OK, I'm back again with the next installment of the lengthy interview with UM men's basketball coach Frank Haith. In this episode we discuss the immediate future: what Haith wants to see out of his players over the next few months, how UM could end up playing national champion Kansas and NIT champion Ohio State, what type of impact incoming freshmen DeQuan Jones and Reggie Johnson might have and who he could end up moving into the starting lineup now that Anthony King is gone.
Q: There is a chance you guys could end up playing on the road against the national champions (Kansas) next season. Can you update on that and how the rest of next year's schedule is coming together? I hear you are also playing the NIT champ, Ohio State. And what about the home games against the ACC?
A: We're still working on [Kansas]. We've talked about it and we're in the process and trying to see if its going to happen. It's not definitely out and it's not definitely done either. We're really working h ard to get it done. We're opening up in the Virgin Islands where there are some really good teams. You got Wisconsin, you got Connecticut, you got San Diego, you got Valpo. It's going to be a great event. Then we play at St. John's in New York. Then, we got a Big 10 challenge game at home with Ohio State. And obviously we're going to play FIU at home. We've been invited to play in the Wooden Classic, but we still don't know for sure based on the opponent. That's still up in the air too. We're kind of holding that off because we'd rather have Kansas for a home and home series. We got some other games -- our bye games -- we want to finish out too. As far as the ACC, I know we do have Carolina coming to our place, Maryland, Wake [Forest]. It's a great schedule. I don't think we have Duke and Carolina both. We're getting to the point where we hope our fans are excited about Georgia Tech and Virginia coming to town and how important it is to win those games too."
Q: Can you talk about the homecourt advantage and maybe what you guys are doing to build it? Let's face it, South Florida is still a place that really hasn't caught college basketball fever. What are you guys doing to try to help the situation?
A: I think we had a great homecourt this year winning 14 games and I think our fans supported us. I think we had the highest numbers. And they're adding seats. 850 will be in. We're adding parking. You can see the basketball program and all the things are getting better as we continue to build. I think next season, trust me we're going to have the Big 10 challenge. We're going to have a great ACC schedule that hopefully a lot of our fans will come out and support our fans from the get-go. I really want our fans to not come see who we play, but us play. And that's what we're building, that's our plan to have our fans say hey we don't care who we're playing, we're coming to watch the Hurricanes play.
I think its a fun sport. It's indoors. Its fast paced. Its quick. Its over in two hours. We got a building on campus. There's not a bad seat in the building. I think the pricing of our tickets has helped. Obviously when we first moved into the building, tickets were overpriced. I think we've done somethings for people to bring their families to games. when you look at some of the things in this town and how pricey it is. Its affordable, its fast paced. I think as we improve our product, its going to get better. That's the neat thing about our place -- even when we add the seats, its not going to be more than 9,000 seats. So, its not going to be that far to go. We're in a pro town, so I know there is a lot going on. I think we got to have great interest in Hurricanes football. I'm thinking of trying to create our own tailgate spot. Getting people in the stands in the first part of that. Now, we got to continue to educate in helping our fans and understanding and engaging them in the game. The Duke game this year was unbelievable. Somehow we got to capture that every night and I think our fans realize how important that is to winning. If we can get that night in, night out we can have a special place.
Q: A big part of your success this season was the fact that after last year's 12-20 season, the guys were hungry and wanted to get right back in the gym and bust their tails. What are they doing now?
A: We can work with them two hours a week. We had an individual Tuesday. We had another one Thursday. Our kids worked really hard. We had eight guys there. Four bigs. We had 10 guys there actually working out. That's the beauty of this whole thing. We had 10 guys in the gym for those days working on our skill development and working really hard. That's what we're basing our program on -- hard work and development. We want to get our guys better. And I think that always has to be in place as we're building the program.
Q: Last year Jimmy Graham went to Australia, Brian Asbury went to China and a few other guys went places to work on their game. Any special destinations or camps this offseason?
A: We're still investigating Jimmy going to Pete Newell's big man camp. We're looking at Jack McClinton working in Steve Nash and Chris Paul's camps. There's still a chance of him getting into Lebron's and Jordan's camps. Those are all based on invitation. Hopefully, that works out for him. But our guys plan on being here all summer. That's important those guys are here all summer and there are plenty of opportunities to work out with other guys. That's the pretty neat thing about being in this town of Miami. There's no shortage of good players around in terms of the NBA guys. They got an opportunity to work. I think if they're still here, they're going to work harder than they would back home. I shouldn't say that. Some guys do work hard back home. But there are a lot of guys we'd like to see here even though there is only one session in summer school, but I'd like to see them work as hard as they can on their game.
Q: What do you want to see out of the guys who are coming back? What areas have you told them to focus on improving?
A: What we do I think a lot of teams do. What I do is give them a couple days and then we'll have individual meetings where we'll go over the year and things they need to improve on and focus on to take the next step and we've done that with our guys.
ON DWAYNE COLLINS: A guy like Dwayne we've talked about being consistent and putting in more time. I think Dwayne's deal is repetition. I think the more he practices at game speed and repetition... we need him to be more consistent with his play. We all know when Dwayne is at that level when he's playing -- he is remarkable. But then we've also seen Dwayne when he's not at that level and we're not as good. I think when he plays at that level we're a much better basketball team.
ON JIMMY GRAHAM: Just continue to work on his skills, be more fluid around the basket. Jimmy is quick, athletic and explosive. He can continue to work on his ball handling skills and passing ability and ability around the rim. His skill set. That's what we need to get Jimmy working on.
ON JAMES DEWS: His conditioning. His body. We really want him to try to put on more weight and get more physical with his body.
ON LANCE HURDLE: Continue working on his point guard skills. I think Lance had an outstanding year considering his improvement over the year. He is a big part of his success. He needs to continue to move forward with that in being a point guard. He'll be here all summer. We can't work with him, but we'll give him stuff to work on in terms of tape and being around, just studying the game. That's a big part of Lance's development.
ON EDDIE RIOS: Same thing, just getting acclimated. Defense is the biggest thing with Eddie, guarding people. That's where he had his biggest weakness. And shooting the basketball. I think Eddie just has to sort of like James Dews -- from freshman to sophomore year -- just work on it. There is no reason Eddie Rios should be shooting 50 percent from the free throw line. His shooting has to get better. But I think it will.
ON JACK MCCLINTON: Jack still needs to work on his playmaking. He had a great year shooting the basketball. You got to continue to work and Jack knows that. But Jack in terms of things taking the next step. We want Jack to continue to lead because he's such a positive role model with that. That's a big part of our success. Guys will follow Jack if he continues to step up front.
ON BRIAN ASBURY: More consistency. Brian had a pretty good year. But I think his last five ball games he wasn't as good. The biggest area he took a step back in was his rebounding. Brian was a much better rebounder his sophomore year than this year and that hurt us because we need him being that thrust on the boards, rebounding and defensive rebounding. So that's an area he needs to continue to work on. And driving the basketball, continuing to be aggressive and get to the free throw line. I think all our guys need to do that -- Dews included, being more aggressive and attacking. Those guys got better, particularly better. But all four guys shoot free throws really well and that's a big part of our offense.
Q: What kind of team do you think you're going to have next season without Anthony King and Ray Hicks? Will it be much of a difference since so many guys are coming back? And how much of a change will a guy like DeQuan Jones make in this offense?
A: Well, he's going to make a change. I think we become way more athletic. I think there were some teams -- particularly the high level teams in our league and across the country -- we're not as athletic as those teams are. I think that's one of things we wanted to be -- bigger and more athletic. Now, we're adding DeQuan, an Adrian Thomas that helps. We didn't have Adrian Thomas all year. If you recall before he got hurt, Adrian was good. He was athletic, he was long. Adrian worked on shooting the basketball. We didn't have that big athletic wing. Now, we got three of them. I think that makes a difference. I think if you look at the two teams in the final. They both had big athletic wings. Memphis -- their game with Texas -- they just dwarfed them. And I think that's what we want to get to. DeQuan will help us with that. His athletic play, his toughness, his aggressiveness. All of the things he's about is what we want to build our program around. He's a competitor now. He is one tough competitive dude. Obviously, he's going to be a freshman and he's not going to know anything. That's why I tell those guys he's going to struggle learning and that curve is going to take some time. But there is no question I love his ability and what he's going to bring us from a defensive standpoint, rebounding standpoint and I think he can score a lot of different ways too. I think he's worked on his shooting. He can drive the ball and he's an offensive rebounder. He's an impact player because of his energy and his athletic ability.
Q: For people who haven't seen his YouTube highlights (above) or watched DeQuan play, is there anyone you can compare him to just the way he plays?
A: I compare him to the kid at Duke -- Henderson. He's athletic, long, rangy to the rim, quick. Henderson, I look at him and I think he's a lot like that. DeQuan might be a little taller. They're very similar type players.
Q: How are Cyrus McGowan and Julian coming along?
A: Great. There were times when I used to say this about Jack too -- there were times at practice when Cyrus would dominate our post guys. And when I say dominate, I'm talking about just rebounding, taking charges. He is an active player. Activity is what his strength is. He plays extremely hard. He's got to get better with his low-post game. He's a face up guy. He can shoot the basketball. But he's a rebounding fool. I think the guy will -- I wouldn't be surprised if he averaged, 7, 8, 9 rebounds next year. He's that active. Having a guy like that is a plus. He's got an unbelievable ticker. He's a lot like Jimmy. I think his motor is very similar to him.
As far as Julian Gamble, sitting out really helped him. His body has changed. He's a big man. But he's really -- before he had a little soft tissue around the midsection. Now, I think if you see him now, Mac has done a great job with his body. I think Julian is probably the most skilled of all our post guys. He keeps the ball up high. He has good skills around the rim. He'll definitely play. I think he'll be a guy that can score in the post, which we like. He has great skills around the hoop. Julian is nothing but a center and Cyrus is nothing but a power forward. They're both 6-9. But Julian is a big kid. He's 255. Julian is good. They're good players.
Q: What about incoming freshman Reggie Johnson?
A: I think Reggie is really good too. Reggie will obviously have to have an adjustment in terms of his weight and all that stuff. I think Reggie's potential is off the charts. I think his ceiling is very high where he can get to because he has great hands. One thing I look at when we're recruiting big guys is their feet and their hands. He is tremendous in both those areas. He can really catch the ball -- has those nice, soft hands and he has great footwork. He runs. Now, he's obviously got to shed about 30-40 pounds. But once he does, I think the kid can be really, really good because he's huge. He knows how to wedge, create angles and score through defense. In high school games, people would hit him on the arm and they'd be like little gnats -- he'd go right through them. He set a state record in North Carolina in the state championship for most rebounds. He had 25 points and 23 rebounds. I think Reggie even though he's a freshman -- even though we got four other big guys -- he can help us.
Q: Do you see Reggie like Julian, though, needing a year to get acclimated?
A: We'll see how that plays out. I used to talk to [Texas coach] Rick Barnes about this. He loves to redshirt guys because it maintains your program. He'd love to get guys and coach for a year and it helps you sustain when you don't have dropoff. I don't want to waste a year for Reggie. You never know how he's going to come in. I know what he's weighing right now. But you never know once he starts working out where he can be and if he can help you. Now, we got some depth there. We got five really legit guys and if we wanted to play with some undersized guys, I think Adrian and DeQuan could play down there sometimes too and matchup with those guys and you got to be able to have a guy to do that too. I think there's going to be a lot of versatility with this team to be able to do a lot of different things.
Q: How healthy is Adrian Thomas and when do you expect him to participate and can he return to full strength?
A: I think Adrian will be fine. He's actually doing individual with our guys. I got to give a lot of credit to Wes Brown who has done a remarkable job with his rehab. I knock on wood because he's ahead of schedule. Now, he doesn't have quite the same explosion. He'll get it. But he doesn't have that yet. But he's doing our individual workouts now. Adrian is such a hard worker and I'm rooting so hard for him because he's had some tough breaks. And you're hoping if he's able to come back to where he was last year, we're going to have a good player on our hands. There's no question about that. Positioning wise, I think he can play the three. I think with some guys who are undersized, we can throw him in there at the four spot.
Q: You said this season you like having Jimmy Graham coming off the bench. Is that something you would like to continue next season or could you see him starting alongside Dwayne Collins?
A: In terms of the five spot, obviously Dwayne played a lot and Jimmy came off the bench. And we'll figure all of that out once we get into the season. I think it worked out great with how we figured it with Jimmy playing more with him coming off the bench and how aggressive he is. We needed it. He played really well at the end of the year. He was really quick with confidence and got adjusted. It ended up working out better that Jimmy played better and played more coming off the bench. We'll see how that goes. We got Dwayne and we got Cyrus. I think Dwayne is a guy you say is definitely in the lineup. But you don't know.
Q: You said point guard was the biggest question mark going into this season? Would you say center is now that spot heading into next season?
A: I don't know who we're going to start. But I think going into next season, the strength of our team is going to be the post players. I know I said that this year, but I believe it more so next year. I think we got a lot of depth there and I think we're bigger. We got some girthy guys, big, strong guys. I like that. That's how I like to play. Even though we lose King and Ray. King was 6-9 and Ray was 6-7 and Ray was strong. But you got -- you should see these guys. Julian is big and Cyrus is big. Obviously you know what Jimmy and Dwayne look like. Reggie -- he's huge. We got a lot of big, strong dudes. We got big strong guys and I like that in terms of our defense and being physical and aggressive around the rim which is what I like.