Just got home a little over an hour ago from trip to Atlanta and UM's Basketball Media Day and want to start this blog by telling you I'm still going to keep my promise and provide you with my usual football progress report later today. So, you football guys that are on the verge of going nuts know I haven't forgotten about you.
But I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't share with you what I learned from today's basketball media day -- especially considering how much better this program is now than it was before. UM men's coach Frank Haith and Katie Meier addressed the media for about an hour Monday inside the Hurricane 100 room at BankUnited Center and then we got a chance to talk with each of the players on the team. I've got enough material for about 20 blogs. But I'm not going to share it all now. If you die-hards want to hear everything that was said, check out our UM audio page where I always share all of the audio interviews I collect.
But for now, here's part of the Q&A session we had with highly-touted freshman De'Quan Jones, whom Haith said Monday is likely the most highly-touted and athletic recruit he's signed in his five years at UM. Jones (6-6, 190) impressed me with how polished he was answering questions. He already appears to me to have that star appeal. Cyrus McGowan gushed when asked how good Jones was saying he can jump out of the building. We all remember Jones' YouTube slam dunk from high school when he literally flew over a defender -- ala Vince Carter.
Q: People have some pretty high expectations for you. How do you feel going into your freshman season?
A: Expectations are going to be high. I feel like if I just come in and do the smart intangibles, I'll be fine. If I do what they're recruiting me for, rebounding, running the floor, finishing, I'll feel pretty confident.
Q: How high can you jump?
A: I think this summer they recorded me at a 41-inch vertical.
Q: Who have you been compared to?
A: I think my dad kind of compares me to Lebron [James] a little bit. That's a lot of pressure. That's a lot to live up to. That's probably the only comparison I've heard.
Q: How are you meshing with the guys here?
A: The chemistry is great. I think that's the reason I chose Miami because of the chemistry of my teammates. Me and the guys get along great. On the court, off the court. We do everything together. A lot of teams talk about that family atmosphere. But it's really here amongst us.
Q: How about the chemistry in terms of style of play?
A: I think the beautiful thing about our team is that everyone's game compliments everyone. Jack [McClinton] is an excellent shooter. He's surrounded by guys that can get in the lane and drive and dish. I think on the court the chemistry meshes pretty good.
Q: Where do you think you can contribute the most?
A: I just want to try and be like an all utilities guy, rebounding, defense, just whatever the team needs any given night, whether its scoring, rebounding, assists, whatever.
Q: How do you think you can improve your game defensively?
A: I think I can fight through ball screens better. I think that's probably the biggest transition from high school to college. Of course, there's the speed of the game. But it's just the small things if you want to make big plays at this level.
Q: They have an established team, how do you see yourself fitting in?
A: Whatever the team needs. Every team needs the guy that goes out and does the small things.
Q: What was your impression of Jack?
A: Jack is Jack. He's funny. He's been like my big brother. If there is any advice I need, I always hit him up. All the guys are just funny, down to earth. They've really helped me with the transition.
Can you talk about the main reason you wanted to come to Miami?
Q: The main reason was Coach Haith and just the environment. Miami is a beautiful city. I just wanted to come down and choose an environment that best fits me. Plus, my teammates, we get along great. We have great team chemistry and coach Haith is another good reason.
Q: This is a veteran team, how much does that help you in making the transition?
Q: I think it's a great thing. I think that's one of the best attributes of our team. We're a veteran team. They help me out a lot as far as the plays. I think that's one of the best attributes.
Q: Can you talk about the dunk on YouTube and the excitement that created? And are we going to see a little of that here?
A: Hopefully [laughter]. I didn't really notice it until after about week that it was already up a week later when my coach calls me. I still get texts and phone calls from people that say I've never seen that before. It was something that just happened I guess.
Q: What's the story behind the dunk?
Most of the talented players tell you some stuff is done instinctively. It wasn't anything premeditated. It was just a spur of the moment thing.
Q: Coach talked about defense being the one area you need to focus on, but do you feel comfortable offensively?
A: Offensively, for the most part, there's still a lot of things I need to work on like ballhandling and creating opportunities for my teammates off the dribble. But for the most part, I feel comfortable.
Q: Where do you see the program going?
A: I think Coach Haith's biggest thing is he wants to recruit talented players, but also great people. I think great teams require great people. I see nothing but good things happening for the program if we just continue working hard.
Q: Jack said a couple weeks ago he wants to contend for a national championship. Do you see that as a real goal for this program while you are here?
A: Yes sir, I do. I think we just keep working hard and stay focused on the goal overall, I definitely think [a national title] is possible.
I'll keep the rest of the notes brief:
> Haith started his press conference by trying to temper some of the excitement created last week when Jack McClinton told us UM's goal was to win a national title. While he said he believes the Canes have a very good team, he doesn't want anyone getting the wrong idea that the Canes "beating their chests." I think Haith realizes how much the hype Canes are receiving and simply wants everyone to realize his team is still a ways away from getting to that level.
> James Dews has put on eight more pounds to make sure he can handle the bumping and grinding it takes in not only guarding bigger guys in the ACC, but taking the ball to the basket. Dews (6-3) weighed 202 last season and is now up to 210.
> Dwayne Collins says he's taking it as a personal challenge to become more consistent by making sure he plays just as hard in practice as he does in game. "You play how you practice and I don't want to be that guy anymore," Collins said. That guy he's referring to is the guy who lit up Duke, but then finished the season in a slump. That's Mr. Inconsistency. Collins believes he is done with him.
> It's hard not to feel bad for Adrian Thomas and happy for him at the same time. After suffering a season-ending sports hernia injury two years ago and then a season-ending torn ACL last year, Thomas said he was all set to return last spring when he developed a cyst in his injured knee. It cost him the summer. He's been back in action for two months now and says while he no longer has the explosion he used, he really believes he can help the Canes by being "a lockdown defensive guy and someone hits on those outside jumpers."
> If you spot a little old man running up and down the court this season, don't worry. That's probably just Edwin Rios. The 6-foot backup point guard showed up to today's media day sporting a beard and a baldspot on his head. The beard will likely go before the start of the season and so will the struggles he hopes. Last year, Eddie shot 53 percent from the free throw line and 37 percent from the field. "I'm a different player now. I have my confidence again," Rios said. "I believe I'll be a lot better."
> I know some of you have asked about the new practice facility being built at UM. I saw it today and its still in the midst of construction. But it's being built. No word yet on when exactly it will be ready.
> No word either yet on highly-touted '09 recruit Durand Scott, who visited UM this past weekend. I was told by a few other writers today Scott hasn't been answering his phone since his visit. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Check back after 8 for that progress report.