2005. He pointed out to me how he and Rios were once tabbed the fourth best big man-small man combo in the country by Rivals behind Ohio State's Greg Oden and Michael Conley Jr.
Sophomore forward Brian Asbury, meanwhile, will likely spend his summer locally working out with former Hurricane and current Phoenix Suns forward James Jones and other former local players including Jones' teammate Raja Bell. Asbury's former AAU coach told me Monday he hopes Asbury will make an even bigger step up then he did last season and hopefully learned a lot playing at times as a power forward this season. He says he hopes Haith will run more specific plays for Asbury in games, something he considers will be the next step in AB's growth. Asbury was named the team's Most Improved Player after improving his scoring average from 1.0 ppg to 11.7 ppg.
Here's the rest of the list of award winners from Monday...
Most Blocked Shots: Brian Asbury. Most Assists: Anthony Harris. Best Free Throw Percentage, Three-Point Percentage and MVP: Jack McClinton. Hustlin' Canes Award: Keaton Copeland. Outstanding Defender: James Dews. Ultimate Teammate: Anthony King. Outstanding Student-Athlete: Jonathan Stratton. Above The Rim Sportsmanship Award: Anthony Harris.