December 18, 2010

LIVE! Hurricane Hoops from Sunrise ... Miami (7-2) vs. UCF (9-0) @ BankAtlantic Center, 1 p.m.

Caneshoops George Richards here LIVE! from the BankAtlantic Center in scenic Sunrise.

It's a little chilly in here, but that's what happens sometimes when hockey meets the hardwood.

The Panthers ice is covered up and there's a basketball court. Hopefully some fans will join us. If not, we're here for you.

The first game of this Orange Bowl double-dip features Miami against the upstart UCF Knights. UCF hasn't played too many tough teams, but they did knock off the Gators. The Gator plays Frank Martin's Kansas State squad in the second game.

Anyway, the LIVE! chat is below. Just click on the play button to see the posts. If you have a question or comment, submit it and I'll approve it (as long as it's clean). That process may take a moment or two so be patient.

Let's play two!

 

November 17, 2010

UM returns from Memphis with lessons learned

The University of Miami men's basketball team got back to work Wednesday, less than 48 hours after dropping a 72-68 early morning heartbreaker at 19th-ranked Memphis. 

Malcolm Grant Coach Frank Haith said his team learned a few lessons, including the importance of hitting free throws late in the game and avoiding defensive breakdowns.

"I thought our kids played really really hard, learned a lot," Haith said. "Obviously we turned the ball over [18 times]. We had our chances to win the game there at the end. We were up [63-59] with [3:55] to go, had a couple turnovers and they converted. Then, we had a defensive breakdown. We had played great defense all game. I think they made 19 field goals [of 56 attempts]. Against our set defense, they only made nine field goals. The rest were off transition and easy buckets.

"Then, the only time we really had a major breakdown they hit it. Free throw shooting also hurt us late game. With all that said, if we make our free throws we're still able to win the game. All in all, great learning experience, great environment. Early in the year we want to play those type of games on the road against a Top 20 team. But I'm proud of our kids and how hard we fought and competed to give us a chance to win the game."

Point guard Malcolm Grant, who missed an off-balance game-tying three-point shot with three seconds left on UM's final possession, said he learned a lesson too. "I was trying to draw the foul at the end," Grant. "But I was told refs don't always make those calls at the end. So, I know from now on, shoot my regular shot instead of trying to draw a foul. But you learn from it. I missed the shot. I'll definitely remember that. It won't keep me down."

The Hurricanes (1-1) will get back on the court Friday at 7 p.m. when they host North Carolina Central (1-1) at BankUnited Center.

Haith said one thing he'd like to focus on over the next few weeks is getting Grant and Durand Scott fewer minutes in the first half and sophomore center Reggie Johnson more minutes overall. Grant is averaging 33.5 minutes a game -- up from the 24.6 he averaged a year ago. Scott is averaging 31.5 minutes -- up from 27.8.

"We haven't had a guy play those type of minutes before," Haith said. "We can give them some early rest so they aren't gassed in the end. We also have to keep Reggie in the game. Two games in a row, he's been saddled with two fouls early and only played [21] minutes [versus Memphis]. We need him to play more minutes."

Haith said N.C. Central, coming off a 7-22 season, will be "a very tough game." The Eagles, who return their top eight leading scorers, lost in overtime at Oklahoma Monday night. North Carolina Central, which is reclassifying from Division II to Division I college basketball, has a 41-game losing streak on the road.

"They're better than they were last year," Haith said. "Central is athletic, they'll change defenses. They played almost all zone against Oklahoma. In previous years, they've been a pressing team. I think we have to expect to play against both."

 

November 10, 2010

Haith: Daniels a high-flier like Diaz

The University of Miami men’s basketball team signed Bishop Daniels to a National Letter of Intent Wednesday, adding a high-flying combo guard to its roster that coach Frank Haith said reminds him of Guillermo Diaz.

Daniels, a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder from Raleigh, N.C., is ranked as the 112th best recruit by Rivals.com. He averaged 13 points and five assists per game for Word of God Christian Academy (N.C.) last season -- the same school that produced first overall pick John Wall two years ago.

"He's a true combo right now, but eventually will be a point guard," Haith said. "He's coming to a team that's going to pretty much be the same team next year. So we can kind of grow him.

"The way he flies, he's like Guillermo [Diaz]. He's a really athletic player. I don't remember Guillermo in high school in terms of how good a shooter he was. But he was a great shooter when he left here. Bishop has to work to that. But he's that kind of athlete."

Daniels, who played AAU ball for the CP3 All-Stars and was also recruited by schools such as N.C. State and Purdue, is the final recruit in the Canes' 2011 signing class. The Canes, who open the season Friday night at home against Jacksonville, used their other scholarships on 6-11 center Kenny Kadji and 6-5 guard Trey McKinney-Jones, who transferred in from other programs. Both will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

"We're only going to loss Adrian Thomas from this team," Haith said. "I think we're going to be in pretty good shape this year and next."

October 28, 2010

News, notes from basketball media day at UM

The University of Miami men's and women's basketball teams accomplished something last year that had never been done before: they each finished with at 20 wins in the same season. With the bulk of those teams back, expectations are high as both believe they should make it to the NCAA Tournament.

Will they get there? We'll find out in March. But here are some news and notes from Wednesday's media day in Coral Gables:

> Men's coach Frank Haith, whose team opens the exhibition season next Wednesday at home against Barry, finished 20-12 and reached the semifinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament before losing to eventual national champion Duke.

Durand Scott "We had our media day in North Carolina last week and somebody asked me if you can have momentum carry over last year. And my answer was yeah -- if you have the bulk of your team back from last season, which we do,'' Haith said.

"I think we got a team good enough to finish in the middle of the pack. Does that mean we'll finish fifth or sixth? I don't know, we could probably second or third. I think we have a team that can finish in the upper half of this league."

> The two things Haith said he challenged talented sophomore Durand Scott to improve after last season was his role as a vocal leader and his three-point shooting (he was only 16 of 58, .276 as a freshman). It appears Scott, who attended Chris Paul's prestigious camp for guards over the summer, has done both. 

"I've seen a drastic change in Durand," junior swingman Dequan Jones said. "He's one of those kids where he was naturally born to lead. He has an ambience about him that makes you want to follow him. I think now he's really tapped into who he is and how he's going to lead the team vocally and by example. Guys are ready to rally behind him and win some games. In practice everyday he gets guys going. He's always vocal whether we're running dummy offense or playing five-on-five live. He's always talking, saying screen left or screen right. He gives you that confidence on the court that he's always there."

Haith said Scott has also already shown an improved shooting touch. He just doesn't want him to make the mistake of feeling like he has to prove it during the games, rather flash it. "Durand has to be a well-rounded, all-around player," Haith said. "The strength of his game is getting in the paint. I think it will be even more effective if he can make shots. I don’t want him to have to prove to people he’s a three-point shooter. That’s the worst thing a young player can do when they think they lack in our area and the first opportunity they get they have to prove they’re a three-point shooter. You have to do you. We had a practice the other day and Durand made three or three threes in a row. He’s definitely worked at it. It’s all about working game speed with Durand.

> There were plenty of highlights for the Canes during the summer -- trips to different parts of the world and what not. But the big highlight? When LeBron James and several NBA players (Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade) came in and spent three days playing pick-up games with the team over the summer.

"They came in here and played ball with us -- it wasn't just breaking a sweat or anything like that," forward Julian Gamble said. "They talked to us, kidded around. It was a great opportunity, once in a lifetime. These are superstar guys that get paid hundreds of millions of dollars do what they do. For them to come in there and act like one of us, showed us how they’re people too. The way they came in here how humble they were, it was really great."

Scott said he was able to steal the ball once from LeBron. Any dunks? "No," Scott said laughing. "I wish."

> Since practice started Oct. 15, Haith said guard Malcolm Grant, a 6-1, 180-pound junior who is expected to join standout sophomore Durand Scott in the starting back court, has stood out the most. "He's playing with such confidence, playing quicker,'' Haith said. "I told him to study a former player I had at Texas, D.J. Augustin. [Grant] reminds me a lot of D.J."

Haith said Grant, who lost about 10 pounds in the offseason, made his biggest strides "in terms of pace, how he can accelerate and his ability to shoot the ball."

"He's playing at a high level right now," Haith said.

> Forward Julian Gamble (6-9, 258) returned to practice Monday after sitting out a month following surgery to repair or a torn meniscus in his left knee. "It's just a process of getting back into shape, just jelling with the guys,'' said Gamble, who says he doesn't feel any discomfort in the knee. "I'm really happy to be back out there when I'm not sucking wind on the sidelines, trying to survive.''

Haith expects Gamble, who started 11 games in a row to close out the 2009 season and averaged 6.3 rebounds over his last seven starts, to be ready by the time the Hurricanes play their first road game at Memphis Nov. 15. The Tigers debuted at No. 19 in the preseason AP poll.

> Junior swingman Dequan Jones has been rather unspectacular most of his career despite coming to UM as one of the most highly touted recruits Haith has brought in. Last year, he averaged 5.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and had just 15 steals and 16 blocks in 20 starts. But his strong showing at the ACC tournament, when he averaged 11.7 points, has Haith optimistic about Jones' future.

Jones said he's continued to work hard in the offseason on his jump shot, putting up 500 to 600 shots a day after practice when he's already tired. Jones said he wouldn't leave the court until he's done making at least 300. "Jump shooting has been a big thing for me in the offseason," Jones said. "Most people come in at different times to shoot. When you shoot after practice, when your body is tired, that's more like a game situation."

> Freshman forward Raphael Akpejiori (6-8, 229), who sustained a stress reaction in his foot when practice first began on Oct. 15, is being closely monitored said Haith. As for his play, Haith said: "He is relentless on the court. I love that about him. Compared to say Dwayne Collins at the same stage, he’s got more skill set than Dwayne does. Dwayne was very raw as a freshman. [Akpejiori] has good low post moves. He has really tremendous instincts around the basket in terms of keeping balls alive. He’s not afraid of contact. He even gave the old [Dikembe] Mutombo move the other day at practice. He has all the things I love in terms of energy and enthusiasm."

> Haith said redshirt freshman forward Donnavan Kirk (6-9, 227) will definitely be in the rotation this season and play quite a bit. "He gives us athleticism in the post,'' Haith said. "He's a pretty good skill [player] too. He can make a shot 17-feet in. I think he'll be a three-point shooter before his career is over. He's a guy that's not allergic to working."

Reggie Johnson > At 6-10 and athletic 303-pounds, sophomore center Reggie Johnson can be a pretty intimidating presence on the basketball court. But could you picture him wearing shoulder pads, a helmet and standing side by side with 6-8, 355-pound freshman tackle Seantrel Henderson?

Apparently, Hurricanes football coach Randy Shannon already has. Johnson, who held court for about 20 minutes with reporters (telling funny stories about his offseason trip to China and how he tripped and fell during his tour of the Great Wall), said Shannon has joked with him in the past about coming out for football.

"Coach always says, `Hey, big fella, come on out to the football field. You saw Jimmy Graham, right? Look where he is now: Making millions,'" Johnson said. "I'm like, `Yes, sir.'"

Johnson, who impressed at last year's ACC Tournament averaging 13.7 points, eight rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in earning Second Team all-tournament honors, probably won't ever have to do it. His basketball talents are already drawing the attention of NBA scouts. But would he try football if hoops didn't work out? "Hopefully I don't have to; I want to stick with basketball," Johnson said. "[But] If it comes about I think I would. It could be [an option]."

Johnson of course would have to get over one big issue: his fear of Shannon. "I'm afraid of coach Shannon for no reason, I don't know why," Johnson said. "He walks up, comes to my class - and even though he's not checking on me - I straighten up, raise my hand, pay attention. I can't explain it."

> Haith said Dwayne Collins, drafted 60th overall by the Suns last June, is back home in Miami. Collins was playing in the Italian basketball league top level for Pallacanestro Varese. Former Canes Jack McClinton, Rob Hite and Brian Asbury are all playing in Israel. Haith said last he heard Guillermo Diaz was playing in Puerto Rico and Anthony King was in Germany. 

> Women's coach Katie Meier, whose team is bringing back its top two scorers in Shenise "Moe Moe" Johnson and Riquna "Bay Bay" Williams from a 22-14 season which ended with a runner-up in the NIT, said the biggest improvement her team has made is in the backcourt.

"The difference between this year and last year will be that when the game is on the line and there is four minutes left in the game, [Johnson and Williams] won't have played 34 minutes already and try to win the game when they're completely exhausted,'' Meier said. "There is a lot on those two kids and in end of the game situations they were pretty much spent. It's my job as a coach to give them the eight minute media rest, plus a couple more minutes in the second half so when its time to bring their A-game in the last two minutes of the game, they can do that."

> Freshman guard Krystal Saunders, a 5-8 standout from South Broward High, is one of the new additions Meier is most excited about. She said Saunders' scoring ability … particularly from three-point range -- should help spread the floor even more for Johnson and Williams to penetrate.

"Her style and our style is a great marriage," Meier said. "She's really showing up in practice."

August 13, 2010

Haith would welcome Seantrel on court

If there is one thing University of Miami freshman Seantrel Henderson has done in his first week in football camp, it's impress his new teammates with his athleticism.

Seantrel Henderson "Big guys just aren't supposed to move that way," defensive end Olivier Vernon said earlier this week. "He runs so well, so fluid."

Henderson (6-8, 350) was more than just the nation's No. 1 offensive tackle coming out of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Minn. He was also one of the nation's best big men on the basketball court. Just how good was he? Let's just say if the big guy was willing to try to pull a Julius Peppers or Charlie Ward and Randy Shannon was willing to give him the go-ahead, Frank Haith said he would welcome Henderson with open arms.

"We actually called him and were interested in him," Haith said Wednesday. "He's a good basketball player. He really has good mobility, good hands. He can hold his own. I think he could play and be an effective player at this level."

For three years, Henderson played on the same AAU team (the Howard Pulley Panthers) as Harrison Barnes, the nation's No. 1 high school basketball player who signed with North Carolina. Haith said he would love to see Henderson what it would look like if Henderson was patrolling the paint alongside sophomore center Reggie Johnson (6-10, 305).

"There would be no room for anybody else on the court," Haith joked. "It's not the easiest thing to do [to play two sports]. I'm sure his future is in football in terms of the NFL. But he definitely has a skill set. I'm not going to root for it. But if he wanted to, we would definitely welcome it."

The likelihood that we ever see Henderson dribble a basketball at UM is likely next to none. But considering Jimmy Graham made the move from hoops to football and gave the Canes a huge lift at tight end, maybe Shannon could do Haith a favor and let Henderson play some hoops if Haith needs him? Just a thought.

> BIG GAMES ON TAP: Now that the NBA schedule has been released, look for the college basketball schedule to be released soon (likely the beginning of September). The Hurricanes won't have nearly as many national appearances as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat, but they've lined up a few games that are at least sexy on paper and could get them on TV.

Haith said the Canes will play their first road game and make their first national TV appearance kicking off ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon (24 consecutive hours of college hoops) with a midnight game at Memphis right after Monday Night Football in mid-November. After that, UM is supposed to host both Ole Miss, an NIT semifinalist, and West Virginia, a Final Four team last year, in December. There is also a road trip to Rutgers and a Christmas tournament in Las Vegas with Rice, Akron and Oral Roberts, teams that all finished with 20 wins last season. "I think it's a really good schedule that's going to test us early," Haith said. 

North Carolina and Duke, the last two national champions, will both travel to BankUnited Center. The Canes will not have to play at UNC, but do have a trip to Duke. "They'll be the best team in the country this year," Haith said of Duke. "You talk about the Plumlees. Kyle [Singler] is terrific. He's one of my favorite players. I shouldn't say favorite. He's been a Miami killer. But the way he plays and what he does. He's great."

The Canes definitely played the Blue Devils tough before losing to them at the ACC Tournament semifinals. While Haith said his players gained some confidence from playing the Blue Devils tough, coming close to beating great teams just isn't enough anymore. 

"Yeah, we played Duke tough," Haith said. "But we want to beat Duke. Our goal is to have our program win championships. It does give us a little confidence. But I want our guys to understand the big picture. Hopefully, we can learn from a team like Duke. They have guys like Zoubek who is a complete role guy. Those guys bought into a role for the betterment of the team. That's how you win."

Frank Haith> RETURNING PLAYERS UPDATE: Haith said he's been happy with the offseason his players have had, especially under new trainer Todor Pandov

Sophomore guard Durand Scott participated in Chris Paul's camp. "I think he's gotten stronger, bigger," Haith said. "He was just a wiry freshman last year. He looks more put together now."

Junior forward Julian Gamble spent his summer playing in a league in North Carolina, alongside players from Duke, N.C. State and the Tar Heels. 

Point guard Malcolm Grant spent his summer training on campus and he's lost weight, dropping down from 190 to about 183. "I thought he was overweight last year," Haith said. "I think we'll see a player with a little bit more burst, a little more quickness."

Reggie Johnson is currently playing in China with Athletes in Action. Haith said he is proud of the way Johnson continues to monitor his weight and be responsible about eating. "I get daily text messages from out there," Haith said. "One day, they were all chose to go to McDonald's. Reggie chose not to go. It was good because I think he knew we were going to be tracking him."

The only player who hasn't been able to get much work done this offseason, according to Haith, has been junior swingman DeQuan Jones. "He's been down all summer," Haith said. "He hurt [his ankle] early in the summer and hasn't really done a whole lot. He's still not 100 percent. It was a really bad sprain. He was playing one-on-one with Malcolm Grant and wasn't wearing an ankle bracelet. He just came down and landed wrong on his foot. He's going to be rusty when he comes back."

Guard Trey McKinney-Jones, a transfer from the University of Missour-Kansas City, has also been injured this summer. McKinney-Jones, however, isn't eligible to play until the 2011-2012 season per NCAA transfer rules anyway. "He had a rib situation going on," Haith said. "Something to do with cartilage."

> Of the three freshmen to arrive, Haith said guard Rion Brown is most likely to make an impact right away. "He's going to be a major player for us," Haith said. "He's another guy that came in really slender. But he's picked up about 10 pounds already. Rion can score the ball. He shot almost 60 percent in high school. He has good bloodlines. His dad, Tico Brown, was the CBA's leading scorer.

> With Dwayne Collins and Cyrus McGowan gone, redshirt freshman Donnovan Kirk's role will significantly increase in the post. Haith said Kirk, who came in weighing 210 pounds, has added the bulk he's needed to compete in the ACC.

"Like Dwayne, Donnovan has that length you want," Haith said. "I think his wingspan is 7-3. He's very athletic. He plays hard, has a big-time motor. I'm not sure how we'll use him, but he'll play major minutes. He's like 225-230 now. You just love his activity as a live wire. He can shoot the ball, has a nice jump hook."

"I like our post guys. We don't have a lot of depth there in terms of numbers. But with Reggie, Julian, Donnovan, Adrian Thomas we should be good."

Freshman Raphael Akpejiori (6-9, 235) will probably only redshirt if those four stay injury free. "Raphael won't be ready to come in and be a major player right away," Haith said. "But I think he could be like Jimmy Graham was for us as a freshman. He was big, strong, physical, rebounded and played defense."

> The Hurricanes only have one scholarship remaining for the 2011 class now that forward Kenny Kadji has transferred over from Florida. "With Kenny taking one, we can kind of be selective," Haith said. "Since we don't have a lot of scholarships, we made sure to see a lot of juniors this summer. We're involved with a lot of good ones."

March 31, 2010

Guard Antoine Allen transferring

The University of Miami announced Wednesday that freshman guard Antoine Allen has decided to transfer and pursue basketball at another school. 

Antoine Allen Allen, a 6-1 guard from the same AAU program Jack McClinton played for in Baltimore, averaged 2.9 points and 0.8 rebounds while converting 41.7 percent from long range in 17 appearances last season. He was named to the All-ACC Academic Men’s Basketball Team.

“I appreciate Antoine’s efforts this season,” UM coach Frank Haith said in prepared statement. “I support his decision to seek additional playing time with another program and I wish him well.”

The Canes return nine players including four starters -- Durand Scott, Reggie Johnson, DeQuan Jones and Julian Gamble -- who helped the team reach the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. Allen played one minute against Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament and had not played at all before that since the trip to Maryland on Jan. 26.

March 21, 2010

Canes beat Gators 77-64 in second round of Women's NIT

Hey guys, Andre Fernandez here. Here's an update from the Canes' women's NIT game against the Gators:

In front of several of its women's basketball alumni, the Canes kept their season going with a 77-64 victory against the Florida Gators Sunday afternoon at the BankUnited Center.

UM won its second postseason game in a season for the first time in school history. The tournament expanded to 64 teams this season. It is the Canes' first trip to the Round of 16 since the 2005-06 season.

And UM will host again.

The Canes will play North Carolina A&T Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the BankUnited Center.

UM dominated the game and had four players score in double figures.

Shenise Johnson posted a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Canes, but Charmaine Clark had 16 points, Diane Barnes had 13 and Riquna Williams had 15.

The Canes also dominated on the boards, finishing with a 43-31 edge and 15-10 on offensive rebounds. The only thing that kept the game close was UF's three-point shooting. The Gators made 9 of 26 from beyond the arc, but Miami countered by making 7 of 22 from three-point range.

March 14, 2010

NIT passes on Canes

Frank Haith's basketball team made a lot of noise in the ACC Tournament. It apparently just wasn't enough to get the attention of the NIT selection committee.

When the NIT brackets were finally unveiled on ESPNU for the 32-team tournament moments ago, the Canes (20-13) were nowhere to be found. Unless Haith has a change of heart, that means UM's season has come to an end. Last week, Haith told reporters if his team received an invite to anything other than NIT, it would pass.

It's a tough way for UM to end the year, especially since they seemed to be playing at their best now. 

Miami won an opening round NIT game last year at Providence before losing to Florida in the second round. The Hurricanes have been to the postseason in four of Haith's first six seasons as coach. 

March 12, 2010

Canes proving they were better than last place

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The press room inside the Greensboro Coliseum is usually a pretty quiet place. At around 4:30 p.m. Friday, the neighbors did a nice job disrupting the peace. On the other side of the thick brick wall dividing the press from the locker rooms, a jubilant University of Miami basketball team could be heard celebrating their second upset win in a row at the ACC Tournament.

Durand Scott Before Friday, no UM team had ever won two post season conference games in the same season. Not the one Jack McClinton took to the second round of the NCAA Tournament two years ago. Not even the one that shared the Big East Title in 2000. Somehow, the most successful tournament team in UM history has become the one that finished in last place and is surviving without its leading scorer and rebounder.

"For real?" a puzzled Reggie Johnson told me when I mentioned his Canes were the first to win twice in a post-season conference tournament. "I had no idea. I guess that means we should have been doing this all year then."

It's far too late for UM (20-12) to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The only way for the Canes to go dancing is to beat top-seeded Duke Saturday and then win again Sunday. But one can only imagine the what-if scenarios at this point.
 
What if Durand Scott would have actually listened to Haith and been more aggressive at the start of the season instead of waiting for the final month to show everybody why he was so highly touted?
> What if DeQuan Jones would have averaged 14 points a game -- what he's done at the ACC Tournament -- instead of losing his spot in the starting rotation, his confidence and riding the pine since Christmas?
> What if Dwayne Collins would have gone pro? Would a full season of Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble been more fruitful for the Canes?
Would the Canes have blown a 17-point lead at home against Boston College?
Would UM have let their 12-point halftime lead against Duke wilt away?
> Would Miami really have finished in last place?

There's no way to really know. But there is a feeling in the Canes' locker room things would have definitely been different. Scott admitted he was nervous early this season to step on anybody's toes, despite the fact Haith was pushing him to take on a bigger role. 

Friday, though, Scott had no problem handling it. With the game against Virginia Tech in the balance, he scored 11 points over the final six minutes by attacking the basket like it was nobody's business. His teammates were glad he did.

"Coach said four low and just move out the way and let Durand go to work," guard Malcolm Grant said. "Durand's a great driver and a great finisher. It was just great for him to come through. The way I've always felt about it is whoever helps us win, that's who we want to do it."

The Canes are finally coming through this season. Win or lose against Duke, all U can say is better late than never.

I'm certainly not trying to single out Haith, Collins or anybody on this team for its regular season underachievement. What I'm saying is after watching them beat two NCAA Tournament teams in a row here, its obvious they should have been better than last place. This is a young basketball team and its taken time for them to learn how to win, feel confident. But it's obvious the talent was there for better results.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> For those of you still wishing for Frank Haith's reign as Canes coach to be over, ESPN reporter Andy Katz posted on his Twitter account that Haith could be a candidate to replace Jeff Lebo at Auburn, who was fired Friday. Haith and the Canes were already gone when Katz tweeted the message.

> With UM's two wins in the tournament, the Canes have gone from missing the NIT entirely to at least having a shot.

> According to UM's sports information office, Ohio star cornerback Latwan Anderson has formally signed his national letter of intent for his track scholarship.

Do Canes have another upset in them?

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Hurricanes' upset of fifth-seeded Wake Forest Thursday was by far the best thing that has happened for Frank Haith's basketball team since it began the season 15-1. It wasn't just the fact the Canes kept their NIT and NCAA hopes alive, but the way the team played in its 21-point blowout. UM finally showed the energy, aggressiveness and athleticism Haith thought his young team would display more of throughout the season.

Reggie Johnson  So the question now becomes: Was it just a one-game deal? Or, are we going to see this style of play from the Canes moving forward? Is DeQuan Jones going to go back into a shell? Are Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble going to continue to control the paint with their size and athleticism? 

The biggest thing injured senior Dwayne Collins said has been lacking this year for some of the young guys has been establishing consistent confidence. At times, he says, they don't realize how talented they are. "With DJ it's all about his confidence," Collins said. "When he has confidence, he can do anything. [Thursday] He just played free. He's a great player. But a lot of times he playes with a lot on his mind."

"I've been telling Reggie he's a beast forever. But sometimes, he doesn't believe it."

The Canes have won first round ACC games a few times before. This is the fourth time in six seasons UM has won a first round game at the tournament. But long post season runs aren't something the Hurricanes are known for. Miami has never won more than one conference tournament game in a season and reached the semifinal round just twice in the Big East (1999, 2000). 

So, if the Canes win today it won't just be a great step forward for this team, but for the program, too. 

Here are today's projected starting lineups...

UM (19-12) Yr. Stats
C Reggie Johnson, 6-10, 295      R-Fr.         6.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 12.7 mpg
F Julian Gamble, 6-9, 255 R-So.        3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 0.8 bpg
F DeQuan Jones, 6-6 219 So. 5.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.5 bpg
G James Dews, 6-4, 213 Sr. 11.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.6 apg
G Durand Scott, 6-3, 195 Fr. 9.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.5 apg

Virginia Tech (23-7) Yr. Stats
C Victor Davila, 6-8, 245 So. 5.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 bpg
F Jeff Allen, 6-7, 230  Jr.  12.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 spg
F Terrell Bell, 6-6, 205  Jr.   5.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg
G Malcolm Delaney, 6-3, 190      Jr.  20.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.1 apg
G Dorenzo Hudson, 6-5, 220       Jr. 14.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg

Feel free to follow my in game updates on Twitter. The game will be televised locally on ESPN2 and or Raycom.

March 11, 2010

Canes are Durand Scott's team now

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Frank Haith hasn't come out and said it yet (I'm not sure he ever will considering he never did it for Jack McClinton). But the University of Miami basketball team you will see on the floor this afternoon in the ACC Tournament (and over the next couple seasons) belongs to a new leader: freshman Durand Scott.

Durand ScottIt wasn't supposed to happen this quickly. Dwayne Collins, James Dews and Malcolm Grant were supposed to be the leaders of this team this time of year. But it's clear the future is now. Scott, the first UM player named to the ACC All-Rookie Team, has been given the green light to take over the team the last month. 

He's responded with 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 six assists over the Canes' last five games. It's not by accident that the team has looked better because of it, coming close to beating Florida State and nearly rallying UM from an 18-point deficit at North Carolina with 16 of his season-high 29 points in the second half. 

"There's no question Durand Scott is a guy players across the country are looking saying man, I'd like to play with him," Haith said last week. 

"He's a guy I think can attract other great players because he's a selfless player, but also a very good player. He's the kind of guy that will do whatever he has to do to win. When you look at his play and some of our other young guys, you got to feel like the future is bright. To go on that stage at North Carolina and put up the type of game he had at North Carolina, for that matter the game he had against Duke, you don't see many freshmen do that. That tells you right there he has a chance to be a special player."

A special player and perhaps the only big chip UM has left at the moment. If the Canes are going to win any more games this season and have a shot at the NIT (UM might have to win two games here to even be considered), it's clear Scott is going to have to lead them there.

> For updates throughout today's game against Wake Forest follow me on Twitter.

March 10, 2010

A good day for UM recruiting

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Is it just me or did Wednesday's news regarding five-star defensive back Latwan Anderson feel like the first big victory in recruiting for the University of Miami in a while? 

Latwan Anderson I'm not trying to put a negative spin on it. It's great the Canes were able to land a top-notch recruit they weren't supposed to get. But ever since Jacory Harris and those other guys from Miami Northwestern came in as part of ESPN's No. 1 recruiting class in 2008, the public perception has been the Canes have missed out on most of the big-time kids they really wanted.

You remember the names and the stories. It started with Patrick Johnson (now Patrick Peterson) dumping the Canes for LSU. Then, there was Matt Patchan, son of a former Cane, choosing the Gators over UM and talking trash about his dad's program. A year later, Kayvon Webster, Defensive player of the Year in Miami-Dade, switched from the Canes for USF on National Signing Day. Then, there was the whole Bryce Brown fiasco, which ended with him choosing Tennessee a few weeks after NSD. This year, Canes fans crossed their fingers for Seantrel Henderson and Ivan McCartney. Again, UM came up short.

Today, though, was a good day for UM. Anderson, a big-time talent in Ohio State's backyard, basically fell into the Canes' lap. Before Signing Day, he wasn't really even on the Canes radar. A U.S. Army All-American, he picked West Virginia on national TV and was all set to go there. Now, he's headed to UM without even being really recruited by UM coach Randy Shannon and his staff. 

The general response I gathered from fans since the news broke Wednesday morning was "it's about time." But is it really fair to say that? Last month, when the Canes wrapped up their 2010 signing class, the overall consensus from experts was that Miami underachieved. The thought was the Canes were supposed to do better with all of the talent available in their backyard. 

The truth is, nothing burns Shannon more than the perception he and his staff aren't doing their jobs as good as they should be doing it when it comes to recruiting in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. In his eyes, there have been a lot of great recruiting days since Jacory and company picked The U.

Randy Shannon LUNCH WITH RANDY... Three weeks ago, I got a chance to go out to lunch with Shannon. There were no tape recorders, no note pads. It was just two guys born and raised in Miami talking about the college football program they've been around (In my case, from a seat far away from the field for most of it). The hour and half I spent with Shannon was about as close as I've been able to get to him in the four years since I've been covering the team.

Shannon, guarded by nature, doesn't trust the media one bit. He thinks most of us don't do a good enough job investigating anything before we write it. But he also doesn't think he needs to volunteer any information he doesn't have to. This lunch -- in part -- was for us to get a better feel for where we come from, where our opinions are formed. 

In this case, Shannon doesn't want the idea to get out there that he's bashing programs in his backyard. So you won't ever read or hear any quotes from him saying high school programs are failing him. But the truth is he's worried about the way many local high school programs are being run these days. 

He says there are many issues that has made recruiting local players to UM a lot tougher than before. At the top of the list: Academic failure (test scores or low GPAs) and arrest records. The old UM might have been to take a chance those kids. But not this one run under President Donna Shalala. 

Then, there is the issue of individuals (street agents/assistant coaches) who are making deals (either for money or employment) with other colleges to send players away. On top of that, there are a few high school coaches for one reason or the other who have agendas against him and the program (in some cases because Shannon didn't hire them as assistants he was named UM's coach). Add it all up, and the field of high-end available recruits available to UM has shrunk. 

Shannon says he isn't asking for pity. He says he just thinks there needs to be a better understanding of why UM ultimately might not recruit a certain player or end up with them on National Signing Day. Ultimately, he says, every player now at UM has gone through the recruiting ringer (background checks, academic checks, character checks). Ultimately, he says, he is the final person to sign off on any written scholarship offer the program hands out. That whole Todd Chandler fiasco? Consider it one of a few mistakes by a now former assistant. But we know through Miami Northwestern coach Billy Rolle that Chandler was never given a written offer. 

Shannon says he is trying to help as many local coaches (many who are young and replacing legends) as he can better understand their responsibilities. He said he talks to them about image (he's scolded several local coaches for wearing bagging jeans and sunglasses on the sideline), instilling discipline (he says not enough suspend their best players for breaking the rules or missing practice) and not falling prey to recruiting promises (some high school coaches he says have been burned by college programs who promise they'll give them a job in exchange for a recruit). But it's hard sometimes, he says, to get through to them.

Whether you are a Shannon supporter or not, you still have to respect the fact the position he was put in wasn't easy. The Canes were well on the way to going in reverse by the time he took the steering wheel. Little by little he's made the program better than it was when he took it over. Nobody can argue that there isn't more talent on this team here now than when got it. Miami has a chance in 2010 to be really good again. And the bottomline is Latwan Anderson would not have picked UM if he didn't like the direction the program is headed in.

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> I didn't make it up in time to catch the Canes basketball team practice at the Greensboro Coliseum, but I'll be at Thursday's ACC Tournament game against Wake Forest. I'll be sending updates on Twitter throughout the game. Our Michelle Kaufman wrote about the Canes' uphill battle coming into the tournament.

> Here is a highlight video I found on Latwan Anderson on YouTube.

March 05, 2010

Haith: 20 wins, postseason berth would satisfy

When the University of Miami men's basketball team started the season 15-1 it seemed inevitable the Canes would reach the 20 win plateau. Now, with only one regular season game left to play Saturday afternoon against Florida State at the BankUnited Center, all coach Frank Haith is hoping for is that his team still gets there.

Frank Haith Miami (18-11, 4-11 ACC) hasn't had the type of second half it was hoping for. But with a win Saturday against the Seminoles and a win Thursday in the first round of the ACC Tournament, UM will reach 20 wins -- likely good enough to earn a second straight NIT berth. And for Haith, who said his team shouldn't have lost at home to Boston College and North Carolina State, that would be good enough.

"I haven't had a chance to reevaluate the whole season. But I felt like if we would have gotten to seven league wins, that would have been awesome for these guys," said Haith, who said before the season he thought his team could finish in the top half of the ACC.

"We lost a whole lot with Jimmy Graham. You realize what those guys meant to your program as you go through the season. Jack McClinton, Jimmy Graham, Brian Asbury, Lance Hurdle, they were here for a long time. They won a lot of games and played in a lot of games. With that said, we're trying to build a program here. You want to have consistency, some winning ways. If we would have gotten to seven wins, that would have been awesome for me and the program to say we've been able to sustain winning, losing great players. Because you're going to take a dip. There's no way you're not going to take a dip when you lose guys that meant so much to your program... With that said, we still have an opportunity to get to where we want to be."

That would be the post-season for the third consecutive season -- and for the fifth time in Haith's six seasons as coach. Going to the postseason three years in a row is a rare feat at UM. It's only happened one other time when UM made it six seasons in a row from 1996 to 2002 -- the first four under Leonard Hamilton and the last two under Perry Clark.

"That's would be a pretty nice little deal for [our seniors]," Haith said. "I think for our program, you look at the history of our program and the tradition of our program, that's a nice little feat."

UM will honor its three seniors -- guard James Dews and forwards Dwayne Collins and Cyrus McGowan -- before Saturday's game. Haith said he doesn't know if Collins, who suffered a stress reaction in his leg, will play. Haith talked a little about both Collins and Dews Friday and what they've meant to the program.

"His freshman year, we wanted him to be a defensive stopper, something he probably hadn't had to do his whole career," Haith said. "But it was what the team needed and he was willing to do. His sophomore year he was a part of the team that went to the NCAA Tournament and was a critical member of that team, came back his junior year and we changed his role a little bit there. He's a guy who went through role changes his whole career. Now, he's been one of the leading scorers and been asked to to be a leader. There's no question James has been a special player for us and a special player for me to coach. You've seen his growth over four years. He's been not only a valuable player, but a valuable person on this team."

Collins, a player Haith pushed to attend NBA camps last year, hasn't had the type of senior season Haith was hoping for. But he said the 6-8, 241-pound forward has had to endure a lot during career.

"He was kind of thrown to the wolves as a freshman," Haith said. "We had a lot of injuries that year and Dwayne was asked to do so much early in his career. We lost Jimmy Graham, Ray Hicks, Anthony King for about nine games and he was the only post player we had and he had to play with a walk-on and a three-man at the other post position. To see him grow from that to where he is today is great."

Despite a few disappointments this season, Haith said he feels good about the direction of the program. He talked a lot about the growth of freshman Durand Scott and how he and redshirt sophomore Malcolm Grant will be a solid foundation heading into next season.

"We only have one senior on our team next year, that's Adrian Thomas," Haith said. "I'd be encouraged by what I see if I'm a fan and what's on tap for this program the next couple years."

> The Sean Taylor Foundation will host a celebrity All-Star Game Saturday at 3 p.m. at St. Thomas University to raise money for local youth programs. For more info, click here.

February 17, 2010

McClinton: 'It is a blessing' to be honored

Jack McClinton has a feeling something special is going to happen tonight when the Hurricanes host sixth-ranked Duke at BankUnited Center.

"For some reason, I think we’re going to win today," the two-time All-ACC selection said Wednesday afternoon, two years after he was at the heart of UM's first win over the Blue Devils in 45 years. "Duke’s a great program, but when you play against a better team you always get up for it. As much as people don’t think we can do it, I believe we’re going to pull it off today."

Jack McClinton The Hurricanes (17-8, 3-8 ACC) will need a special effort to knock off the Blue Devils (21-4, 9-2 ACC). But win or lose, it will still be a special night for McClinton and die-hard Hurricanes basketball fans. At halftime, McClinton's No. 33 will be raised to the basketball arena's rafters along with Don Curnutt (1967-70) and the late Dick Hickox (1958-61). Only two other UM players have received that honor before Wednesday: Rick Barry (1962-65) and Tim James (1995-99).

McClinton, just one year removed from wearing the orange and green, said it is an honor just to be honored.

"It definitely means a lot, especially to me and my family," said McClinton, who led UM in scoring for three seasons (2006-2009) and left the program as its most prolific three-point shooter."Having my name with these great players at the University of Miami, it’s just a great blessing to be here and a blessing having it happen so fast. I met Mr. Barry yesterday. He’s a legend man. It’s like talking to Jordan. It was just a great honor to meet him."

Barry, named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, would love to see McClinton follow his footsteps as a pro. But Jack has work to do. A second round pick by the San Antonio Spurs last June, McClinton was unable to land a roster spot with the Spurs or Minnesota Timberwolves and signed with the Aliaga Petkim in the Turkish Basketball League, where he's been since the season began Oct. 17.

Little by little, McClinton says, he's adapted to the European game, where zone defenses "stress getting your fundamentals down."

"Things are going well," said McClinton, who ranks 12th in scoring (16.28 ppg) and is averaging 3.3 assists while shooting 32.3 percent from three-point range for an 8-11 team. "I had nine assists last game. I feel like I'm really transferring my game over there. I’m really becoming a total player. I’ve learned how to read the defense more, be a better point guard. It’s definitely helped my game for sure."

Living overseas, McClinton says, has its perks. Aliaga, located on the west coast of Turkey, is a small town of about 44,000 people -- most who love basketball and have grown to love McClinton. The tough part? No fast food.

"There's been a lot of different things that have happened that I haven't gotten used to yet," McClinton said. "The fans are great, but they're tough. They'll throw stuff on the court if they're not happy. But other than that, the biggest thing I miss is being able to go to McDonald's whenever I want."

McClinton, who lives in a small apartment, said he keeps up with his former team when he isn't playing or practicing and watches Canes games online. Many times during games, he'll broadcast his thoughts on Twitter. Of his former teammates, whom he keeps in contact through email and AOL instant message, McClinton said he communicates most often with point guard Malcolm Grant.

"They're a young team man," McClinton said. "Winning on the road in the ACC isn't easy. But if you look at their home record, it's real good. I tell Malcolm all the time he’s doing a great job."

> The ACC released its All-Academic football team Wednesday and the Canes had two players among the 42 selected: tight end Jimmy Graham and offensive lineman Matt Pipho. To be eligible for consideration, a player must have earned a 3.00 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career. All 12 ACC schools were represented by at least one selection on the team. The ACC has selected an ACC All-Academic Football team every year since 1954.

> It was Baseball Media Day on Wednesday. I'll have a few interviews and notes to post in the coming days.

> Spring football practice begins next week. All regular practices are closed to the public and the media only get to see the first 15 minutes of stretching. Here is the complete practice schedule (all practice times are at 3 p.m. unless noted):

- Tuesday, Feb. 23
- Wednesday, Feb. 24
- Friday, Feb. 26
- Saturday, Feb. 27 (10 a.m.)
- Tuesday, March 2
- Wednesday, March 3
- Friday, March 5
- Saturday, March 6 (10 a.m.)
- Tuesday, March 9
- Wednesday, March 10
- Thursday, March 11 (scrimmage)
- SPRING BREAK MARCH 14-21
- Tuesday, March 23
- Wednesday, March 24
- Friday, March 26
- Saturday, March 27 (Spring Game - TBA)

January 25, 2010

Haith wants to see more aggression from Scott

Having a long break after a tough loss can usually hurt a team. But in this case, University of Miami basketball coach Frank Haith said Monday his team's long after last Tuesday's 79-75 loss to Boston College might be just what his team needs to get jump-started going again.

Durand Scott  "I think it was great for us," Haith said during Monday's ACC Teleconference. "We got some really good practice time in. We have a lot of guys competing for playing time. We did a lot of scrimmaging. It was good for us because we got better during the time off."

Few Hurricanes could have needed a break more than freshman point guard Durand Scott. Haith said Scott recently returned home to attend his grandmother's funeral during the break. Haith said Scott and fellow New York guard Malcolm Grant "really struggled at times" getting their teammates good shots during the 10 minute stretch Tuesday that saw Boston College erase a 17-point deficit. Haith said he would like to see Grant become more aggressive again on the offensive end.

Scott is averaging 7.6 points and only two assists a game in ACC play. He averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 assists in non-conference games. "Durand can score more and we need him to do that," Haith said. "He's very capable of doing that... Hopefully, we can see Durand in terms of what we saw earlier in the year when he was aggressive on both ends of the court."

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

- Haith said he expects senior Adrian Thomas to see starter minutes at small forward and power forward. Thomas replaced sophomore DeQuan Jones in the starting lineup against Boston College. Jones has only played a combined 34 minutes (20 against Virginia Tech) in his last four games.

- Look for redshirt freshman Reggie Johnson to continue to get more chances to score in the post. Johnson, who has started the last two games, fell just one rebound shy of his first career double-double with a career-high 15 points and nine rebounds. Haith said Johnson has a nice touch around the basket. Believe it or not, he's also the team's best free throw shooter at nearly 77 percent.

January 16, 2010

Courtside blog: UM-Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. -- Checking in before the 23rd-ranked Canes (15-2, 1-2 ACC) take on the Cavaliers (10-4, 2-0 ACC) here at John Paul Jones Arena. This is without question the nicest arena in the ACC. 

I'll provide some thoughts and observations as this one goes along. Feel free to follow on Twitter. The game is being televised on ESPNU. 

FIRST HALF
> Reggie Johnson in the starting lineup for the first time this season. Looks like Haith likes the way he's playing lately.
> Another slow start for Frank Haith's basketball team. Virginia jumps out to a quick 6-0 lead with 18:14 left
> Canes started the game 0-for-8 before Adrian Thomas drilled a three-pointer with 14:03 left to make it 12-4 Virginia; Frank Haith has already played 11 players in this game.
> Canes go into the half trailing 33-21. They shot 5 of 23 from the field in the first half and were 1 of 9 from 3pt range. UM shot 7 of 26 at Virginia Tech Wednesday night. So, this is even worse.

January 13, 2010

Courtside blog: UM-Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Just got to my courtside seat for tonight's ACC showdown between the 23rd ranked Canes (15-1, 1-1 ACC) and Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1). It's been a long day of travel. I left my house at 4:30 a.m. and after two flights I arrived in Charlottesville, where I picked up a rental car and drove for 3 hours to get here tonight. 

Hopefully, the Canes didn't have such a strenuous venture to the game tonight. I'll provide some thoughts and highlights as this one rolls along. No TV, but Joe Zagacki is sitting two seats to my right and will be broadcasting the game on WQAM. Be sure to follow along.

FIRST HALF

> Virginia Tech has come out shooting threes early. Hokies have hit 3 of 4 to start the game and have an early 13-4 lead. Funny thing is Canes lead the league in three pointers made and Hokies are 11th out of 12 in 3-point percentage. Go figure.

> Hokies have started this one off red-hot and Miami ice cold. Canes are 2 of 11 and 0 for 6 from three-point range to start. Hokies are 7 of 9 from the field and have an 18-5 lead.

> DeQuan Jones ends UM's 2-for-11 start from the field with a bucket with 11:50 left. Canes trail 20-7.

> This might have been a long trip for nothing. Canes getting blown out 26-8 with 9:11 left in the first half. Yikes!

> Well, the Canes are only down four touchdowns, 35-8. Maybe Jacory can get the offense rolling in the second half.

> Nothing positive you can say at this point for the Canes. They are trailing 48-13. Worst hoops game ever? Feels like it.

> Here's all you need to know: Canes close out the first half with a 7-0 run and still trail 50-23.

January 04, 2010

UM hoops lands third commitment for 2010

Frank Haith and his basketball team came back from their West Coast trip with more than a 23-point win over Pepperdine Sunday night. The Hurricanes landed their third commitment for the 2010 class shortly after their win when 6-5, 220-pound forward Erik Swoope from North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake got a call from assistant Michael Schwartz and realized he'd been offered.

Frank Haith  "It's actually a pretty funny story," Swoope said. "I had been talking to Coach Haith and he told me how he'd like for me to be a part of his family. I thought it was just a nice gesture. But it turns out he was offering me. When I talked to Coach Schwartz, he said, 'So, how do you feel?' I said, 'It would be great if you guys would offer.' He said, 'Coach did. So, do you want to commit?'  I said 'Absolutely."

Unranked by Rivals.com, Swoope is rated the 43rd best power forward in the country according to ESPN.com. Swoope said despite being 6-5, his game is really more tailored to playing in the paint. 

"We haven't gone into full conversations about where they want me to play, but they're talking about developing my skills and having me shoot from about 15 feet and out," Swoope said. "They want to use my post skills as an advantage. My guess it's a combo of a three or a four. I can do both."

Swoope, who has a 3.2 GPA and was also being courted by Harvard, is averaging 18.8 points, 8.5 rebound and 2.5 steals through 12 games. He said he averaged 13 points and nine rebounds a game last season as a junior.

"Coach Schwartz called me at the end of July and he expressed that Miami had some interest," Swoope said. "I played with the Pump N Run Elite team and I thought things were going well until I moved and we lost communication. Three weeks ago, we called Coach Schwartz and told him about a tournament I was playing in and if they wanted to see me. I saw Coach Haith when they came down to my practice the day after New Year's and it just went well from there."

Swoope, who grew up playing soccer and basketball, said he feels like UM will provide great balance for him academically and athletically. Born with a passion for math and science, he said he was considering Harvard for its Business Management and Sports Management programs. But he sees he can do the same at Miami while playing in the ACC. The other schools to offer Swoope: Washington State, Utah, San Diego State, UNLV and Portland.

November 25, 2009

Canes could be 'more dangerous' without McClinton

If you picked up a preseason college basketball magazine, all you read regarding the University of Miami was how the program was expected to take a step back this season after the loss of two-time All-ACC guard Jack McClinton.

James Dews  What McClinton did for the Canes can't be denied. He put UM on his back two seasons ago and carried them to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year, when he struggled down the stretch, so did the Canes. Instead of living up to their lofty preseason expectations, UM floundered, finished tied for a disappointing seventh in the conference and went to the NIT. 

Naturally, this year's team was expected to flop with McClinton gone. But what we've learned so far is that these Hurricanes, off to a 5-0 start, could be an even more dangerous team without McClinton. Instead of one go-to option, the Hurricanes have shown us at least in the early going that balance has its benefits.

"Last year we had Jack [McClinton], and Jack was a guaranteed 25-30 [points]. On this particular team this year you never know who is going to kill you on any given night," sophomore guard DeQuan Jones said Tuesday. "Adrian [Thomas] might hit five or six threes. [James] Dews could go for 22. Reggie [Johnson] or Dwayne [Collins] will grab 15 rebounds. You never know. That's the beauty of this year."

Said Haith: "If you are a basketball fan you have to be excited about these guys. We're deep, strong, physical, we have shooters, we have athleticism, we have toughness. We have a little combination of everything. We don't have a superstar, but we have some really good players. You can win with that also.

"I'm extremely excited about this team. I'm anxious to be a part of the growth of this team and see where we are in January and February because I feel there is so much room to grow with this team."

After five games, it's easy to spot what UM needs to work on and what it needs to continue to do well...

> From the need to continue to do well section: Shoot the ball with accuracy and rebound. The Hurricanes have converted at least 50 percent of their field goals in all five games this season and are hitting 52.9 percent of their shots. Not only is it the first time Miami has shot 50 percent from the field in its first five games in a season, but its the only time UM has put together five-straight 50 percent shooting games at any point in a season since at least the return of the program in 1985-86. UM previously shot at least 50 percent in four-straight games, from Feb. 6-16, during the 1998-99 season. The Hurricanes knocked off Georgetown (.500), Syracuse (.500), Providence (.510) and Villanova (.606) en route to an NCAA berth.

> From the need to get better section: Clean up the turnovers and make free throws more consistently. The Canes have turned it over 99 times through its first five games, hitting the 20-mark three times so far. Haith said Tuesday it's a product of his two new point guards -- Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant -- playing at warp speed and getting adjusted to their teammates.

A few more notes and thoughts...

-- Make no mistake UM is a different team with two legit point guards. Having Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant has made things a lot easier on post players, who no longer have to work to the extreme to create a scoring opportunity. Julian Gamble said the feeling is a lot more relaxed on the court when teams try and create backcourt pressure. "It's been great," DeQuan Jones said. "Like Julian said having two point guards, two guys with tremendous leadership on the court. They really pride themselves on getting guys the ball where they can do the most damage. They come over and ask Dwayne or another post player do you want the ball here, here, or here."

DeQuan Jones  -- Before the season got underway James Dews injured his shoulder in a collision with Scott during practice. It forced Dews to wear a harness. It seems like Dews is getting adjusted to it. He had back-to-back solid scoring games to close out the Charleston Classic and in the eyes of Haith probably should have be named to the All-Tournament Team. So, is Dews ready to be Miami's go-to outside? Haith is hoping so.

"I hope he and Dwayne [Collins] both [can be]," Haith said. "I don't want us to get away from that being our focus, playing inside out. You look at that last game, we only took 13 threes and we made eight of them. I think we can shoot the three very well. But I think we can shoot it even better if we have a post presence. In the South Carolina game, Dews made big play after big play. He's getting more and more comfortable wearing that sleeve. Quite frankly, we need him to be a player for us, a double figure scorer. We need that on a consistent basis."

-- Speaking of Dwayne Collins, it looks like he might actually be snapping out of his inconsistent funk. Teammate Julian Gamble said while Collins' laid back personality hasn't changed much, his game has. "I think he's still very relaxed on the court. He doesn't let things bother him. When things happen, he's pretty good at handling at adversity," Gamble said. "But practice wise, he's expanded his game a lot. He's stronger with the ball. He's more decisive with his post moves and I think he's developed a good 10 to 12-foot footer."

-- If there were times last season when sophomore swingman DeQuan Jones looked like he was trying to do much it's because he was. Jones, who spent most of his off-season working with Haith on his defense, said he's no longer looking for the home run. "The overall thing is just being poised, letting things come to you instead of the first play trying to hit a home run. Just be consistent. [Last year] I was trying to do too much. This year I just feel more poised, a lot more calm, more patient in the offense. People can say a year can make a big difference and I can see that."

For those of you interested in listening in on Tuesday's football and basketball interviews check out our UM audio section. I'll have a football blog later for you tonight.