Miami Hurricanes diver named an NCAA finalist for 2016 Woman of the Year

Karamccormack

Just in from the NCAA. Kudos to Kara McCormack:

Finalists named for 2016 Woman of the Year Award

Nine former college athletes have been selected as finalists for the 2016 NCAA Woman of the Year Award and will be honored at an awards dinner Oct. 16 in Indianapolis.

The 2016 Woman of the Year will be named at that event.

Three women from each NCAA division were selected. Their college careers are highlighted by outstanding achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.

The finalists were chosen from 30 Woman of the Year honorees who will be recognized during the event. This group of 30 includes 10 honorees from each NCAA division and represents a range of sports.  Schools nominated 517 college athletes for the 2016 award.

 

Kara McCormack

School: University of Miami (Florida)

Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference

Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Major: Mathematics

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Excerpt from personal statement: “Although my diving career is over, I am now taking a new plunge into another opportunity: research in the medical field. My next step is a Ph.D., followed by teaching and continued advocacy for young women to follow their passions. I therefore thank my collegiate career for making me the woman I am today, and for allowing me to continue to spread this strength to others around the world.”

Kara McCormack embraced her platform as a student-athlete as a way to lead others on her campus, in her community and on a global scale. The University of Miami (Florida) swimming and diving team captain served on the Atlantic Coast Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She also volunteered as a pen pal with children at a local elementary school, taking advantage of the opportunity to encourage young girls to pursue interests in math and science. In addition, she went on a trip to rural Vietnam as part of the Coach for College program, where she taught ninth-grade physics and encouraged kids to persevere and attend college.

McCormack made the dean’s list every semester and graduated with a nearly perfect grade-point average in mathematics. She earned three nods as a member of the all-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Team and received the ACC postgraduate scholarship in 2016. She was inducted into multiple honor societies on campus, and in 2016, was inducted in to the Iron Arrow Honor Society, which is the highest honor for a Miami student who exemplifies love of alma mater, character, leadership, scholarship, and humility. McCormack is now in the process of pursuing her doctorate in mathematics.

In 2013, McCormack was named the ACC Diver of the Year after winning the conference championship on the diving platform. The three-time College Swimming Coaches Association of America All-American qualified for the NCAA championships in 2016 in the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events. She also competed at the Olympics trials for USA Swimming in 2012.

The other nominees:

Margaret Guo

School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Conference: New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference

Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Majors: Electrical engineering and computer science; biological engineering

Hometown: San Diego

Christina Hillman

School: Iowa State University

Conference: Big 12 Conference

Sport: Women’s track and field

Majors: Child, adult and family services; psychology

Hometown: Dover, Delaware

Bri Leeper

School: West Texas A&M University

Conference: Lone Star Conference

Sport: Women’s track and field

Major: Broadcasting and electronic media

Hometown: Amarillo, Texas

Maurissa Lester

School: Limestone College

Conference: Conference Carolinas

Sport: Women’s basketball

Major: Professional biology/pre-dentistry, with a minor in chemistry

Hometown: Marietta, Georgia

Elayna Siebert

School: Carson-Newman University

Conference: South Atlantic Conference

Sport: Softball

Major: Accounting

Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee

Haley Townsend

School: Kenyon College

Conference: North Coast Athletic Conference

Sport: Women’s swimming and diving

Major: International studies, with a concentration in Islamic civilization and cultures, and a minor in Arabic

Hometown: Greenwood, Indiana

Cameasha Turner

School: University of Texas at El Paso

Conference: Conference USA

Sport: Women’s basketball

Major: Criminal justice

Hometown: Dallas

Amy Viti

School: Misericordia University

Conference: Middle Atlantic Conference

Sports: Women’s cross country, track and field

Major: Speech language pathology

Hometown: Sugar Notch, Pennsylvania

 

September 20, 2016

September 14, 2016

Breaking News: UM hoops star recruit Dewan Huell arrested

By Michelle Kaufman

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

Dewan Huell of Norland High, the most celebrated University of Miami basketball recruit in recent years, was arrested for battery on Tuesday.

“I am aware of the reported incident involving Dewan Huell last night and we are still gathering information,” said UM athletic director Blake James. “I have very high expectations for all of our student-athletes, as I know Coach Larrañaga does for his team, and any misconduct will be addressed.”

Larranaga, reached by phone, said he just returned to town from recruiting and had not yet met with Huell.

"I just got back, and am planning to meet with Dewan and find out what happened," Larranaga said. "Dewan is a terrific kid and we will deal with this once we have all the information."

According to a police report obtained by Andy Slater of WINZ, Huell, 19, walked into his ex-girlfriend’s dorm room at FIU, found her in the closet with another man and attacked the man. Police say he grabbed the man by his shirt and dragged him out of the room, leaving him with scratches on his neck and chest.

Huell, who is 6-11 and 220 pounds, was to begin his freshman season with the Hurricanes next month. He was rated the nation’s No. 21 recruit by ESPN and played on three state championship teams with Norland. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.1 rebounds last season and was the Miami Herald 8A-6A Player of the Year.

-30-

May 23, 2016

Dejan "DJ" Vasiljevic on his first week at UM

Incoming freshman guard Dejan "DJ" Vasiljevic arrived at UM for Summer School from his native Australia last week.

Asked his first impressions, this was his response: "At the moment the whole experience appears surreal – so many things have happened over the past few days that I feel as if I am still on the plane and everything is flying by. Seems like I am getting over the jet lag and feel refreshed. I have managed to finalize my enrollment, start classes and obtain the medical clearance so basically it has been full on several days. Between classes, assignments and workouts there has not been much time for anything else. I did get a chance to meet several football recruits and share experience with them, went to a baseball game which reminded me why I chose an indoor sport – it was too hot outside, at least for me, so I think those players deserve lots of praises for their commitment. Literally everyone has been so supportive and encouraging helping me with the transition. I am really excited to be part of this program."

-- Michelle Kaufman.

May 09, 2016

Canyon Barry chooses UF over UM

By Michelle Kaufman

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

If only the University of Miami had a nuclear training reactor. Maybe then the Hurricanes basketball program could have signed College of Charleston transfer Canyon Barry, son of the former UM and NBA legend, Rick Barry.

Instead, the sharpshooter chose to pass up his father's alma mater and play his final year of college basketball at the University of Florida. Barry, the youngest of Rick's sons, is a two-time Academic All-American and graduating this summer with a degree in Physics. He plans to pursue a Master's Degree in nuclear engineering.

"These past few months have been pretty crazy since I made the decision to graduate and transfer," Barry said in a statement. "I have been contacted by numerous coaches from some of the top teams in the country.  I feel blessed and honored that they were interested in having me be a part of their programs...Ultimately, however, after much prayerful consideration, I have made my decision to attend the University of Florida next season and play for Coach Mike White as a Florida Gator.

"The University of Florida is a great fit for me for several reasons.  First, they have an exceptional Nuclear Engineering program and actually have one of the only nuclear training reactors in the southeast.  Secondly, I really like Coach White, his integrity, his honesty with me, and his style of play.  He and I both feel that I can make an immediate contribution... I met the players on my official visit and felt right at home in Gainesville. Lastly, I have family on both my mom and dad’s sides who live in Florida. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, and my cousins will all be able to see me play and cheer on our team."

Barry averaged 19.7 points per game his junior season, but was limited to 13 games because of a shoulder injury.

 

November 17, 2015

Huell expected to sign with UM

Wednesday could be a huge day for UM men's basketball. While the Hurricanes are in Puerto Rico preparing for Thursday's opener of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 5-star recruit Dewan Huell of Miami Norland High is expected to announce his college of choice. And word from a few sources is that the 6-9, 220-pound power forward will pick Miami over South Carolina. FSU was also in the mix, but he apparently eliminated the Seminoles from his list in the past few days.

Huell had a big summer impressing scouts, and is rated anywhere from No. 20 to No. 25 nationally depending on the recruiting site.

If you've never seen him play, here's a preview...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2FdcpPEvcs

 

posted by Michelle Kaufman. See you at the BUC.

November 12, 2015

UM hoops signs 6-11 center

Some basketball news on the eve of season-opener (7 p.m. Friday vs. University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley)

Rodney Miller, Jr., a 6-11 center, signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball for the University of Miami, Head Coach Jim Larrañaga announced Wednesday.

Miller is a native of Laurelton, N.Y., and plays for Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He is considered a four-star recruit, and is ranked No. 15 among centers by ESPN. He chose UM over Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Seton Hall.

“Rodney Miller, Jr., impressed us from the very first time we saw him play with his size, rebounding and shot-blocking ability,” Larrañaga said. “He has a lot of raw potential and we expect that he will improve dramatically in our program. He has learned to compete at the highest level in high school by playing for one of the very best college prep schools in the country.”

See you at the BUC -- Michelle Kaufman

February 02, 2015

Coach L on Angel, Louisville, etc...

Checking in with a very hoarse UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga Monday morning as he prepares team for Tuesday night game vs. No. 10 Louisville. The 23rd-ranked Canes lost back-to-back games to Georgia Tech and FSU, and will probably fall back out of the Top 25 after rejoining the rankings last week. Here's what he had to say on the ACC teleconference:

On the week: "It's been a rough week for our team.''

On the team mood: “Kids are pretty resilient. They bounce back pretty quickly. I think it’s harder on the coaches. But it’s hard on everybody. Nobody likes to lose. Everybody wants to win.’’

On inconsistency: “The whole key is consistency and we’ve been a team that’s very, very capable on some night, but because of our inconsistency, some nights we don’t play well at all.’’

On Angel Rodriguez shooting 33 percent overall and 29 percent in ACC games: “Some of it is shot selection. Some of it is he’s got too much responsibility. He needs his teammates to step up and play a little better themselves so he doesn’t end up having to take and make every big shot. One of our problems is we don’t have an inside presence, like most of the teams in our league have. Tonye Jekiri is a very good defender and rebounder, but he’s not someone we can just throw the ball to and he’s going to score with his back to basket. In fact, we don’t have a back to the basket player. So defenses are able to extend and put more pressure on us on our 3-pt shooting. We haven’t shot the three particularly well, neither Sheldon nor Angel. Defenses are now playing them a little differently than earlier in the season.’’

More on Rodriguez: “He needs help form his teammates. What made him so successful early is Sheldon was also playing great, and so was Manu, making all kinds of shots. What opens it up for Angel is when Manu’s on one wing making threes, and Sheldon’s on the other wing making threes. That opens it up for Angel to do his thing. We’ve gone thought a stretch where we’re not making threes, and it puts pressure on all of them, not just Angel, but Sheldon, Manu and Davon, too.’

On who can step up and make big shots at crunch time: “Some teams you absolutely know which guys are going to get the ball at the end of games. We don’t really have that. Angel is 5-11. It’s not so easy for him. Even if he beats his man, it’s hard to score over the big guys.’’

On facing No. 10 Louisville Tuesday: “They’ve very different. They press. They have four or five different presses. They play zone, man to man. What’s hard on us, we only have this one day to prepare. I’d like to have 2-3 days to go over what we want to do.’’

On whether he uses Snapchat in recruiting:  “My assistant coaches do. I don’t use it myself. My communication is through texting and phone calls.’’

By Michelle Kaufman

 

January 26, 2015

UM back in Top 25

They're baaaaaaaaack. In the Top 25.

By Michelle Kaufman

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

The 31,000 fans at the Carrier Dome apparently weren’t the only ones paying attention as the University of Miami men’s basketball team knocked off Syracuse Saturday afternoon. Voters in the Associated Press and USA Today polls put the Hurricanes back into the Top 25 on Monday. They are ranked No. 23 in both polls.

UM had broken into the Top 25 on Nov. 24, got as high as No. 15, slipped to No. 18 on Dec. 15 and then dropped out after losing to Eastern Kentucky. But ever since the ACC season started, the Canes have been gaining respect. They had big wins at Duke and at Syracuse, home wins over Boston College and North Carolina State and their two losses were in double-overtime to undefeated No. 2 Virginia (19-0) and by five points to then-No. 12 (now No. 8) Notre Dame.

The Canes (14-5, 4-2 ACC) face Georgia Tech at home Wednesday at 9 p.m. Coach Jim Larranaga said re-entering the Top 25 doesn’t change the team’s approach to the game. He does not want his players wrapped up in rankings. But he recognizes that being a Top 25 team has long-range benefits.

“(It’s significant) as far as getting name recognition out there, having others think we’re good,’’ he said. “We’re always going to think we’re good. But it’s earning respect from other people that’s always been important. It helps in recruiting to have high school players and coaches think you have a good program, and the way they judge that is, `Who’d you beat?’’’

 

 

January 09, 2015

Catching up with Coach L...

It’s always fun to attend Coach Jim Larranaga’s press conferences because he is loquacious, has great perspective, loves to teach basketball to anyone who cares to listen, and often goes off on interesting tangents.

Here are some snippets from Friday’s media gathering, as the Canes (10-4), coming off a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Virginia, prepare to face Boston College (7-6) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

On the starting lineup for Saturday’s game: “We’ll change the lineup.’’ For 13 games, the starters were Angel Rodriguez, Manu Lecomte, Sheldon McClellan, Joe Thomas and Tonye Jekiri. Against Providence, Omar Sherman started instead of Thomas. Coach L mentioned that during the Virginia game, he liked the lineup of Rodriguez, McClellan, Jekiri, DeAndre Burnett and Omar Sherman. Will he go with those 5? Stay tuned.

On Katie Meier, whose UM women’s team stunned No. 4 Notre Dame 78-63 Thursday night, the first time in 62 games the Irish lost to an unranked team: “Katie Meier was the second person I spoke to at UM when I took the job. (Athletic director) Shawn Eichorst was the first. I said I’d like to speak to Katie Meier. She was National Coach of the Year, already led UM to an ACC title. She has a great understanding of what a coach has to do in every category from relationship-building on campus to relationships with high school and AAU coaches, basketball strategy, recruiting, public relations. She is very, very well-thought of. Everybody that is familiar with the women’s side of the game is familiar with Katie Meier and the incredible job she has done here.’’

Asked to switch gears to his team, he broke into a smile and joked:  “Can’t we stay on the women’s team?’’

On overcoming the Virginia loss: “It was very painful after the game Saturday night. It was painful all day Sunday. By the time we practiced on Monday, the pain had changed to anger. I was angry, not at our players, not at my coaches or myself, just angry we lost. I wanted to use that angriness to fuel myself and my team.’’

On the new partnership between UM and Adidas: “It creates some excitement coaches are sharing with the players. (Kids asked how they will benefit) Instead of just white, green, orange, black uniforms, we’re gonna have retro uniforms, gray uniforms. We’re gonna outfit you, more travel outfits…because players, just like all of us, like gear.

“My wife has 500 pairs of shoes, not as many as my players have in sneakers.

On how the Adidas deal affects recruiting: “How do we take that announcement and put that to good use and create an advantage for ourselves in the recruiting process? One thing I’ve shared with our point guard recruits is take a look at the NBA, who’s wearing Adidas, three of the best -- Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and John Wall. They’re in Adidas. We’ve had Shane (Larkin), Angel (Rodriguez) and now Sheldon (McClellan), great guards. If Adidas is good enough for them, there’s no reason you can’t come to UM and have that same kind of success.’’

On when the obsession with sports branding began: “It started around 1967. Almost every college basketball team was in canvas Converse. First school I can remember not wearing canvas Converse was UCLA, and they were winning national championships wearing Adidas. Those shoes became very popular and kids started buying them. Shoes of champions. Nike took that idea and said, `Hey’ let’s get some college kids in our Nikes. They created an advisory board of college coaches and paid them and provided their universities with product. Free shoes. The AD was benefiting, coach was hugely benefiting, lining his pockets with cash, players were benefiting with free multiple shoes.

“When I was in college, you bought your canvas Converse. No one gave them to you. You had one pair all season. Now kids wear a pair for a week.''

By Michelle Kaufman

November 14, 2013

Canes basketball announces four new signees; class rated 23rd nationally by Scout.com

With as many players as Jim Larrañaga lost from last year's Sweet 16 squad we all know it's probably going to be a long season filled with growing pains for the Hurricanes basketball team.

But at least the future got brighter Wednesday.

Thursday morning, UM announced the signing of four players -- Ja’Quan Newton, James Palmer, Omar Sherman and Ivan Cruz Uceda -- to National Letters of Intent.

The signing class is ranked No. 23 in the nation by Scout.com.

> A consensus Top 60 player, Newton is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard listed as the No. 55 player in ESPN’s Top 100 list. At Neumann-Goretti High in Philadelphia, Newton averaged 18.0 points per game last season, and has totaled more than 1,300 career points, helping Coach Carl Arrigale lead his team to three consecutive Catholic League championships. The incoming freshman has participated in the NBPA Top 100 Camp and LeBron James Skills Academy, and plays AAU ball for Team Final, the same squad as future Miami teammate Davon Reed. Newton, an offensive slasher with an innate ability to get to the rim, was also recruited by UCLA, Texas A&M and Minnesota.

“Ja'Quan is a multipurpose guard who play both the one and two and be very effective at both. Ja'Quan is an outstanding scorer and will add a lot to our offensive arsenal next season. He hails from Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School in Philadelphia, which has produced a large number of high major Division I players,”  Larrañaga said in a statement released by the school.

> Palmer, a senior at St. John’s College High, is a 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard from Washington, D.C. He helped his squad to a 20-win season by averaging 12 points, five rebounds and two assists as a junior. An offensive threat, Palmer can catch-and-shoot 3-pointers or score in transition. Palmer, who plays AAU ball for Team Takeover, was also recruited by Memphis, Wake Forest, Rutgers, Cincinnati and Maryland. Palmer was coached by Sean McAloon at St. John’s College HS.

“James is one of the best three-point shooters we saw all last summer,” Larrañaga added. “He played for one of the best AAU programs in the country, Team Takeover, in Washington, D.C. He also plays at St. John's College High School of the WCAC, which is one of the toughest high school basketball leagues in the country.”

> Sherman, out of Duncanville, Texas, is a four-star prospect, according to ESPN and Scout.com. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward plays high school ball at Duncanville High, where he is coached by Kenny Boren. Scout.com lists Sherman as the No. 20 power forward in the country, and the No. 94 player overall. Sherman, who played his AAU seasons with Deron Williams Elite, chose Miami over Wichita State, North Texas and Weber State.

“Omar is the kind of front court player we were looking for,” Larrañaga said. “He is big and strong with a velvety soft touch. He can score with his back to the basket but can also shoot the three. He plays for Duncanville High School which is one of the best high school programs in Texas.”

> Cruz Uceda is a 6-foot-10, 240-pound forward originally from Madrid, Spain, ranked No. 55 overall by ESPN. Cruz Uceda will be available to play a pair of seasons for Miami following his two years at Harcum College in Pennsylvania. At Harcum, he set the school record for rebounds in a season and has a chance to break the school’s career record for caroms. Cruz Uceda was also recruited by Marquette, Ohio State, Penn State and Villanova.

“Ivan is the perfect compliment to Omar. He is an excellent passer, but at 6-10, he too can play inside and outside. He is a strong rebounder, clever, and plays for a strong junior college program at Harcum College. We were searching for an experienced player to join our junior class and we believe we have found exactly that in Ivan,” concluded Larrañaga.

The four newcomers join an already talented 2014-15 class, which includes redshirt-freshman Deandre Burnett, who is out this season with an injury, and transfers Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez, who are currently sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules.

October 22, 2013

Official announcement from NCAA: 9 scholarships over 3 years for football, no more post-season bans

The news is officially out from the NCAA on UM -- and it's better than anticipated. LINK TO COMPLETE REPORT

HERE IS THE LIST OF SANCTIONS FROM THE NCAA ON UM

> Public reprimand and censure.

> Three years of probation from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2016.

> Former assistant football coach B (Clint Hurtt) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013 through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details. The committee also adopted penalties imposed by the coach’s current employing university, which are detailed in the public report.

> Former assistant football coach C (Aubrey Hill) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details.

> Former head men’s basketball coach Frank Haith penalties: A suspension for the first five regular-season games of the 2013-14 season. Attendance at one NCAA Regional Rules seminar at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year.

> Former assistant men’s basketball coach B (Jorge Fernandez) penalties: A two-year show-cause order from October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2015. The public report contains further details.

Football program penalties

> Reduction of football scholarship by a combined total of nine during the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

> Miami may only provide a prospect on unofficial visits complementary tickets for one home game during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

Self-imposed by the university

> Two year bowl ban following the 2011 and 2012 seasons, including the 2012 ACC Championship game.

> Reduction of official paid visits for 2012-13 by 20 percent to a total of 36 visits.

> Reduction of fall evaluations in 2012-13 by six (from 42 to 36).

> Reduction of available contact days during the 2012-13 contact period by 20 percent.

Men’s basketball program penalties

> Reduction in the number of men’s basketball scholarships by one during the each of the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

> Additional penalties: For all sports, any staff member who sends an impermissible text to a prospect will be fined a minimum of $100 per message, and coaches will be suspended from all recruiting activities for seven days.

> Further penalties resulting from impermissible texts and phone calls are detailed in the public report.

February 19, 2013

UM adds highly-touted Texas WR/TE Derrick Griffin to 2013 signing class

Just when you thought the Canes had wrapped up the 2013 Signing Class, Brennan Carroll's bat signal on Twitter went off again Tuesday evening.

Derrick Griffin, a 6-6, 210-pound receiver from B.F. Terry High School in Rosenberg, Texas who also is a budding basketball star, faxed a signed a National Letter of Intent to Coral Gables Tuesday afternoon, UM's sports information staff confirmed.

Griffin, listed as a four-star receiver by 247Sports and the third-best receiver in the country overall by Rivals.com, becomes the third player to sign with UM after National Signing Day. The 2013 signing class is now up to 19 players total.

His signing comes as a bit of a surprise since he hadn't even officially visited UM yet and had long been a commitment to Texas A&M and was also talking to Auburn. InsideTheU.com reported Griffin will take his official visit to UM this weekend.

"I had a [basketball] tournament down there for AAU and I liked the surroundings," Griffin told 247Sports.com. "I just really liked the area and what they are about as a program. They have sent a lot of top players to the NFL.

"The Miami coaches were really excited when I told them I wanted to commit. They were all yelling and telling me they were happy to have me as a part of their family now. That made me smile."

Griffin finished his senior season with 592 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns on 36 receptions. He has been clocked at a 4.5 in the 40. He also becomes the second wide receiver in UM's 2013 class, joining Broward's top player, Northeast High star Stacy Coley.

Griffin could also end up playing basketball at Miami. Listed as the 26th-best small forward in the country by ESPN, Griffin is reportedly averaging 25 points a game for his high school team.

"This year Miami's basketball team is looking really good," Griffin told InsideTheU.com. "They are No. 2 in the country and they have a real chance to win a National Championship. I want to try and play college basketball too, so that is a big reason why I like them too."

October 31, 2011

Larranaga lands commitment from one of nation's top centers: Champagnat's Tonye Jekiri

Tonye Jekiri, a 6-10, 220-pound senior center at Hialeah Champagnat, committed to the University of Miami on Monday morning, giving new Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga a big man for the future he sorely needs.

Tonye JekiriJekiri moved to South Florida from Nigeria in Sept. 2010 and hasn't been playing basketball very long according to Champagnat coach Danny Serrano.

"But he's got a huge upside," Serrano said. "From the minute that school started I was getting phone calls from Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson, George Mason, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn -- name it they were all after him.

"He's a legit 6-10, but a gazelle. I think this is his fourth year of playing organized basketball, but he's come an unbelievable ways and still has an unbelievable upside. That's why these schools have been so desperate to get him. Apparently, though, his visit with Miami over the weekend was so good he verbally committed."

Jekiri averaged 10 points and 14 rebounds last season.

"He's just so quick. He runs like a guard," Serrano said. "He's such an imposing figure under the basket defensively. He's real good on the help side. Offensively, he has nice a 10- to 12-foot midrange shot. He can play with his back to the basket or facing the basket. But his gift is how well he runs the floor."

Jekiri played for Florida's Team Breakdown (AAU) over the summer. That's where Serrano said he made his biggest strides.

Jekiri, rated the 17th-best center in the country by ESPN.com, is the second player Larranaga has gained a commitment from for the 2012 season. UM also received a commitment from Bronx (N.Y.) St. Benedict's Prep shooting guard Melvin Johnson (6-3, 175). Johnson is rated by ESPN.com as the 44th-best shooting guard in the country in 2012.

June 30, 2011

Krumpos ready to prep Canes hoop team for Larranaga's demanding scramble defense

Sammy Hernandez can't remember everything he and his George Mason teammates did before the 2006 season to prepare for Jim Larranaga's scramble defense and a run to the Final Four.

He just remembers it being extremely demanding -- and well worth it in the end.

Jim Larranaga "It was constant training," said Hernandez, now a director for a local YMCA in Miami. "Weightlifting, running at 5 a.m. and a lot of time pedaling on those stationary bikes. It was pretty tiring, the hardest I've ever worked in my life. But it was good. By the time the season came around, a guy like Jai Lewis, who was 6-8, 290, was running up and down the court like nothing. We got in shape and we got it done."

Jim Krupos, hired in May to be the Canes' new strength and conditioning coach for basketball, will be the man in charge of getting Larranaga's newest group ready for his physically demanding defense before the team starts practicing in October. He said today would be the first time he works with the entire team.

Aside from a lot of "intense running" and "circuit conditioning," the 34-year old former strength and conditioning coach at Arizona, Cal State-Fullerton and UNC-Charlotte (where he spent two years working with UM women's coach Katie Meier) said Larranaga wants the focus of his next six-week program to be on building upper body strength and confidence. 

"One thing we're real big on is upper body strength numbers, bench press numbers," Krumpos said. "We're adding a white board to the weight room where all the lifting numbers of each player will be on display. We want improvement, so we're also going to list what guys in the NBA combine did.

"You might think 'Can the bench press have a huge carry over to basketball?' If guys know they can lift 30 to 40 pounds more on the bench after six weeks, they'll be a lot more confident on the court. And when they know they're stronger than your opponent, it gives them a mental edge."

Krumpos said he's already tested most of his roster in flexibility, strength and mobility over the last few weeks (the only player he hasn't seen yet is incoming freshman Bishop Daniels) and has established personalized programs for each. But for the next weeks, the team will work together five days a week, lifting weights four days a week and extra conditioning three days a week after weights.

"This is a little more intense than what I was doing at Arizona," Krumpos said. "Coach [Lute] Olsen had his style for many years. Coach Larranaga has his. What we're trying to establish here is not only a new style of play, but a new way of working, a new mindset and approach. The players so far have been real receptive. A lot of them are eager to get back in it. I see a lot of leadership from a fairly hungry team."

Krumpos said junior center Reggie Johnson, who battled weight issues in the past and tested the NBA waters before returning to UM, has displayed a good attitude thus far.

"You never know with a guy that big what you're going to get until he goes in the weight room," Krumpos said. "Reggie has been training hard. He's one of the guys I put in the category to have a really good year. His body fat is really what we want to cut down. What we care about is how he's moving up and down the court. He's just a thick guy. We've been working a lot on diet, trying to educate him on not eating a bowl of pasta at midnight. I'd like to have him under 300 [pounds], somewhere where he isn't losing strength and power and he's able to get up and down the court. I'd say around 275 to 290.

"Coach Larranaga has had some big boys at George Mason. As long as they're rebounding good, getting up and down the court and getting back on defense, he'll be happy."

One big guy coming off injury is senior Julian Gamble, who had minor surgery on his ankle after the season. Krumpos said Gamble (6-9, 258) will be 100 percent for the start of the season.

"Julian is changing his body very dramatically," Krumpos said. "He's already made some nice changes. He's leaned out and gained some muscle."

Krumpos said the guy he's been most impressed with is forward Erik Swoope (6-6, 230).

"Genetically he's very gifted," Krumpos said. "He's not only as strong as he looks. He's able to handle anything you throw at him. He has more potential in his little finger than I do in my whole body."

Other summer workout standouts: "DeQuan Jones is very fast off the ground, which is what we care about more than a vertical," Krumpos said. "Tre McKinney-Jones has a lot of nice potential as well."

LARRANAGA FINDS A HOME: Coach Jim Larranaga told ESPN 950 AM radio in Washington, D.C. Tuesday he finally was able to find a place to live in South Florida last Friday. 

Now, his goal will be to find some 2012 recruits during the July evaluation period. UM has three seniors on its current roster and two potential early NBA entrants in Johnson and Durand Scott.

"We're a little bit behind the traditional programs in the ACC trying to get commitments from juniors," Larranaga told the radio station. "We're not in that position yet where we can start working on 2013. We're looking to get commitments in September, then go after the junior class and get way out in front with the recruiting situation with the top prospects."

According to Canesport.com, UM could find out soon if 2012 point guard Kareem Canty, rated 15th best at his position according to Rivals, is headed to Miami or Xavier. Canty, who plays at North Bridgton Academy in Maine, was originally recruited by Frank Haith. Larranaga has stayed on him. Canty is friends with UM guard Durand Scott and is originally from the Harlem area in New York.

Larannaga has said he'd like to focus UM's recruiting efforts in the state of Florida. He told ESPN 950 he believes he can stock his team with players that live within two to three hours of campus. 

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."

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.

October 19, 2009

Haith nabs 6-9, 230-pound center for 2010 class

Raphael Akpejiori, a 6-9, 230-pound power forward from Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian Academy, became the second commitment in the University of Miami's 2010 signing class Monday.

A Nigeria native, Akpejiori sat out his junior year after suffering a dislocated ankle at Mount Zion Academy in North Carolina. He's rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and chose UM among 30 schools including finalists Columbia and South Florida.

"I know everybody says this -- but Ralph is a great kid," Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted said. "He's a qualified Ivy Leaguer. He wants to study engineering. He has a 96 percent average in calculas. He's top notch academically and morally.

"On the court, he's 6-8, 6-9, defender, rebounder, real active inside, real good athlete inside, tough and strong and he's kind of flown under the radar becaue he's had some injuries. He's been at our school for a year. This year, he'll be able to play."

Akpejiori came to the United States as as sophomore when he played in the international game at Michael Jordan's Spring Classic. He dislocated his foot few months later and did not get back on the court until this past summer when he played for Nike sponsored Baltimore Elite.

Lindsted said UM fans will be able to get an up-close look at Akpejiori in the Kreul Classic Dec. 21-22 in Coral Springs. He took his official visit to UM the same weekend the football team beat Oklahoma.

"Academics are important to him. He liked the fact it was a private school," Lindsted said. "I think the football team did their job. He really enjoyed that game. He likes the idea of playing in the ACC. That was the league he wanted to play in. He likes Coach Haith and Coach Morton and that whole staff. He's going to be a good building block for what they want to do there."

August 03, 2009

Son of CBA's all-time leading scorer picks UM

The University of Miami picked up its first basketball commitment for its 2010 class late Monday night when guard Rion Brown, a standout at Georgia's Hinesville Liberty County High, called coach Frank Haith to tell him to save him a scholarship.

Brown, a 6-5, 190-pound shooting guard, is the son of CBA all-time leading scorer Tico Brown. He's ranked 44th in the Rivals.com Top 150 and ranked the 22nd-best swingman in the country according to Scout.com.

Brown said the allure of playing in the ACC and for a coach who helped Jack McClinton reach the NBA was what pulled him toward Miami and away from Georgia, Virginia and Alabama.

"The ACC is what drew me there,'' Brown said. "It's one of the best conferences in the game. Playing for a guy like coach Haith, who has helped three guards reach the league, is always great. I watched Miami closely last year and could see Jack getting better. That's what did it for me.''

Brown made a name for himself this summer playing with for the Worldwide Renegades -- the same team that produced Hurricanes sophomore guard Dequan Jones.

Brown said UM assistant Jake Morton first offered him a scholarship in May and that after meeting Haith in July he moved UM into his final four. Brown averaged 15 points and five rebounds a game during his junior year. He expects to sign with Miami in March and will visit UM's campus on the weekend of Oct. 3rd.

"I can't wait to see the campus,'' Brown said. "I was down there for the Breakdown Festival and really liked South Florida. It's a beautiful place.''

May 19, 2009

Kentucky reportedly wins John Wall recruiting battle

On my way to Durham for the ACC Baseball Tournament and got word earlier this morning Canes basketball fans don't want to hear. John Wall, the nation's No. 1 recruit, has reportedly picked Kentucky over The U.

It's a tough loss for coach Frank Haith, who was closer than ever to adding the big name recruit he needed to take this program to the next level. With Wall, Miami would have become an instant national story and much more visible to other top notch recruits.

Sooner or later, Haith is going to land the big one. He came close last year too with Devin Ebanks.

The big one could finally come next year in the form of Pine Crest guard Brandon Knight. One thing is for sure, if you are a Canes fan you ought to be encouraged Haith at least has UM in the conversation for the nation's best players. That's a huge step forward for what was an otherwise mediocre program just a few years ago.

May 14, 2009

Can the Canes get back to Omaha?

Mid May has traditionally been the time of year on the South Florida sports calendar when the UM baseball team suddenly begins to draw interest from folks that didn't really care about them except during those early season FSU or Florida series.

Kyle Bellamy and Yasmani Grandal celebrated an ACC title last year. Now, they're just hoping UM can get hot and make it back to Omaha. Right about now is when coach Jim Morris and his team begin popping up on nightly sports telecasts, and the fairweather fans who no longer have the Heat or Panthers to watch in the playoffs -- or are tired of the up-and-down struggles of the Marlins -- begin wondering how their team is doing in the old "ping league." Even UM football diehards who are glued to Canesport's football recruiting wire will lift their heads up from their computers for five minutes to ask: How many weeks until Omaha?

It's what Morris and his team has gotten us South Floridians accustomed to. They've spoiled us really. What we expect is for the most reliable team in the sports market -- the one that always has that hefty national ranking, the slew of big home run bats, and that combo of left-handers who bring the heat -- to be ready to deliver excitement for about three weeks, to have us on edge and suddenly yearning for that sound (PING!)

Sorry to break it to you casual observers, but the forecast for the pinging Canes doesn't look good. Unless the Canes turn it around big time and in a hurry, the milkshake guy at The Light has served his last Omaha Express. And fans who were hoping to watch Scott Lawson do his stanky leg dance are going to have to hope TV cameras catch it.

Earlier this week, I caught up with the Canes before they left Wednesday in must-win mode for their final regular season ACC series at Wake Forest. Miami, ranked 24th by Baseball America, has gone 8-10 over the past month. The Canes have had plenty of icky losses. North Florida beat them. Bethune-Cookman took two of three from them last weekend at The Light no less.

Players know the only way they'll get to play at home again is if they get hot and stun everyone at next week's ACC Tournament in Durham. So can they do it? And more importantly, can they get back to Omaha? Ask closer Kyle Bellamy that question and he might spit venom at you.

“Of course we can get hot,” said Bellamy who with a 3-1 record, 1.15 ERA and 14 saves has been the only consistent arm on the staff Miami has had all season. “We were No. 2 in the nation for awhile. We’re definitely capable. We just have to get that mentality back we had when we swept the Gators in Gainesville and we took 2 of 3 from FSU. I think we just need to get that chip back on our shoulder – the one we had when were trying to prove to everyone we were a pretty good team."

The problem for Miami is that it's going to take more than an attitude adjustment. It's going to take a major overhaul. Only three hitters -- Scott Lawson (.348), Chris Hermann (.314) and Jason Hagerty (.313) -- are batting better than .300. While ace Chris Hernandez has gotten his act together (he's now 6-3 with a 4.24 ERA after a horrendous start), No. 2 starter David Gutierrez is still looking for his first win since March 7th.

Morris had loftier expectations when the season began despite the fact he lost three first round picks and a boatload of talented players from a team that went 53-11 and entered the College World Series last year expecting to win a fifth national title. But despite the recent setbacks Morris hasn't lost hope. Heck, if Fresno State did it last year why can't the Canes?

“We’ve proven we can beat some of the best teams in college baseball and we’ve proven if we don’t go out and play well we’re not going to win,” Morris said. “We’ve put our backs against the wall no question about that. But I know we can respond. I think we’ve swung the bats really good against some good teams, and any team in the Top 25 has a chance to get hot this time of year. Fresno State was 82nd last year and they won it. We have a lot of young players who can grow up quickly over the next few weeks."

As it stands, even if Miami were to win next week's ACC Tournament, the likelyhood remains they could be on the road in the regionals because the NCAA isn't likely to grant more than two in-state teams the right to host. Both the Gators and Seminoles are ranked higher than UM at the moment and both have had much better regular seasons to this point. As it stands, Baseball America projects Miami will be making the trip to Gainesville.

That doesn't bode well for UM. When the Canes have reached Omaha in the past, they've usually done it playing at home. Of their 23 trips to the CWS, only four were achieved by winning a regional on the road (2006, 1996, 1989, 1984, 1974). Morris said this team in his eyes compares a lot to his 2002 team, which won a regional in Gainesville, but then loss a heart breaker to South Carolina in the Super Regional a week later.

“It’s very important for us to host regionals,” Bellamy said. “There was a lot of inspiration we got our own fans last year in those tight games. Sometimes traveling and being in the airplanes and the hotels can wear on you. Hosting Regionals would definitely be a huge lift. Hopefully, it’s not too late and we can turn it on.”

JUST A FEW QUICK NOTES...
> After spending the past month on Marlins detail, I will be going on the road with the baseball team to Durham next week. So, if you want to talk baseball while I'm there, shoot me some questions on the blog or email. I'll probably be live blogging the games.

Eduardo Clements > This week with the Marlins on the road and Clark Spencer on the beat, I got a chance to make my rounds to a few local high schools to catch up on the recruiting front. For those of you interested, I posted three videos -- including an interview with Booker T. Washington running back Eduardo Clements.

While I'm still very skeptical UM will be able to get any of the Tornadoes' top recruits, you should know the Canes at least have a new constant presence on campus. Tim Harris Jr., the son of former coach Ice Harris and a star in track at UM, has begun his high school coaching career this spring at Booker T. He's coaching the quarterbacks. That alone should help Miami stay in contention for Clements, receiver Quinton Dunbar, and defensive end Lyden Trail, who recently picked up an offer from USC.

> As for Miami Springs highly-touted receiver Willis Wright, Miami has definitely offered Wright and is intered in him. But they aren't nearly as interested as Florida State, which has already had five coaches come down to meet with the 6-3, 200-pound receiver in the past year. Miami Springs coach Alex Pacheco told me Monday Wesley McGriff visited the school last year, but no one from UM has been out there yet this spring. Wright got his formal offer from UM in the mail. Physically, Wright is one of the most impressive receivers I've ever seen in Miami-Dade. I'd throw him in the same category as Aldarius Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Andre Johnson.

> For those of you still on edge over Frank Haith's chase of John Wall, Miami is definitely in the race for the nation's top available recruit. The people I spoke to this week on Wall's behalf told me UM is in his top three and under serious consideration. Wall, by the way, is apparently considering stretching his decision making process past the May 20th deadline.

> In case you missed it, our live weekly Q&As on MiamiHerald.com have been shut down until the start of football season. I'm now doing Marlins Q&As on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. If you want to shoot me questions, feel free to email them to me or place them on the blog. I'm thinking of starting up a Monday Mailbag session if I get some good questions from you.