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8 posts from May 2007

May 31, 2007

New Turkey Day Special: UM-USF

Sorry I haven't been around much this week, but like most of the people in the business I'm about to head off on three straight weeks of vacation -- its the only real time we can afford to be off -- and trying to get as many stories done before the summer break.

I just wanted to check in quickly for this news update just released from UM's sports information office. The Canes are going to be playing South Florida a lot over the next few seasons. Four times to be exact on Thanksgiving weekend from 2010 through 2013.

Miami was already scheduled to meet the Bulls in 2012 and 2013. But now they've added two more dates. The two new games added to the schedule are on Nov. 27, 2010 in Miami and Nov. 26, 2011 in Tampa. The dates of games already scheduled in September of 2012 and 2013 (which were announced a year ago) were changed to Nov. 24, 2012 in Miami and Nov. 30, 2013 in Tampa.

UM and USF will play on Sept. 26, 2009, which is the second game of a home-and-home series that began in 2005. The Hurricanes and Bulls played for the first time on Oct. 1, 2005 at the Orange Bowl with Miami winning 27-7.

"Coach Leavitt has done a tremendous starting the football program at USF," said Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon in a statement released by UM. "These games will be a great experience for college football fans throughout the entire state of Florida."

Not sure how I really feel about this, except there is no doubt USF is coming out a winner. I know UM wanted to develop another out-of-conference rivalry like it once had with Florida State before Miami joined the ACC. But is scheduling the Bulls really the best choice? Or is USF simply the best AVAILABLE choice? On paper at least it seems that way when you consider the Gators have never really wanted to develop an annual rivalry with the Canes. USF is in the Big East and is obviously better and further along than UCF, FIU and FAU. But the day USF finally beats Miami -- and it will happen at least once -- it will be a huge victory for the Bulls and will help them build enough of a case in which they can finally claim to be somewhat equal to Florida's elite three.

I know USF hasn't won a national title. And that's still a distinct difference between it and the big three. But when USF can say it not only plays UM on a regular basis, but can beat them too, it invites real competition in recruiting. Right now, I don't care what anybody says, USF still is second-rate to Miami, Florida State and Florida and will not beat those three in a head-to-head battle for a big-time recruit. But the day the Bulls start beating one of those three on the field, it levels the playing field.

Anyway, those are my two cents. How do you feel about Miami and South Florida inking an ongoing series from 2009-2013? Is it smart for the Canes? Or do you like the fact UM is establishing another rivalry with an in-state program?

Answer the poll and chime in with your thoughts below.

May 25, 2007

Weekend Wrap-Up: A chat with Coach Shannon & more

I went out Thursday night to watch the high school football jamboree at Traz Powell Stadium and to check out some potential recruits. I got much more. I caught up with Coach Randy Shannon, who was there scouring the field for talent along with defensive coordinator Tim Walton. Coach was cool enough to provide me enough content for an unexpected Q&A. The topics we covered: recruiting and the new emphasis UM has in making South Florida feel loved by the Canes, why he wants the team to get faster this spring, his feelings on the OB, Paul Dee's departure and more.

Before we get to the Q&A, though, I want to fill you on what else is in store in this blog: A new video highlight reel of Canes basketball recruit Edwin Rios, my thoughts on the recruitment of Devin Ebanks, the top kids I saw with my own eyes Thursday night (got some photos I shot too), my conversation with Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe and why he took former Cane Willie Williams and of course another poll. I also wanted to thank The Eye on The U family for participating in the last three polls I've posted as well as your comments. Any more messages after this are greatly appreciated. Feel free to leave me a question. When I get enough good ones, I'll put together an Ask Manny Q&A session.

Thanks. And now to the Q&A with Coach Shannon. (By the way, doesn't the picture I snapped look like he's saying 'South Florida, this is my turf!')

Q: So I know you've obviously been out recruiting, where have you been focusing on mostly since the end of the spring?
A: Basically, I've been staying locally. Schools in the Florida region from Tampa to Orlando down and kind of concentrating on doing what we're doing in South Florida.

Q: I know you can't talk about specific recruits, but it seems this year the talent level has picked up a little bit with the Class of 2008 -- especially in South Florida.
A: There is a lot of talent in South Florida and that's the one thing everybody knows and everybody is coming down for. It's like I tell everybody in our coaching staff as long as we do right by coaches, the parents and the kids, we'll be fine and we'll get the players that want to be at Miami. But if you don't do right by the coaches across Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties and by the kids, you won't get them.

Shannon_this_is_my_turfQ: Is that why you feel the need to be out here showing your face instead of just having your assistants out here? To show the community you guys are serious about keeping the talent at Miami?
A: Yeah. It is. It's like I tell everybody, I'm still the same coach. I'm not going to change. I went to a couple of schools today and mingled with a couple coaches, joked around with them like when I was an assistant. I don't want to be put on a pedestal and I never will. Because I think even though I'm the head coach we should always be treated the same way.

Q: Knowing the community and covering it the way I did as the high school writer in Dade for five years I got the sense from some local coaches that they didn't feel UM was making the effort recruiting locally as it should have been before you became coach. Did UM not put enough emphasis on South Florida in the last couple of years?
A: No. I was out [recruiting]. I had North Florida up. From West Flagler up. I was always at the jamborees and doing the things I was doing. I guess some people get used to seeing me all the time, they're like well, we need to see other people. But everybody had a part of a recruiting area. Myself, I'm not able to go on the road as much as I used to. But now we've put four coaches in Dade County. Four coaches in Broward County. Palm Beach has three coaches. We're kind of concentrating now on having a lot of coaches being seen. And I think that's one reason people might have felt that way because they didn't see Miami, but they saw me all the time. And now it's more faces. And when you got more faces, more coaches in one area and you have a chance for one coach to focus on 12 schools instead of having 28 schools or 24 schools and now this coach can really spend time with those high school coaches.

Q: I know you've seen some pretty great teams come through here. Northwestern could be No. 1 in the country next year, not talking about players, but have you seen a team that talented here in Dade before?
A: There's been some teams that were talented in Miami. A lot of teams. I would never count no team out in Dade County. Northwestern, Central, Norland. Talent isn't always going to win the game. And I think the coaches in Dade County understand its going to come down to those one or two plays in the season where a kid has to be disciplined to win the game. And that's where winning all comes from.

Q: But are they the best team, you think?
A: I don't know. That's the thing about Dade. There's always a sleeper team out there. That nobody don't know about and they come up and get you.

Q: I know from talking to your players there's been a different focus in the weight room this spring -- speed, speed, speed -- is that something you wanted them to focus on?
A: Yeah. Because that's the one  thing we want to do. We want to be a fast team. A fast paced team. We want to play fast, think fast and never get in a lull where you are just going through the motions and I that's when your going to fail.

Q: Is that something you think you guys got away from?
A: I don't know about all that. The past is the past. I don't worry about that. I just concentrate on what I believe in and what we're doing. And we'll be successful  that way.

Q: Any specific rules to the guys as far as what you want them doing and what you don't want them doing this offseason?
A: No. I just told them to enjoy football. That's what they're there for and to go to school and enjoy life. If you don't enjoy football and don't enjoy school, don't go to college. That's just like you wake up everyday and enjoy what you're doing and I wake up everyday and enjoy what I'm doing. If I can't enjoy it, I got to do something else.

Q: There's been a few things that have happened since the end of the spring, Paul Dee of course, stepped down. Can you talk about that and what he's meant to the university.
A: Paul's done a lot of great things at the university as far as getting facilities built on campus, fund-raising and doing things I think the campus is proud of. He felt like it was time for him to move on and find a new role to find something he could get done. But the university is excited about it. They're proud of what he's done. Sometimes it's a sad situation, but sometimes change is good.

Q: There is obviously the issue with the Orange Bowl, I know its a question many people at The U are trying to sidestep, but how do you feel about it?
A: I don't even worry about it. You can't control it and you can't do anything about it. When that decision is made by the President, and Paul Dee and everybody that is involved with it, it will be. Until then, I don't worry about.

Q: But what do you like about the Orange Bowl as far as home field advantage?
A: I don't even like talking about it to be honest with you. For me as a player, it was great for me to play there, but I can't... wherever your going to play your going to play. Being here at Traz Powell, this is a great to play, but I never got a chance to coach back at Traz Powell. So, you got to move on.

Q: We didn't really get to talk to you after the spring and when you and your staff made your evaluations, but who were you excited about as a coach?
A: All the guys competing and not relying on their laurels and thinking they're really good when they're really not. And I think we did a good job of that and we're going to keep doing that.

Q: Any guys have any injuries that might keep them out of the fall?
A: No. Only one guy is Reddick. Other than that, everybody else is fine.

Q: How is Anthony? How are his spirits?
A: He was great. He was cracking jokes today. Good spirits. It's part of things that happen. Sometimes you can't control things and he's not worried about it.

Q: How is your son, Xavier, doing over at FIU?
A: He's doing alright. He likes the new staff over there. He loves Coach Cristobal and the staff. They're excited and he thinks they're going to be pretty good and going in the right direction. And that's how he feels.

Q: So what are the next couple of months are going to be like for you? You going to take a break?
A: I'll take a break. But for now I just worry about what I got to do each day and I only got a few days left with recruiting. And when the summer comes, I'll go to the next job and get it done.

There's no doubt there is a different feel now in Dade about the Canes with Randy as coach. I know when Susan Miller Degnan and I wrote a story a few years back about coaches in South Florida feeling ill toward the Canes' recruiting habits, there were a few people who criticized us for writing it. They said we were crazy. But after talking with Randy, I feel a bit vindicated. There's no doubt The U wasn't doing enough locally in trying to nab talented football players. The fact Randy has now assigned four coaches to Dade and Broward each and three to Palm Beach tells you he was feeling a need for Miami to resupplant itself in South Florida. He's just not the type of guy to call Coach Larry Coker out on it. That's not his style. Just look at some of his other responses. Randy knows what to stay away from, but he also knows how to get his point across in other ways when you read between the lines.

As for Randy himself, what he did Thursday at Traz was not a drive by hello. He spent several hours talking to not only coaches, but parents, school administrators and people in the community. I actually left the stadium before he did. I was impressed.

Now, to the other topics.

Devinebanks2TOPIC OF THE WEEK -- HUNTING DEVIN EBANKS: After my Q&A with highly touted 2008 recruit Devin Ebanks ran earlier this week, I had about a half hour conversation with coach Frank Haith Wednesday. He can't talk specifically about recruits, but we did talk about recruiting and his concerns. Without a doubt, Haith is concerned about negative recruiting and says that has become the toughest hurdle for him in his quest to sign big name kids. He isn't the first coach to tell me how message boards and comments left in blogs are all read by potential recruits.

With the Canes competing against Indiana for Ebanks, Hurricanes fans should try their best to make Ebanks feel wanted. On this blog alone, there were just about as many messages from Indiana fans pushing Ebanks toward their school as there were Canes fans. I didn't specifically ask Ebanks if he reads message boards, but plenty of football recruits have told me over the years they do and they do feel more enthusiastic about a school when there is support for them and not angst.

As it stands, Miami is in a hole with Ebanks. His mother is pushing Indiana and so is his AAU coach. As much as he may like the Hurricanes, going against mom and coach is not going to be easy. The fact UM is still even in with Ebanks is startling and says a lot about the way he feels about Haith.

Even if UM doesn't end up getting Ebanks, Canes fans shouldn't fret. Haith has a history of missing some big time recruits, then landing another. At Texas, he lost out on a highly touted recruit to Arizona in 2002 then got P.J. Tucker, the Big 12 Player of the Year the following year. At Wake Forest, he lost Matt Carroll (now with the Bobcats) to Notre Dame and replaced him with Mavericks forward Josh Howard.

"One player doesn't make our team," Haith told me. "We're going to get good players."

From reports, Miami has been doing well in the Northeast in the New Jersey, Washington, D.C. area with a few other potential recruits and have apparently made up ground for local 6-10 forward Eloy Vargas, who was supposedly a shoe-in for Pitt. Also, don't count the Canes out for 2009 recruit Kenny Boynton from Pompano Beach Ely.

WILLIE'S NEW COACH: Among the many college coaches on the sideline at Thursday's jamboree -- I saw coaches from FIU, FAU, Central Michigan, Maryland, Florida State and Bowling Green in attendance -- was new Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe.

WilliewilliamsI introduced myself and talked to him for about 10 minutes about one of his more controversial first moves as coach of the Cardinals, signing former Hurricanes linebacker Willie Williams. Kragthorpe told me he met Williams, the consensus No. 1 linebacker in the country in 2004, the first week on the job and visited him and his family in Miami. He said what he liked most about Willie was his personality.

"I think a lot of us would agree Willie made some decisions he was not proud of when he was younger," Kragthorpe said. "But it doesn't mean he hasn't grown up or matured. He has. He's learned from those mistakes. And he and his family are excited about the opportunity he'll have with us at Louisville."

Kragthorpe said football-wise, he was very impressed with what he saw from Williams when he was playing JUCO ball West Los Angeles Community College and says Willie reminds him of Lawrence Taylor. But just because Williams may be talented and more mature, Kragthorpe said that doesn't mean he won't be given a tight leash.

"All of our uys are representatives of our football team and state," Kragthorpe said. He's got to make good decisions just like everybody else."

I spoke to Williams' older sister, Sharia Williams, who is currently seeking her masters at Florida State, earlier this week. She said Willie, who was arrested 11 times as a juvenile and violated his probation on a recruiting trip to Florida, has matured greatly and says "he's ready to do all the things he's always wanted." She said he has his own two-bedroom apartment in Louisville. Williams' younger brother, Monsignor Pace offensive lineman Greg Shaw, is a player in the 2008 class UM is recruiting.

WHO IMPRESSED ME THURSDAY: I didn't stay for the entire jamboree, but long enough to talk to the coaches and players from Carol City, American, Central, Norland, Krop, Jackson, North Miami Beach and Edison.

Etienne_sabinoWithout question the most impressive specimen was Krop linebacker Etienne Sabino. The kid not only has size, 6-2, 230 pounds, but he was quick and had a tremendous nose for the football. I spoke to Sabino earlier this week and he told me he has more than 30 offers. I believe it. He's legit and a high priority for the Hurricanes in my opinion considering they could use some talented linebackers. I'm not sure where Sabino will eventually end up, but his defensive coordinator is former Southridge and Florida State linebacker Lamont Green. Sabino told me he grew up a Canes fan after he and his family moved down to Miami from New York. But that won't play a role he says in his decison.

Robertsands_2I got a good look at some other kids including Carol City safety Robert Sands, who at 6-5, 200 pounds looks a lot like current Canes safety Kenny Phillips. He even wears No. 1 like Phillips did when he was playing for Walt Frazier. But just because he looks like Kenny, doesn't mean he plays like Kenny. Sands is a nice player, he starts both ways at tight end and safety. But he doesn't have that special quality Phillips had when he was a senior. At least not from what I saw from two quarters Thursday.

MarquiselawThere were a few other guys who looked good. American 6-4, 190-pound receiver Marquise Law, whom scout Larry Blustein told me did well at a few combines and is being looked at by South Florida and Louisville. American had a tough defensive end, though, that I liked a bit more, 6-2, 220-pound defensive end Oliver Vernon, a 2009 recruit, who has long arms and a nose for the football.
--> Also on my spotted list, Norland's 2008 class of 5-11, 170-pound corner Emmanuel Sourin, 6-4, 220-pound defensive end Sean Ferguson and 6-4, 250-pound offensive tackle Kenneth White. Ferguson was the most impressive and from what I heard has lots of schools looking at him. He's tough and plays both ways. Sourin is a good, quick corner.
--> Central had a handful of kids I liked including 6-1, 200-pound linebacker Matt Darden-Sims, who made at least 15 tackles. He's got Louisville, UCF and USF on his tail. Central has a 2010 graduate in quarterback Jeffery Godfrey who has as strong an arm as I've ever seen on a kid his age. He's certainly one to watch in the future.

VIDEO CLIP OF THE WEEK: Ok, last but not least. More video highlights from future Canes point guard Edwin Rios. I'm not trying to hype the kid any more than he already is, but I keep getting emails with new video links on YouTube from his family. This is the final one, I promise.

May 24, 2007

Summer workouts with Doug E. Fresh

The Class of 2007 at the U is expected to be one of the best in quite some time. And at the top of that list is cornerback Doug Wiggins, who left high school early and enrolled at UM in January along with running back Graig Cooper. I caught up Wiggins -- whom fellow Cane Kayne Farquharson has dubbed Doug E. Fresh -- Tuesday afternoon while he was working out at North Miami Beach High with his former teammates. We talked about what he got out of the spring, what he's working on now in the offseason, where he thinks he'll play in the fall, what he does away from the field, his relationship with Randy Shannon and some of his best Shannon stories from this spring.

DougwigginsHere's some background. Wiggins, 5-11, 180 pounds, was a three-year starter at NMB at quarterback, safety, kicker, punt returner and kick returner and is one of the most likable kids you'll meet. His high school coach Jeff Bertani was named Dade's Football Coach of the Year in Class 6A-4A after taking a team with only 33 players to the state semifinals. He wouldn't have done it without Wiggins. Last Friday, Wiggins was honored by The Miami Herald when he was named the most Outstanding Senior in the Class of 2007 in the county. Bertani says Wiggins will be a great one at UM and likely leave among the best to ever play the cornerback position. I believe him. He and Chavez Grant, another Miami kid, could form a formidable tandem in the years to come.

Despite being tabbed once Quarterback U, UM certainly has begun to produce a greater number of talented NFL defensive backs in the past few years. Which leads me to today's poll question below. After making your selection, please feel free to chime in on why you picked the defensive back you did.


Q: Last week you were honored by The Miami Herald with the Outstanding Senior Award in Miami-Dade County. How did you feel about receiving that?
A: It felt great. Any award I received over the end of the school year is great. I'm looking to bigger and better things now.

Q: You got to enroll at UM early. What do you think you got out of the spring?
A: I got a lot out of it. It was good for me to stay in shape because the time I had off after the Northwestern game [the loss in the state semifinals] and traveling and eating I got a little out of shape and put on some weight. I'm back to my playing weight now. I'm good to go. I learned the plays. I got acclimated with the school, the coaches and the plays were the big thing. I'm still trying to get them. They are way different than high school.

Q: What do you think has been the toughest adjustment for you to the college game?
A: The speed of the game is way much faster. I don't know if its from not knowing the plays and can't go full speed because you are second guessing yourself. That's the only the thing that was kind of stopping me. At times I felt I couldn't go around making plays because I was trying to figure out where to be at. But I carry my playbook with me every where I go. I got it with me now practicing here at school and I look at it all the time.

Q: How hard are you working to learn those plays and how much are you working out right now in your off time?
A:  I work out two times a day. At 6:45 in the morning I do it at UM. And then I come out and workout with my teammates at North Miami Beach in the afternoon.

Q: How did the first spring under UM strength and condition coach Andreu Swasey go for you? Are you lifting more weight and are you faster?
A: I'm way bigger, way stronger. I've come back to the weight room and I'm a beast now. My bench went up 15 pounds. I'm at 275 now. I came in lifting like 260s. My squat has gone up. I came in at 405. I'm at 435. I've learned different techniques now and working out muscles now I didn't even know I had. The workouts seem like forever. It's real intense. That's the difference between college and high school. You got to get the same amount of work you used to do in 2 hours in about in hour and a half. You can't sit down like you do in high school and take a break. He makes us do various things. We work our upper body or lower body or a mix of both.

Q: I've heard this year the focus of the spring workouts is speed, getting back to what the Canes have always been known for. Is that the case?
A: Yes. Speed, speed, speed. Last year, the guys said they felt like they were conditioning or training for cross-country. Now, it's speed and getting in the place at the right time. He said he's going back old school. I think the last time they did this was before Larry Coker became head coach. He said we were running long distances, things like that. Now, we're basically doing 100s, 200s and things like that. I guess they were running thousands and thousands of laps to get their conditioning up. I'm in excellent shape right now. I feel I'm in better shape than I ever was in high school.

Q: Who did you become friends with over at UM and who took you under their wing over there?
A: Pretty much the whole defensive backfield took me in. They knew I was young, going to make mistakes, but they took me under their wing. Safeties and all. But they taught me the easiest ways to remember plays. I got close with Kenny Phillips and Chavez Grant. They're from here, so they can relate to me. Me and Chavez play the same position, so he taught me little tricks to get in position and be a good defender.

Q: What have you been doing as far as hanging out now that you have some time off from school? What are you doing at night? Are you studying the playbook, going out with the guys, watching TV?
A: Well, we don't start class until June, but I'm not a going out person. I pretty much stay home with the fam and look over the playbook once and a while. I'm pretty much staying home with my little brother. I'm not a parent yet. I'm not planning to be for awhile. I pretty much sit and watch TV, talking to my family, my girlfriend comes over every once and a while. We sit home or go out and catch a movie or eat with the family. I'm a BET guy all the way. When I'm not watching that, it's ESPN or Jamie Foxx or the Wayans brothers, all those episodes that come in the morning.

Q: What would you say people would be surprised to learn about you personally?
A: My work ethic. I'm real serious about football. I'm real serious about it now. I don't think I took football this serious before. I know if I don't produce and coming from Miami, I know my job can be taken in a minute. I'm out working everyday, trying to get better.

Q: Where do you think you got that work ethic from, coach Shannon, your teammates?
A: Pretty much its everything. I sit back and analyze. I read the paper. I read Rivals.com. And I see people are ranked real high and one day I want to be just like Kenny Phillips and be a potential top 10 draft pick just like Calais Campbell is gonna be. I know in my heart if I stay around the right people I can do that. I got a long way to go. I'm not trying to do it all in one year. But by my junior or senior year, I should be ready to lead and be in the ranks like some of those guys like Kenny and Calais.

Q: What did coach Shannon or defensive coordinator Tim Walton tell you about your role next season? Are you going to redshirt? Are you going to play a lot, nickel packages, dime packages? Could you return some kicks, punts?
A: Coach Shannon told me I was going to be in the dime package. He said I'm the dime back. Dime and nickel is where I am at. In the special teams, kickoff returns and punt returns, that's still up for grabs, pretty much. But Dime and Nickel packages. In dime I think I'm the only dime pack. In the nickel its me and Chavez Grant. The starting corners I believe are Randy Phillips and Glenn Sharpe. That's how it began. There's still a lot of shuffling to do. As far as the returns, its pretty much everybody. It's me, Graig [Cooper], Darnell [Jenkins], everybody is back there. I know we got a lot of freshman in the Class of '07 that's coming and going for that. It's going to be a lot of competition right there.

Q: Are you good friends with any of the other incoming freshman? You talk to them much?
A: Me and Demarcus Van Dyke got a cool relationship. We text message each other all the time. I couldn't get to his party last Friday because I had to do something with my family. But he told me it went well. We chatted a little bit before the All-Dade banquet and I pretty much told him what we were doing over the spring and what he needed to work on. He asked me what's the hardest thing and we talked about that. Hopefully, next year, we'll be roommates if things go right.

Q: In the spring you were living with running back Graig Cooper on campus right? What was that like?
A: It was awesome. It's good to room with somebody who is not from here. You like to see what they do, what type of music they like to listen to and it was pretty much that we're the same type of people. He don't like to go out that much, I don't either. We went to sleep at the same time. We like the same people. It wasn't I want to watch this and he want sto watch that. It was pretty much what he liked, I liked.

Q: What we're you impressions of him on the field?
A: He's going to be a great back, the recruiting class that is coming in and the young guys we have like receiver Sam [Shields]... woo... I don't know even know what to say. It's going to be awesome man. It's kind of like the old UM. It's something I've never seen before. The guys we got coming in and the young guys out there playing right now, it's going to be scary.

Q: Are you helping recruit some of those guys in the Class of 2008? I know you know a lot of them.
A: I know some of the guys over at Northwestern, since the game, I talk to them on the computer and they seem real excited. I know its a recruiting process and I told them to make their own decisions. But if we get those guys, man, scary ain't the word. UM should be good for the next 30 years. I know the recruiting is only going to get better. It got good in 2007 and it's only going to get better.

Q: Before we hang up, give me your best Randy Shannon stories from the spring and from when you were being recruited.
A: Well, every week we have team meetings and everybody gets nervous because he has a list. And if you on that list because you missed a class or a teacher said something about you, you can't take your shoes off, your clothes off, you got to go back outside and receive your punishment. I remember one time, the whole team was on that list because there were some towels that was missing out of the locker room. It was pouring down rain and we were all outside doing sit-ups and push-ups. He's real strict. For towels, man. For towels. It was fun, though, being out there with the guys. We all kind of laugh about it now.

Q: And as far as him recruiting you, what did you like about him so much? I know you told me before you really weren't feeling the Canes until he became coach.
A: The relationship me and Randy had when he was recruiting me was awesome. I didn't know his job situation being at UM because I knew Coker was on the hot seat. As soon as he got fired, I didn't talk to Randy much. But then, when I was in Michigan and I heard Randy got the job, I called my dad and told him I'm going to be a UM guy but don't tell nobody, I want to announce it at the banquet. I know Randy we're the same type of guys. He wants the same things I do. He wants to win and I want to win and he wants to push you to the limit so you can achieve that. And that's me.

May 23, 2007

Hunting Devin Ebanks

I promised an interview with freshman cornerback Doug Wiggins, but I have to change plans for this entry and make good on another promise. After weeks of phone calls, I finally got potential Canes basketball recruit Devin Ebanks on the phone. We talked for just five minutes, but I got the essential questions in on where the Canes stand with him after his unofficial visits to the UM campus and Indiana University the past two weeks.

Devinebanks2Ebanks is considered a Top 10 national recruit and the No. 1 small forward in the country by Scout.com in the Class of 2008. At 6-8, 200 pounds, he would be a huge catch for the Canes, who haven't had this highly-touted of a recruit interested in the program since Darius Rice picked UM. Most believe if not for the new college rule, Ebanks could go pro straight out of high school. Some experts have compared him to former UConn star Rudy Gay and some compare him to this year's College Basketball Player of the Year Kevin Durant. The fact UM is even in the running should impress Canes hoops fans.

Before I get to the Q&A, I want to help those who might not know much about Ebanks get a look for themselves. I found two videos, one on YouTube and another on a website, which I've linked here. These are highlights of Ebanks when he played at Bishop Laughlin in Brooklyn, N.Y. as a sophomore. He is No. 3. As for the YouTube highlights, I believe the video is from the weekend he visited Indiana and played in a weekend AAU tournament.


Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself, when you started playing and where you grew up and who you might have looked up to as a player?
A: I started playing ball when I was five in Queens. John Starks, the Knicks were guys I looked up to.

Q: When did you first start getting recruited by UM and coach Frank Haith and what do you like about Coach Haith?
A: The first I spoke to him was this year when we played South Kent (CT.) He came to watch us play. He's a very down to earth guy. I can talk to him about things other than basketball. I like that a lot.

Q: Have you actually narrowed down your list of schools and if so who is at the top?
A: Miami, Indiana, Rutgers and Texas in that order. But I'd have to say Miami and Indiana are neck-and-neck.

Q: I know you visited UM and Indiana unofficially. Have you visited any other campuses and is there a chance you could make an official visit to Miami?
A: I already visited Rutgers. I'm going to visit Texas. But I just haven't made a decision yet when. I'll probably take an official visit to Miami before my next season starts in November.

Q: What do you like about Miami and the visit?
A: I really like the whole environment. It felt like a family. I met President Shalala. She was great. I also spoke with the athletic director and the director of academics.

Q: What do you like about Indiana and your visit there?
A: I liked Indiana. It's a basketball town. There's a lot of tradition.

Q: I heard your mother went with you on both trips and that in the end she may have more say than anyone else on where you end up. How does she feel about the schools?
A: My mom liked Indiana and she thinks Miami s a little far from home. Obviously her opinion at the end of the day does play a role, but this is going to be my decision. I'm going to be the one living there. I'll probably make the decision at the end of the summer, but even if I do, I won't sign until November.

Q: Does the fact Indiana has more basketball tradition than Miami favor the Hoosiers and does the fact Miami finished in last place last year in the ACC hurt the Canes?
A: Not at all. That aspect has nothing to do with my decision. I like to think I can take UM to new heights.

At this point, we concluded the interview because he had to go to study hall. Ebanks told me to give him a call later Tuesday night. He never answered.

This is some of what other papers have reported in the past two weeks since he made his visits.

"I would probably have to say it is neck-and-neck now because before I had seen Miami but had not seen it here, and I like what I see here," Ebanks told Indiana's student newspaper.

"Here it is really family-oriented," Ebanks said. "Coach (Sampson) talked about family a lot when we talked to him. He is a hardworking coach, and if I come here he will really help me with my defense. He says he is a defensive coach, and I really need to work on my defense. That will be a main key there."

"I watched the movie 'Hoosiers,' so I am thinking I am going to a basketball state," said Ebanks. "Then I met the people and went out with some of the students and it definitely met up with my expectations." 

Also hurting the Canes chances: Indiana 2007 recruit Eric Gordon talks with Ebanks almost daily. The two became friends playing AAU basketball. Kenny Gantman, one of Ebanks’ AAU coaches, is a 2001 IU graduate according to the Indiananpolis Star.

Here's a link to another blog, one from a reporter named Adam Zagoria from the Herald News in New Jersey that has followed Ebanks closely for awhile now. ZAGSBLOG.

Aside from all that, reports suggest Ebanks was close to committing to Miami two months ago and has a much deeper relationship with Haith. Although Haith cannot specifically talk about recruits, I've been told by sources at UM in the past Haith has known Ebanks since before he was a teenager. Haith has family that lives in New York City including his brother, whose son you'll remember was shot and killed earlier this year.

I also was told part of the reason Ebanks' mom didn't like the visit to UM as much as Indiana was because the family stayed on South Beach. My source told me his mom didn't like the party environment and would like to see her son in a place where he can't get in trouble. Ebanks was supposedly expelled at Bishop Laughlin according to the New York Post because of a run-in with a teacher. He is now at St. Thomas More Prep School in Connecticut. I'm sure if Ebanks makes another trip to UM, Haith and company will make sure to take the troubled thoughts of South Beach out of his mother's head.

Haith has done a tremendous job recruiting big name talent in the past. As an assistant at Texas, he was named the recruiter of the year by Rivals.com. At Wake Forest, he did a great job too. So far at Miami, he's done a great job keeping the local talent here. Edwin Rios, once considered a top five national recruit in the Class of 2007, will likely be the biggest catch of his first four years. And there is the potential Miami could end up getting Broward's Eloy Vargas, a 6-10 power forward, and 2009 national recruit Kenny Boynton of Ely down the road. But Ebanks would give Haith the highly-touted recruit he needs to prove to Canes fans he really was as good as advertised when Paul Dee hired him.

The fact UM finished 12-20 and last in the ACC last season, his third at the helm, has certainly put the microscope on him a bit and added a little more pressure going into next season in the eyes of fans. But Haith has told me on a number of occassions he believes next year's team is more than capable of being top five in the ACC and without a doubt a postseason team. Getting Ebanks and having most of that talent return in 2008 could potentially be the sparkplug that gets Miami back into the NCAA Tournament and the Sweet 16 and where it once was more at the end of Leonard Hamilton's tenure. But without a winning season next year, who knows what will happen with the program.

Which leads me to our poll question.

Thanks and feel free to leave your comments below.

COMING THURSDAY: The Q&A with UM freshman cornerback Doug Wiggins.

May 22, 2007

Chasing down Kayne

After being sideswiped last week with the assignment of locating the last 50 years worth of Athletes of the Year in Miami-Dade, I've returned to Eye on The U this week with a series of Q&As with some football players. My first subject is incoming junior college receiver Kayne Farquharson, who by far could be the coolest Hurricane I've ever dealt with. Kid loves wearing The U and can't wait to get on the field. Personally, I can't wait to see him. Cornerback recruit Doug Wiggins, who played at UM this spring as an incoming freshman, said Farquharson is by far the funniest guy on the team and a great friend.

Among the highlights of my conversation with Farquharson Tuesday afternoon: His request to wear Michael Irvin's old No. 47 jersey number, his private workouts with Kyle Wright, and his parking lot receiver-defensive back battle with incoming freshman DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Before we get to the interview, though, I'd like to get your take on a poll question regarding UM receivers. Feel free to chime in as to why you made you vote at the end.

Now to the Cane interview with Kayne.

Q: How are you doing Kayne?
A: I'm good baby. I'm always doing baby, I ain't never had bad days.


Q: I saw the video of you hanging out with incoming freshman recruit DeMarcus Van Dyke the other night on Canesport.com. Looks like you guys were having fun. You guys becoming good friends?
A: You know I got to show love to my Canes. It don't matter where you at. If you call me and you part of The U, I'm coming baby. I'm good friends with anybody who puts on number 1 through 99 who wears that U jersey or hat or who used to wear that U jersey or hat. I make it my business to make myself a good friend of yours. I'm cool with everybody, even the kickers.

Q: So what jersey are you going to wear? You got a number yet?
A: Man, print this in the newspaper. I'm trying to get No. 47 man. I don't know how its going to work out. I've got to speak to the head man and ask him if its possible and let him know the reason I want to wear the number. I just want to take it to the next level.

Q: Have you spoken to Michael Irvin about it yet? Was he your favorite at UM? Is he the guy you want to be like?
A: I've never spoken to Michael Irvin in person and I don't remember the last time I saw Michael Irvin was two years ago and I never got a chance to speak to him. Hell, yeah I'd love to talk to him. That's one of the greatest receivers that has ever come through this school. On the field, I'd love to be like him. Off the field, I can't judge nobody, but he got kind of caught in a lot hoopla. But on the field, that's what the U is all about. I look at Mike. He was like "I'm the best." I think "I'm the best." I don't care what nobody else thinks. When I'm on that field, I don't think I can be stopped man.

Q: One thing I saw people were questioning you about after they saw the video of you and DeMarcus the other night was your height. How tall are you really?
A: I'm 6-foot, and a half. I'm like 187, 190 pounds now.

Q: What have you been up to since you passed your summer class to get into UM?
A: I've just spending a lot of time with [conditioning] coach [Andreu] Swasey. Just talking to him and lifting weights at the same time. It's been fun. I've been running 110s to stay in some type of football shape. I stay ready that's why I'm always ready. A lot of people take this time to sit back and relax with family, but when the spring was over me and Kyle Wright would go out and throw some balls around. Kirby still had some classes and what not. The timing was awful with Kirby, but the time was right with Kyle, so we'd go out there and play catch and watch film and stuff. We did it Mondays and Wednesdays over at Greentree. It was just me and Kyle, believe it or not. It was just like getting with your best buddy, going into the backyard and throwing the ball.

Q: Did you ever get a chance to play catch with Kirby at all and if you did, since we can't talk to the quarterbacks, what would you say were the differences between the two of them and the way they throw the ball? Does one of them throw the ball harder, or does one have more touch?
A: Before they put on pads, me and Kirby threw the ball. Me and Kyle threw the ball. Even some of the walk-on quarterbacks threw me the ball. I just like to catch the damn ball. There's pretty not much of a difference [between Kirby and Kyle]. They throw spirals, the ball is within the vicinity I just catch the ball. I never really sat down and watched their mechanics or nothing like that. I can't tell you if such and such throws better. I was too busy focusing on getting yardage and depth and getting my head around, my mechanics as a receiver so I can't really tell you who is better. But I can tell you from my perspective every throw was a good throw.

Q: Do you really like the media and pay attention to what people are saying?
A: Not really. If a person got anything negative thing to say to me, they need to be realistic with themselves because I'm not a negative person. As you can tell its more positive than it is negative about me.

Q: More than any other player it seems you love being a Hurricane more than anyone else.
A: I told my mom before I even played Junior College football, I'm going to go to the University of Miami. I predicted and it came true. At first it was kind of scary because I predicted my own calling. It was my destiny. My name is Kayne. It was my destiny from the beginning.

Q: What are you doing as far as preparing for the fall? Do you have a playbook? Are you reading it?
A: Plays? That's second nature to me man. I just go as it comes. I used to focus on yardage and depth. It comes second nature. If you a football player, plays come to you. They aren't as big a problem as people make it out to be. Yeah, you got to study. There's different concepts and all that, but pretty much all around the world its the same stuff. Even if you have a different coordinator, its pretty much the same stuff.

Q: As far as this summer what does coach Marquis Mosely want you to do?
A: He said just be prepared. Me and him have been on the same page since my first day with him.

Q: I saw some video of you going up against Van Dyke. Who won the battle for real? I saw he batted the ball away from you.
A: Oh man, we was just in the parking lot playing around. The dude, whoever was quarterback, he threw the ball, Van Dyke knocked it away. It was his day. It was his party and he deserved that. He's the better man that day. But if we go for real now, I'm going to rip that like I'm on another level. At the end of the day, its all good. There's going to be plenty more competition. He better bring his lunch pail because I'm going to bring mine.


COMING WEDNESDAY: My interview with incoming freshman cornerback Doug Wiggins, who tells me he is working out hard in the mornings with UM trainer Andreu Swasey and at his old high school North Miami Beach.

May 11, 2007

Q&A with Frank Haith

In the midst of the news of Anthony King receiving a redshirt to return next season, I got a chance to speak with Coach Frank Haith for more than an hour Thursday night. Among the topics: Jimmy Graham's non-departure, the point guard situation and incoming freshman Edwin Rios, Freddy Asprilla's transcripts, new recruit Lance Hurdle, and the situation with the coaching staff.

It's a load and took me lots of time to transcribe for your viewing pleasure. But I am here to please the Eye on The U Crew. Eventually, I plan to do the same with several football players, assistants and possibly coach Randy Shannon if I get a chance as the summer progresses. But for now read up on what Coach Frank Haith has to say about the state of his team and the future.

Q: Can you talk about your excitement knowing Edwin Rios is finally going to be on the team this coming season and is it a bit tempered because you might need him to do more now that Denis Clemente is no longer on the team?
A: It was a major commit for us and someone and I’m finding out across the country that a lot players want to play with. When you get a kid that has that kind of draw to Frankhaithhim all that does is help your program grow and I think Eddie is one of the top players in the country. I’m excited about coaching him. I don’t want too much pressure on Eddie from the start of the season. I think Eddie is going to have a terrific career, but I don’t want him to feel he has to wear this cape because we all know as a freshman that can be very tough. It’s also very tough to play the hardest position which is the point guard position. But I think Eddie is very capable. I saw him make changes in his game in high school. He’s been working on his game throughout the spring and he’s been over here a half dozen times with our players. I think with him and with Jack [McClinton] playing some one and Lance Hurdle playing some one, we got a terrific core of guys that can handle that position.

Q: Talk about what it means to lose a guy like Denis, plus Anthony Harris graduates, so really you guys are going in to next season with guys that haven’t played the point a whole lot. Are you worried about them being a little green at first?
A: I think that is a little bit of concern at first because those guys haven’t clocked a lot of minutes – particularly Lance and Jack – playing that position full time. I look at Eddie being the Mcclintondribbleonly true point guard. But I think with the combination of all three guys we won’t put too much pressure on one guy to do a lot. We can kind of spread the wealth out between the three guys. We will be able to get after it right away in our preseason work. I think this summer we’ve talked about it with Jack in terms of watching case this spring along with Lance when he gets here for summer school. I think Eddie will just fall right into it. I really believe Eddie is going to be a natural. It is a blessing to have Eddie, losing a guy like Denis. Denis is a tremendous loss, particularly the way Denis was playing the latter part of the season. I think you could see Denis grow into that position. He was starting to be really comfortable. Not having his presence is obviously going to be a loss and something were going to have to move on and deal with particularly early on in the season.

Q: As far as Eddie’s growth, what did you like about him when you were recruiting him and what did you like about him as far as him running the point?
A: The biggest thing with Eddie, initially it was toughness. I loved his competitive spirit and I love the fact he can really shoot the basketball. But as time grew on, Eddie committed to us very early and as Rios time grew on and Eddie got older, I watched him adapt and change his game in high school and that change occurred as he and I continued to talk about the point guard position and the thing that excited about me the most was the fact he was very coachable. He committed to buying into being a true point guard and sacrificing scoring a lot of points, which he did early on his career to the point where I think people thought his game diminished because he wasn’t scoring 35 or 50 points . In Myrtle Beach, I think he averaged 50 point games in a tournament setting, where now he was getting 25 or whatever, but he was being a better playmaker, he was getting his teammates involved more and that’s what excited me most about him. His ability to accept coaching and did it when I told what the position was all about and saw him make that change without me being there to coach him.

Q: There was at time when Rios was one of the top 10 players in his class. He fell off and most recruiting services have him at the bottom end of their Top 100 now in the '07. Is Eddie really a Top 10 player? Can he be that great?
A: I think Eddie Rios is a very good player. I don’t get caught up in that numbers system where a guy is ranked and I talked to Eddie because I know he was concerned about that. But people forget Eddie was hurt for a lot of those tournaments and a lot of those rankings are based on what you do in the summer time, which is not fair to the kids because they aren’t playing with their high school team. They’re playing with a team that are not normally with. Eddie, the summer his rankings went down was when he had the bad ankles, and he didn’t play as well. I think we’re all, well me personally, because I’ve seen Eddie as a player and I’ve seen him grow, there’s no question is a top-notch player, whether he’s top 50, top 10 or whatever, you got to watch it playout when a kid gets to college and how he performs because I’ve seen a lot of kids that go to college with a very high ranking not be as good and kids not as high be outstanding players. I’ll give you a kid, P.J. Tucker. I don’t think he was in anybody’s top 200 at and he was the big 12 player of the year. And he’s now in the NBA playing with Toronto. Josh Howard, same kind of attribute. Those rankings where I have a lot of respect and I think they do a very good job, but they do make mistakes too. I don’t know where I would place Eddie, all I know is he’s going to be an outstanding college player and he was a very good high school player. He won high school championships and I think if you ask Eddie if that team would have stayed together at Miami High, they probably would have won a couple more.

Q: What is that makes you believe Eddie will be able to succeed at the next level?
A: I think the thing with Eddie and just knowing him, he’s always been a worker. Jack McClinton is like that. Eddie’s like that and I love his commitment. He wants to be good and he wants to be great and that’s a great quality to have. He’s not afraid to go out and compete and he’s not afraid to go out and do what he has to do. He’ll come over and ask for tapes. We’ll sit down and talk even now and I love that about him. He’s hungry. He’s hungry about the game. I think that’s great because this team we have is hungry. We’re ready – the way we finished last season and what we went through last season – there is no doubt this team is ready to get back on the court to get after it. This team is excited about competing. Eddie’s energy will be welcomed with open arms because he’ll blend right in with how the team feels.

Q: Is it just going to be an open competition for the starting point guard right now or are you going in with someone in mind?
A: There’s no way I can sit here and tell you who is going to be our starting point guard. We’re grooming Jack. We’re hoping Lance can play some. Eddie is going to be right there in the mix with it. I look at our team and I really believe for the first time since I’ve been here that we legitimately got 10 players that can play a lot of minutes. How do we put that thing together is something we really got to work at and work with and that’s something that is going to be our job as coaches to put us in the position to be successful and I don’t know who starts, who finishes right now, but we’re going to do our best to get out there and get them going and put those guys in a position to give us a best chance to win ball games.

Q: Can you just talk for a second about what it means to get Anthony King back?
Anthonyking A: …. We’re excited about it. It gives us legitimately, a front line with Anthony King, Dwayne Collins, Jimmy Graham, Ray Hicks, Fabio Nass, a Julian Gamble. We have some depth, we have some size. But King’s presence when he went out it obviously hurt our team. But having that guy that can anchor our defense so to speak, block shots, rebound, and I know his offense has gotten better. As did Jimmy Graham when he sat out, Anthony King did the same thing Jimmy did because we anticipated Anthony coming back, and he would shoot fouls and left-handed jump hooks. Anthony needed that to improve in his game. Whereas we didn’t want anybody to get hurt, I think both guys will have shown or will show as Jimmy showed that his game has gotten that much better because of the injuries they got to work on other areas of their game.

Q: There was a story on Canestime.com recently that said if Anthony King returned, there was a chance Jimmy Graham might leave. Can you talk about that?
A: I was a little disappointed that some of that got out. I don’t get into the rumor mill that much and Jimmy had a nice run at the end of the season. I thought he played Jimmygrahamvery well. I think Jimmy knows he’s one of our leaders in terms of going into his junior year. I really believe Jimmy wants to be a part of this program and be a part of our success. I really don’t want to speculate or talk about rumors because people have reasons why they say things. I’m sure if there was anything said because I never really talked about it with Jimmy that much, but if it did happen, because I don’t want to say someone was telling a lie when they put that out because I don’t know. But Jimmy and I talked about it and it wasn’t an issue. I took it as that. Jimmy and I have a tremendous relationship. Whereas I do with all my players. But he and I have a special one. And if something was going to happen in that nature, I would have really believed he would have told me and we would have talked about it extensively. And it never got to that point.

Q: I know you can’t specifically talk about recruits, but this past weekend was a big one (Top 2008 recruit Devin Ebanks visited UM), but as far as how the recruiting is going can you tell us what you have been up to? How has the process been going?
A: I think this job is never-ending. We had a great spring as far as evaluating kids in the month of April and we were very fortunate to have kids visit our campus unofficially, which is very difficult to do Devinebanks because we’re so far away from everybody else. That’s something we haven’t been able to do with kids except here locally. So, we’re starting to see some of those things happen where we get kids on campus and that is a positive. Our level of recruiting, we try to raise it each year. I like the kids we have in our program and we’re always going to try to recruit top notch players. When you go after top notch players you have a chance of losing them and we’ve stuck our hats in there and I think you’re battling some top-notch programs and battling programs that have some great tradition and you’re hoping you hit a home run. Eventually, we’re going to get one. I don’t know how to soon. But I hope our fans no we’re going to keep trying. And that’s a process, that I can make a promise to them that we’re never going to stop to try to get the best players we can but also go after top notch guys that can help us win championships.

Q: How many guys have actually been able to have come in? How many potential recruits have visited in the past couple months?
A: We’ve had two. We’re probably going to have one more here in May or June. But we’ve had a ton of young guys within the state, within driving distance, so that’s been a plus. We’ve had some really good Adrianthomas young talent in the state of to make sure we stay in touch with and that’s important as we continue to grow. I look at what we did with Brian Asbury, Adrian Thomas -- and people don’t know about Adrian Thomas because I really believe he can play, but I think Adrian Thomas is going to be a factor on this team next year, a big factor – but you look at Asbury, Thomas, Dwayne Collins and Rios and we’ve done a tremendous job in South Florida getting the best players and we’re going to continue to do that. But we’ve got to make sure we don’t let that slip and we continue to work those guys and let them come over to our campus and continue to introduce them to our program.

Q: Are there any specific positions you guys are looking for with the 2008 class? When you recruit what do you focus on normally?
A: The way we look at it, we got three scholarships. We could have four if we don’t take anybody else this year which it doesn’t look like we will. So we will only have 12 guys on scholarship this year. I think we’d like to sign 2 bigs and then we’d like to sign a wing and the best available guard whether it’s a two guard or a point guard. But we want 2 and 2. Two posts and two perimeters. Although we will graduate King, Hicks and Fabio. But I think two is what we need. I think Jimmy will still be here in the fray with Dwayne next season. So I think if we add two bigs that’ll be good for us.

Q: I got to ask you about Freddy Asprilla and what his progress is with his transcripts from Columbia? What are you guys still waiting on to get him? Is there a deadline at all? Are you worried?
A: We signed Freddy it’s just a matter of him getting qualified to be admitted to the university. We’re Asprilla just continuing to wait for some paperwork. Just for our fans to understand when you sign a kid from another country and Freddy is from Columbia getting paperwork takes time. It’s a long process. So, when you get all of that paperwork and test scores together. And it has to be evaluated. It’s not like your normal process. And we’re still into getting that solidified and that’s not quite done yet. We want Freddy and we feel Freddy would be a great addition to our frontline. Obviously with King coming back I think Freddy and a Julian, I mean, I don’t think we thought we could ever be this big. When you go 6-9, 6-9, and guys that have nice size too. We have a lot of length and size and I like that look of a basketball team. It will allow us to do some more things than we’ve been able to do since we’ve been here. And that’s exciting for me to have a frontline like we’re creating. We haven’t really, we’re just going to keep working I don’t think we’ve hit that tier where we’re nervous or hit the panic button yet. We’re just going to keep working to get the necessary paperwork we need from Columbia and from the testing center and match that together and get it evaluated.

Q: Lance Hurdle, for the fans who haven’t seen him play or even know his name yet, what can you tell us about him? Is he already on campus?
A: He’ll be here second session of summer school. He’s actually finishing up school right now. I can tell our fans Lance is a tremendous young man. He’s an outstanding student No. 1. When you hear about a Lance_hurdle kid from a junior college, first thing you think is he has some academic deficiencies. But he’s an outstanding student. He originally signed with Santa Barbara initially. Played very little and went to Junior College. He’s an outstanding young man who is very gifted athletically along those lines of Rob [Hite] and Guillermo [Diaz], just high flyers, athletes on the perimeter, he gives us that. He’s not quite bulky as those guys. He averaged over 20 points a game in JUCO. The thing I love about Lance is he’s an unselfish player. He’s one of those guys that will do whatever he has to do to help the team. If he needs to go score 25. He’ll go do that. If he needs to sit back and his team is very good. He’ll do that. When I watched him play, he was just a complete player. There is not one thing I think he’s lacking – he can handle the ball, he can shoot it, he’s very athletic and I love his defensive intensity, he can guard and takes pride in guarding. Sometimes as a coach you don’t respect those characteristics. I respect them because I think we needed that last year. A little more punch on the defensive perimeter. He’s quick enough and athletic enough to cause some problems on the defensive end, but he’s also a very adequate offensive player. He’s 6-2, 6-3, I don’t know what his vertical is but he can really jump. He’s quick, an unselfish player. He’s got just a great personality and he’ll be a tremendous addition to the community here at the University of Miami

Q: Anything going with other guys as far as surgery? What is Anthony King’s health? I know you said Jack McClinton might be having surgery?
A: No surgery for Jack. They got him in a cast here for the next couple weeks with his left wrist. He had some problems with it and went and had it looked at, felt like surgery probably wasn’t necessary and letting that thing heal. It was something from a previous injury that probably never healed. But we just want to take care of it. And Jack is one of those guys I don’t worry about giving time off because even when he was in here, it had a tough smell to it. So, I knew he still had been working out. I think he’s getting close to getting it off in the next couple weeks. The other one, King is starting to come along great. He can shoot right now with his wrist and handle the ball. So, that’s the next step for him, so I think he’s about 2-3 weeks away from contact. The casts are off. He’s doing ballhandling, working out. He’s excited about it. I’ve told him to kind of be patient with it. He’s anxious to get back to going at it full go. Other than those two things I think we’re pretty healthy. Knock on wood. I wish we were playing some games right now. It’s a blessing to see those guys in good spirits. You talk to our guys, they’re excited. I’ve been around 20 years and I’ve never been around a group of guys so excited about getting together and playing next season. It is a process.

CollinsThis summer I think the thing I’m most proud of and its been part of things I do in the past where you do things in the summer that tells you your program is taking a step in the right direction. Dwayne Collins got invited to USA Basketball Trials in 19-and-under which is a tremendous accomplishment. Jimmy Graham got invited to AIA All-Star team that is going to Australia. Brian Asbury got invited to an All-Star team going to Japan. Jack McClinton is going to an invite either to Lebron James or Michael Jordan’s camp. We’re extremely excited that we got guys that are now being involved and doing other things and maybe now people are seeing we got pretty good players here.

Q: Butch Estes is no longer on the staff, who is replacing him and some of the things he did last year? I also heard coach Michael Hunt was in the running for the South Carolina State job and didn’t get it.
A: Butch was involved with everything in terms of recruiting and scouting. Right now I’ve elevated Michael Schwartz who was our video coordinator but was also with us at Texas. He’s been elevated into Michael_schwartz that position as an assistant coach. I also hired Toby Lane, who comes from Southeast Missouri. Toby was at Oklahoma when I was Texas. I’m excited about Toby. I’m excited about Michael Schwart z, they are both young guys that I think have a ton of energy who will have great repoire with our kids. In terms with Michael Schwartz, who I believe has a bright future as a coach. As far as Michael is concerned, he was in the running, but didn’t get it. Right now, I think we’re staying pat. He also had some opportunities with other things too. I just want to say this when we get guys on our staff, we want to get guys who want to be head coaches. And I think I learned that when I worked with Rick Barnes [in Texas]. I want all our guys to be head coaches, strive to be head coaches. Obviously, we want consistency with our staff which is why I’m pleased to have Jorge [Fernandez] here. As long as we’ve had Jorge, he’s done a tremendous job as far as how he’s helped me with our recruiting and so forth… we’re hoping Michael will still be here, but I think there are some opportunities he’ll still look at, but if not we’ll be very happy if he stays with us.

May 08, 2007

Pata to receive degree

The University of Miami announced this morning 63 student-athletes will receive degrees later this week including the late great Bryan Pata who was murdered 6 monts ago. Pata's family will be there to accept the award Friday night and president Donna Shalala is expected to bestow it upon them.

Sad but true, Pata's family will have received Bryan's degree before police have found Bryan's killer. That's just flat out wrong. Something needs to change. Somebody knows something.

Anyway, here's a list of the 63 graduates released by UM's Sports Information Department with their respective degrees:

Chris Petralli BBA Business Management
Roger Tomas AB Criminology
Gus Menendez BBA Business Management
Men's Basketball
Anthony Harris BLA Liberal Arts
Anthony King BLA Liberal Arts / Sociology
Women's Basketball
Amy Audibert BSED Sports Administration
Marianne Curtis AB English
Renee Taylor BLA Liberal Arts
Rhyan Anderson BLA Liberal Arts
Grant Brown BSED Sports Administration
Willie Cooper BLA Liberal Arts
Kirby Freeman BSED Sports Administration
Tavares Gooden BLA Liberal Arts/Criminology
Mark Lisante BBA Business Management
Cyrim Wimbs BLA Liberal Arts/African Studies
Ross Abramson BBA Business Management
Gabriel Diaz BBA Finance
Brian Monroe BLA Liberal Arts
Bryan Pata BLA Liberal Arts
Jonathan Peattie MA INA
Joe Tolliver BLA Liberal Arts
Urd Pederson AB Art
Josie Shinn AB Political Science
Marenda Chamberlin BBA Business Management
Karissa Chaplinsky BBA Finance
Laura Coltman BSED Elem. Education/Psychology
Meghan Leydecker AB Political Science/History
Elizabeth Skidmore BSED Exercise Physiology
Sarah Stocks BSAE Architecture Engineering
Ashley Via                 AB International Studies/Spanish
Valerie Webb BSED Exercise Physiology
Karen Wiley AB Ecosystem Sci/Geography
Emy Huntsman BSED Exercise Physiology
Alex Alford BHS Health Science
Julie Brooks BSED Exercise Physiology
Kristen Chapman BBA Finance/Business Law
Chelsea Garner AB English Creative Writing
Sheuneen Ta BBA Marketing Rebecca Tweneboah AB Political Science
Swimming and Diving
Heather Bounds BBA Business Management
Tara Erwin BS Meteorology
Nancy Gajos BHS Health Science
Andrea Hughes BSED Sports Administration
Ashley Knapp BBA Entrepreneurship
Kristen Lunak BBA Accounting
Derek Starks BBA Entrepreneurship
Men's Tennis
Josh Cohen BSED Sports Administration
Luigi D' Agord BBA Business Management
Women's Tennis
Audrey Banada BSED Exercise Physiology
Emily Mowery BSED Sports Administration
Men's Track
Thomas Berry BSC Motion Pictures/History
Zachery Castiglione AB Philosophy
Seth Kamph BBA Finance
Jonathan Scheiner BBA Economics/Finance
Women's Track
Lia Ames                 BSC International Studies
Danielle Bailey AB English Creative Writing
Debbie Estime BS Biology
Brenda Faluade BSED Exercise Physiology
Allison McElhaney BBA Legal Studies
Amy Miller AB Psychology
Lindsay Rohrs BSC Communication Advertising
Amy Seward BBA Business Management
Sara Duncan BBA Marketing
Ann Gallo                 BBA Marketing
Jill Robinson BSED Sports Administration

May 07, 2007

Q&A with Edwin Rios

I realize the next few months are going to be awfully slow newswise around The U. So, I'm hoping to keep this blog going with Q&A sessions for most of the summer. My first one is with incoming point guard Edwin Rios, who hooked up with coveted '08 recruit Devin Ebanks while Ebanks made his visit to Miami over the weekend.

Among the highlights: Rios says he's been working out with Dee Brown in Orlando, perfecting his craft and has become close with Jack McClinton, potentially his biggest competition for the starting point guard duties. Rios, once rated in the top 10 nationally among recruits, averaged 25.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 5.7 apg, 3.0 spg his senior season at Miami High. Enjoy.

RiosQ: What have you been up to since the end of the high school season?
A: Basically working on my grades and trying to finish strong my last semester. I have everything right to get to college. I've been working out, trying to get ready for UM. Trying to help the team out. I've been working out in cycles, doing a lot of biometrics, corp training and weights to get bigger and stronger for the next level. I've been going to Orlando, working out with Dee Brown, the former player for the Celtics, the former Slam Dunk Champion. I've been going up to his sports complex and put in a lot of work you know, just trying to get better and see how far the team will go next year.

Q: What specifically have you been doing with Dee Brown?
A: We've been doing a lot of what he calls cleaning up my game what that is trying to take out any unnecessary things that I don't need, extra dribbles or my release. I make everything a little bit quicker so players don't have a chance to react to whatever I do and can't read me and stuff. I've been working on my shooting form and my release. We've been working on dribbling, making double moves and crossovers behind the back. It's a lot of good stuff. Also, he has trainers up there that I've been doing corps stuff with them. And this summer I'll be up there with Jeremiah Rivers from Georgetown. He's been my boy since the sixth grade. There's a lot of good stuff going on this summer.

Here is some video Rios working out with Dee Brown (via YouTube).

Q: As far as your health is concerned, I know you were battling some foot injuries, how healthy are you now?
A: Pretty healthy right now. I haven't had any injuries. I'm getting a lot of elevation, getting my speed back, attacking the basket. My lateral movement is back. So, it's a matter of time, plus with all the workouts we've been doing with squatting and lunges and all that stuff, I really don't see any problems I have.

Q: What have you talked about with Coach Haith since the news came out that ClementeDenis Clemente would no longer be on the team? What has he talked to you about? Obviously it has to speed up your growth process. I know you wanted to come in right away and start but the fact you guys might be a little shorthanded at point guard does that worry you?
A: Of course if Denis was there it would have been a lot better for me having that competition to play with and help me mature more. Also, his speed. But those things happen. Players get hurt or what not and you got to deal with it. Coach Haith told me not to worry about it. To go in there and play a lot of minutes. I just got to be a team leader and pick up things a lot faster than I would have if he was still there.

Q: I know there are thoughts Jack McClinton could play some point guard too. Not that you guys have a ton of guards anyway, but Jack is a guy who did pretty well at shooting guard and could now play some at the point. Are you looking forward to the competition with him?
Ummens_hoopsA: I have. Wherever you go your going to have good competition if you're a good team. When you compete you're going to get better. You know me and Jack are real close. We've hung out a couple times and it's all part of the energy we have over there. I push him and he pushes me. That's how it works and how we get better.

Q: How often have you gone over to UM since the basketball season ended?
A: I've been over there I'd say like 8 to 10 times in the open gym and stuff like that. I just go to hang out and make a bond with the team, get some confidence with them. Most of the time I go by myself. I'll have Jack call me or Dwayne [Collins] and we'll go work out and then we'll have open gym. I'll stay, hang out and talk about next year and what we're looking forward to.

Q: What are you looking forward to most next season?
A: Basically trying to win games, trying to see what I can do to make the team better and make Miami basketball a known power. I'm very excited to see what the future has in store for me in college, see what happens.

Q: As far as your graduation with Miami High, have you met all your requirements?
A: Yes. Everything is good.  I'm just waiting for time to go by. I only have a few more weeks. I'm preparing for finals. I've already passed the SAT, I've passed the FCAT and all that. I did get enough. If I wouldn't have passed the FCAT, my SAT scores would have replaced it. I did what I had to do. It's long gone.

Q: How much have you spoken to the other incoming freshman, Freddy Asprilla and Julian Gamble?
A: I haven't really heard from Freddy since the nationals. Julian Gamble I think I spoke to him when he came down for his visit a couple months ago. He sounded very excited and told me he's been working on his game. He looks a lot better. He looks a little bit stronger, a little bit slimmer. He's very excited.

Q: Devin Ebanks was visiting this past weekend. I know he's part of the 2008 Class, he's a great player UM is in the running to get. Did you speak with Devin at all and do you know how his visit went?
DevinebanksA: Yeah I spoke to him. He told me he feels very comfortable here and he sees himself wearing a UM jersey when he gets out here. But you know how it is, he has to go through the process and he still has schools that he likes. He has to make his visits and see the schools he likes. He'd be a good pickup for us because of his versatility and the way he could step in and he can play immediately. He reminds me and kind of works it like Kevin Durant. The way he can go inside and outside. I played with him at the ABCD Camp and he played on my team and against him. He's a competitor. He's a very good player offensively and defensively. He's long, lanky. He gets up. It's a good pickup for Miami if we can get him.

Q: How long was he here and did you get a chance to hang out with him? And how much has coach asked you to try and help in his recruiting?
A: As a matter of fact, I had my prom this weekend and I couldn't spend a lot of time at the school, but I hung out with him. I came by Saturday morning and drove by and said what's up. I said hello to his mom. I had a rental, I had a Hummer so he was in there with me checking it out and stuff. We were there in the parking lot talking. Friday I hung out with him for a bit and then at night before he left. Coach has brought it up a lot [trying to help in the recruiting]. But mostly its me try to make a national power here. I've been trying to work with him. I know he's the type of guy that if he came to our school he'd have a lot to offer. I mention that to him every now and then. But I tell him whatever his decision is I'm cool with it. I don't want to jump the gun, but I think he'll fit in good here, come in, log a lot of minutes.

Q: Did Ebanks tell you his decision is down to Miami or Indiana?
A: That's what I've heard, I'm not sure. But whatever choice I'm sure it's a good one.

Q: You watched UM go through a real tough season last year with injuries and being shorthanded, how much did you wish you could be out there helping them out?
A: I felt the same way here at Miami Senior. With all the injuries here, it was kind of a similar season. We started off good and then we went through the downfall where everybody got hurt. They had the same problem. It was tough to see them go through that. That's not something I want us to go through next year. It would be pretty tough to have anybody hurt again next year.

Q: How good of a team do you think you guys can be next season with three new guys and Anthony King coming back?
A: I think we should be one of the top teams in the ACC because seeing them finish the way they did in the ACC Tournament, I think it will carry over to this year. Plus, you have King coming back. He's been working. I've seen him working out hard. You got Jack coming back with more experience. You got Adrian Thomas. Jimmy Graham is back. Dwayne. We've got more experience and we're more mature.

If you would like to listen to the interview, click here. Download riosinterview.mp3

MORE TIDBITS: It appears receiver Kayne Farquharson has passed his class at Miami-Dade and will be enrolled in UM this summer... Men's basketball assistant Butch Estes has left the program... Another assistant, Michael Hunt, was a finalist for the head coaching job at South Carolina State but did not get the job.

MY CANES YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK: One of my favorite plays of the men's basketball season. Freshman Dwayne Collins brings the funk down on Boston College, his best game of the season by far.