Run, Phillip, Run! (like the wind); Chickillo lean & mean; Denzel improves 40 (as did Duke), then pulls hammy

 You've got to appreciate former Hurricanes wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.

 Instead of ducking from running the 40-yard dash at UM Pro Timing Day on Wednesday after winning $100,000 from Adidas for his blazing 4.33-second time at the NFL Combine (second-best time in among athletes at Indianapolis), he went full speed ahead and ran twice at Greentree Field.

  With representatives from all 32 NFL teams watching Dorsett, including Dolphins coach Joe Philbin and general manager Dennis Hickey, Dorsett's results paid off again -- if not in dollars now, then in dollars later.

 The 5-10, 184-pound St. Thomas Aquinas High graduate ran 4.27 and 4.25, according to a group of scouts who were timing him with stopwatches. Granted, it's not laser-timed, but it's incredibly fast nonetheless.

   Why did you run again? he was asked. What did you have to prove?

"I would say nothing to prove,'' Dorsett said. "It was just me and my competitive spirit just coming out here and doing everything. Because I know everybody wants to see it. Everybody likes to see a guy go out and compete and do everything."

You think coaches respect that?

 "I would say they do,'' he said. "I got a lot of positive feedback, but that wasn't my thing going into it. I just wanted to do it. A lot of people told me, 'Don't run. Just do position drills.' But I knew I could do better, so I did everything.

"I felt like I ran a lot better today than I did at the combine. I didn't have a great start at the combine like I have been doing when I've been training. I felt like I had a good start today and improved.''

  I asked  the Dolphins' Hickey if the hand-held stopwatch makes a difference in his mind. 

 "Speed on film is what we look at,'' he said. "When we watch guys play with helmets and shoulder pads, those are the things that are important. The guys who run fast are great, but most important is what speed they play at. Time is a measurement, but you always judge it against how they play.

 "There’s a lot of talent here. They do a great job here and it’s a great program. It was good to see them in person.’’

 Inside during morning workouts, Dorsett said he jumped 38 inches on the vertical today, compared to 37 at the combine. 

He said he had dinner with the New Orleans Saints Tuesday night. "I've got some workouts coming up but I can't really tell,'' Dorsett said regarding any feelings about teams that might be interested in him. "I mean you never know, because I've heard stories about guys thinking that some team is going to draft them and they get drafted by a team that they never even thought would have drafted them. You never know how the draft is going to go so I can't really say.''

How cool would it be to be in your backyard and play with the Dolphins?

"That would be cool,'' he said, "would be real great. Being a Hurricane and I always was a fan of the Dolphins, too, it would be great. It would be a dream come true.''

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock called Dorsett's performance "fantastic,'' noting, as everyone else said, it was even more impressive considering he had a great combine and didn't have to do anything today to prove himself.

***************************************************************************************

 Defensive end Anthony Chickillo looked amazing today. We didn't talk to him, but he looks as if he has dropped a lot of weight since the end of the season, and seemed extremely fit and muscular, but lean. He seemed quick in his drills.

  "Very twitchy, quick, fast,'' said tight end Clive Walford of Chickillo.

   Walford said he pulled a hamstring a week-and-a-half-ago but still opted to run routes. 

   It was fun, man,'' said Walford, who noted he was measured at 6-4 and 250 pounds this morning. "I knew all the teams would be here so I wanted to come out and show them what I was capable of doing. My confidence is very high because I put in a lot of work. You get what you put out."

   What teams has Walford talked to? 

    "The Saints, Falcons, Packers, Dolphins, Broncos, Chargers, 49ers, Ravens, Chiefs and Tampa Bay,'' he said. "Last night I had dinner with the Saints. That went great. I’ve got to meet with the Steelers today, and I think the Falcons and Packers."

 ******************************************************* 

  Linebacker Denzel Perryman measured in at 5-11, 239 pounds, running his first 40-yard dash in 4.67 -- considerably better than his 4.78 at the NFL Combine. But he pulled his hamstring on the second attempt. No worries. Perryman was in great spirits as usual, looking fit and confident.

   "Just a little hammy pull,'' Perryman said as he jogged past me. "I'll be alright.''

   He and fellow Coral Gables grad Jon Vilma, who was reporting for NBC Sports, hung out much of the day on Greentree.

   "He just wanted to show everyone he could run a sub-4.7,'' Vilma joked of Perryman. "He'll be fine. Denzel is in a long line of tremendous linebackers to come out of Miami. We've all had great careers and I expect nothing but good things from Denzel.'' 

  Added Perryman: "Overall, we put on a good show.''

**************************************************************

 Duke Johnson said he weighed in at 203 pounds and was measured at 5-9. His 40 times Wednesday, according to scouts: 4.47 and again 4.47 -- another better time compared to his NFL Combine best of 4.54. 

  He also improved his 33.5-inch vertical from the NFL Combine to what he said was 34 inches Wednesday.

  "I think I did well overall,'' Johnson said. "I wanted to improve my 40 time and catch the ball well.

 I wanted to do it for myself,'' Johnson added of his 40 time, "because I know I can do better, and I know I train too hard to run what I ran at the combine. I think my game speed speaks for itself. I wanted to make sure I come out here and show that I can do it."

   Johnson and his fellow Hurricanes said they were impressed with quarterback Ryan Williams' pHe performance Wednesday. Williams was set to be the starter in 2014 before he tore his ACL in early April. He threw one incomplete pass this season against Cincinnati.

    "I think Ryan came out here and showed he can throw the ball well. He can do timing routes with different receivers. He’s not throwing just to one receiver. He’s throwing to everyone, even guys he never threw to before. He came out and showed he can do it and why he should be given a shot at camp to make a team."

  Said Williams, who said he ran a 4.84 in the 40: "It almost makes me feel normal because that whole summer of all the training I missed just standing around and being hurt. Actually to be out here and be able to do everything with all the guys and not have to sit around and watch, definitely a lot more fun to do this stuff than to stand there.

"It definitely feels like it’s been longer than almost a year. It feels like it’s been a couple of years. It has been a long offseason and it was a long season. But I’m definitely happy to be healthy and prove that I’m healthy.

 Fellow quarterback Jake Heaps was also on Greentree performing.

 'I think Jake did pretty good,'' Williams said. "I thought we both threw the ball well. I think the receivers ran some good routes. We haven’t spent a lot of time together – Jake was training in Seattle, but he came down for the week. I thought we all picked up on each other pretty quick and looked good out there.''

  ************************************************************************

 Some of the old-time Canes who watched and supported their younger fam included Andre Johnson, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Lamar Miller, Frank Gore, Jacory Harris and Tommy Streeter.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

December 10, 2014

Just released: Three Hurricanes make first-team coaches' All-ACC team (and more)

Last week the writers' version of the All-ACC team was released.

On Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference released the coaches' All-ACC team.

Quarterback Brad Kaaya was voted Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Center Shane McDermott and running back Duke Johnson were voted on the first-team offense.

Receiver Phillip Dorsett, tight end Clive Walford (one of 3 finalists for Mackey Award, won by Nick O'Leary of FSU) and tackle Ereck Flowers were voted to the second-team offense.

Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who "very narrowly" got "edged" out by UCLA's Eric Kendricks for the Butkus Award announced yesterday, was a first-team defensive player. 

And defensive end Anthony Chickillo got voted to the third team, as did punter Justin Vogel.

Honorable mentions were DT Olsen Pierre, CB Artie burns and S Deon Bush.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players, and ballots were worth three points for each first-team selection, two points for each second-team and one point for each third-team.

  Twenty-three of the 26 first-team selections to the Coaches' team were also first-team selections to the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association All-ACC team.

 Interesting difference: The coaches voted senior center Shane McDermott as a first-teamer.

 The writers didn't vote McDermott on any team.

Also: The writers had Brad Kaaya an honorable mention QB (as well as Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year). The coaches voted Kaaya as Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year, but didn't include him at all on the individual teams. 

The coaches had punter Justin Vogel on the third team All-ACC. The writers had him as an honorable mention.

The coaches had defensive end Anthony Chickillo as a third-team All-ACC. The writers had Chick an honorable mention.

Finally, the coaches had cornerback Artie Burns as an honorable mention, while the writers did not include him. 

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

May 23, 2013

Hot time in MIami: Gators at Canes in football: noon on Sept. 7 on ESPN.

University of Miami tailgaters might want to get to sleep early on Friday, Sept. 6th. That's because the highly anticipated Florida Gators at Miami Hurricanes football game was announced for a noon kickoff at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7 on ESPN -- upsetting fans who would rather have a night game.

A night game would certainly be a great draw and the event to party around at Sun Life. UM would get heavy-duty exposure. And let's face it, night games are always more fun (unless you're on deadline or savor getting broiled outside).

Turns out that ABC has NASCAR from Richmond, Va., that night and ESPN is broadcasting the Notre Dame-Michigan football game in prime time. A game has not yet been announced for the prime-time ESPN2 slot.

"We requested and lobbied ESPN for an evening slot for the game vs #BeatUF.'' tweeted UM athletic director Blake James. "Unfortunately, they were unable to accomodate.'' 

 I just got off the phone with ESPN spokesman Mike Humes, whom I asked about the noon start.

"Essentially, we looked at all the options and this was the best available window for the game,'' Humes said. "We average probably around three million viewers for that time slot. So it wasn’t like, 'Let’s put the worst game on at noon.' The noon window does really well with fans.

"We view this as a great matchup. Scheduling games is like putting together differrent puzzles with different time zones and commitments, and this was the best window.''

 UM AD James also tweeted this: "espn/abc wanted to take game national 3:30 slot is regional coverage."

Humes said the 3:30 p.m. ABC game is Oregon at Virginia.

In other Canes football news, the Aug. 30 season opener at Sun Life Stadium against FAU will kick off at 8 p.m. Aug. 30 -- a Friday -- and will be aired by ESPNU.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN 

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!

 

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.

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."

October 16, 2009

Shannon shares thoughts on personnel changes

In case you missed WQAM's Thursday night edition of Hurricane Hotline, UM coach Randy Shannon was rather candid on a few subjects -- including his philosophy on personnel changes following injuries: 

Randy Shannon "When I get the injury report and I get in [on Sunday] while the coaches are in meetings -- offense, defense and special teams [watching film], I say OK 'Let's put this guy over here, this guy over there," Shannon said. "This is the next best guy, let's put him over there.' It's not always the next best guy at the position, it's the next best guy on the football team.

"On the defensive line, you want the best four. On the offensive line, you want your best five. Not the best center, tackle or guard. In the backfield, you want the best running back at the position. You see Mike James playing fullback. It wasn't that he's the next best fullback. It was the next best personnel. You always want the next best guy on the field who can handle it mentally.

"When [receiver] Aldarius [Johnson] got hurt [against FAMU]. What did we do? All we did was put in [Leonard] Hankerson and move Travis [Benjamin] up. LaRon [Byrd] was playing one side and Travis was the other guy. Hank was the swing guy. When [tight end Dedrick] Epps didn't play. OK, [fullback] Tervaris Johnson moves up. The next best guy was Jimmy Graham. You always bring up the next best guy to get things done."

Shannon said one aspect that is severely affected by injuries is special teams play. He said the loss of linebacker Jordan Futch to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was crippling to the kickoff return team.

"You have to change a lot of things when you start getting injuries," Shannon said. "A lot of people don't think Jordan Futch is valuable. Jordan Futch was very valuable to us. He was our best kickoff guy. He was our great kickoff return guy in terms of making the key blocks on their best person. He was doing a great job. A lot of those runs [Graig] Cooper was breaking, Mike James was breaking was because of Jordan Futch. When those injuries come, you have to keep moving guys around to get the special teams in order. That's key. Somebody has to step up to fill that void. We have players to do it. Now, we have to coach them up. And they have to do it."

Here are some other topics Shannon was talking about: 

> On the eight season-ending injuries and the fact UM will still have to rely on several true freshmen to play valuable minutes this season: "[The depth isn't where we want it to be] I said that at the beginning of the season, we talked, we still have a lot holes to fix as far as depth on this football team. Everybody wants to say we're back. We're doing a great job. This football team is doing a great job. But when you're playing a true freshman like Curtis Porter that means we're not back. We have to keep recruiting."

> On why UM may not be recruiting certain highly rated players from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach: "We're going to recruit players that fit our program. Some players we will not recruit at Miami. Maybe it's academics. Maybe it's something we know that other people don't know. We're going to make sure whoever we recruit will be a great football player, a great athlete, very academically sound, wants to graduate and get their degree."

> On the status of injured fullback Patrick Hill, whom Shannon said suffered a high ankle sprain: "It really takes a long time to get back. He's been working hard."

> On why redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis isn't playing: "He's working in practice, trying to get himself in the mix. The one thing about it is he has competition and has to get better. He has to get better to make us a better football team."

> On why freshman defensive tackle Curtis Porter is playing: "He's been coming along pretty well. He came in nicked up on the defensive line and he caused a little havoc. He's a big time run stopper. We're enthused with the way he's coming in."

> On what he likes about freshman cornerback Brandon McGee: "We like the big corners with speed. If you can get anybody who is 6-1 with speed, that's good. He's another January guy. He got nicked in the spring time. We had to sit him out the last two weeks of spring. The more he keeps practicing well, the more playing time he'll get."

> On when highly touted sophomore linebacker Arthur Brown might play: "Arthur Brown is getting better each week. But it's like anything, when he's ready to play, he will play. We have a lot of football players on this football team that were highly recruited, highly rated. But it's always going to be a learning process. When guys are ready mentally to get it done, they will get it done."

> On how receiver Tommy Streeter performed in the first real action of his career against FAMU last week: "He made a big time block when Thearon Collier scored a touchdown. His special teams play was big because guys were nicked last. We even had Tommy run down on kickoffs and he made a couple tackles."

> On why receiver Davon Johnson isn't playing: "He's working. Right now, he's not in the top five guys. We're going to play five guys and not play eight. We're going to concentrate on those guys getting the reps."

> On if running back Damien Berry might see action in the backfield against UCF: "I can guarantee he'll be on special teams for us."

> On running back Graig Cooper's return: "He's healthier this week. He looked good, looked fresh."

HOOPS BEGINS PRACTICING... Frank Haith's team, which returns three players that started 16 or more games last season, will begin practicing this afternoon at the BankUnited Center with plenty of new faces. 

Haith, who helped coach the United States in the World University Games this summer in Serbia, told Hurricanes Hotline Thursday: "This is the most talented team we've had from top to bottom. We have length on the perimeter. It's our job not to mess them up.

UM's version of Midnight Madness -- the second annual Hurricanes Hoopfest -- will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday. Fans will be able to watch the men and women scrimmage for 30 minutes and interest with players during an autograph session as well as pick their seats for the upcoming season.

UM will host an exhibition game versus Florida Southern on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. and open the regular season at home versus North Carolina Central Nov. 14 at 4 p.m.

RING OF HONOR LUNCHEON... Plenty of seats are still available for the luncheon to honor Bennie Blades, Steve Walsh and the late Eddie, Dunn, who will be inducted in UM's Ring of Honor during the Clemson game. Sponsor tables can be purchased for $1,5000 and tickets can be bought individually for $100 per person. Call UM's Hurricane Club at 305-284-6699 if you are interested. 

June 01, 2009

Haith named assistant for USA Basketball

Even before the Canes basketball season was over, we kept hearing rumors Frank Haith was going to go coach somewhere else. Monday, those rumors finally became a reality when Haith was named an assistant for the U.S. Basketball team at the World University Games in Serbia next month.

The games are held July 2-12 in Belgrade, Serbia. The head coach is Bo Ryan of Wisconsin. Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter is also an assistant.

That's a pretty nice honor for Haith, who has led UM to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and NIT Tournament the past two seasons.

> Speaking of UM coaches, Jim Morris will be made available Tuesday morning to talk about the season and what's next for his program after their season ended Sunday night with a loss to the Gators in the regionals.

It's hard to blame Morris or his players for what happened this season. They lost six studs from the 2008 team then lost Eric Erickson before the year even began. This team simply never had the bats in the lineup to survive.

I'd be interested to see which juniors will decide to return. Other than closer Kyle Bellamy, I can't imagine any of the Canes' upper classmen are going to be draft worthy. Shortstop Ryan Jackson had a terrible season with his bat. First baseman Jason Hagerty could probably improve his stock considerably with a stellar senior season. For a change, it would be good to see this program actually keep some talent instead of losing it to the draft.

Think Adan Severino could have helped the Canes and himself this year? He got drafted in the 26th round by the Twins and is hitting .203 for the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League.

April 28, 2009

Wall gives UM high marks after visit

The Miami Hurricanes took their best shot at the nation's No. 1 available basketball recruit this weekend. So, did staying on South Beach and hanging out with Jack McClinton this weekend convince future NBA Lottery star point guard John Wall that UM could be the place he spends one year before collecting a multi-million million dollar paycheck at the next level?

John Wall Let's just say the Hurricanes might now really be in the mix. After reading several interviews Wall gave various media outlets in the time since his visit, it appears at the very least Miami made an impression.

“Now they are up there," Wall told Scout.com's Evan Daniels. "I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t really considering them that hard, but I hadn’t taken a visit there and I didn’t know how it was going to be and how the coaches were. After I took the visit it really opened my eyes up."

“I feel like I like the school better than I did before,” he said. “I had Miami on my list but I never really considered them. I didn’t know how it was. I knew it was going to be nice in Florida, but didn’t know how it was school wise and that all the players from different sports get along great.”

“From talking to coach [Frank] Haith, I really got a chance to sit down and talk to him one-on-one for a few hours and we watched some film and I just felt like it was a great place.”

Great place? Sure, we've heard that before. But could UM really be the final destination? That remains to be seen. This week, Wall told several reporters he would cut his list of finalists -- Miami, Kentucky, Florida, Duke, Baylor, N.C. State, Memphis -- down considerably before making a final decision.

"I'm going to sit down this week and really talk it out," Wall told TheDevilsDen.com "I think I will have it down to two or three schools by the end of the week. After that I can concentrate just on those schools and make a decision I'm comfortable with."

What will he be considering?

"There's just a lot to think about, really," Wall told TheDevilsDen.com. "Do I want to leave home for a year? I mean you can't control where you get drafted, so this would be my last year at home. Which coaches do I fit well with? Which teams? How do I like the campus? That kind of thing. There's just a lot to think about."

You got to give coach Frank Haith some credit. At the very least, he not only got the nation's No. 1 available player to visit UM, but make them sound great, too. And believe me, other recruits listen.

April 22, 2009

Why John Wall should pick Miami before going pro

In a little more than a year, John Wall will walk to a podium in New York City, shake NBA commissioner David Stern's hands and walk out a happy 20-year old millionaire. But until then, the 6-4, 175-pound point guard has a year he has to spend in college.

John Wall Next week, Wall -- this year's recruiting version of Derrick Rose -- is supposed to decide where he'll spend that year. Every big name in college basketball has taken their shot. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski got another Wednesday when Wall and his mother drove over to Durham from their home down the road in Raleigh. Sidney Lowe and N.C. State would love it if Wall decided to spend an extra year at home with his mom, while helping Lowe keep his job at least for one more year. Most, though, expect new Kentucky coach John Calipari to win the Wall sweepstakes. After all, look what he did for Rose, this year's NBA Rookie of the Year.

But before John Wall decided who will get those rented services, he'll be making a trip this weekend to visit a school that doesn't usually host NBA Lottery Picks. That would be your University of Miami and coach Frank Haith, who -- despite being told repeatedly by experts he has no chance at landing Wall -- has continued to chase after the future NBA star with a supreme man crush.

Like the rest of the one-hit wonders who have made their way from fab freshman to the NBA Lottery, Wall will probably end up going to Kentucky or Duke and making a run at a national title on a team loaded with talent. After all, that's what all the big stars have been doing (look up Carmello Anthony, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant). But if Wall really wanted to be different, really wanted to enjoy his one-year of college, he'd pick Miami. Where else is he going to get everything South Florida has to offer?

Do you think in Lexington or Durham he would be able to pick the brain of Dwyane Wade, or spend his off nights down at a nearby NBA arena like Jack McClinton did? Out in the Bluegrass or in the safe haven of Cameron, would he be able to celebrate a 50-point night the way he could in the hometown of Playboy Magazine's No. 1 party school in the country? No way. OK, so Duke and Kentucky may offer more tradition, a chance to follow in the footsteps of other greats and win a national title and really boring Saturday nights. But at UM, Wall could spend his 12 months in NBA purgatory being a king, being the first future NBA superstar to lead the Hurricanes places they've never been before, and to enjoy South Beach while he does it. Honestly, what is better than that?

> For what it's worth, not everyone believes Wall is headed to Kentucky or Duke. Tonight, I caught up with Dave Telep, Scout.com's National Recruiting Editor, who told me he no longer can put a finger on where he thinks Wall will end up.

"My gut feeling went out the door a long time ago," Telep said. "[Miami] definitely is not the favorite. But he hasn't visited yet. If you have what Miami has in terms of opportunity and environment and a guy like Haith, who is from North Carolina, grew up in the same environment Wall did, you have a lot to sell. It's a great idea to take a shot at the guy. Sometimes you have an advantage being the team no one expects."

> Even without Wall, Haith deserves kudos for inking one of the nation's Top 20 classes this season. ESPN ranks UM 16th in its rankings. Scout currently has UM 15th, but the Canes could move up or down depending on what happens according to Telep with a few top-tier recruits in the next week.

Wednesday, Antoine Allen -- the 6-2, 183-pound combo guard who played for the same Baltimore-based AAU program Jack McClinton did -- became the fourth high school senior to join UM's class when he received the necessary paperwork he needed to get into UM. Allen joins a class that features Scout.com five-star recruit Durand Scott, who played in the Jordan All-Star Game in New York this past weekend, and fellow Rivals.com Top 150 recruits Garrius Adams, a 6-5 guard from North Carolina, and 6-8 forward Donnovan Kirk. They'll be among the five new players on Haith's team next year, which will also add highly-touted point guard Malcolm Grant, who sat out the season after transferring in from Villanova.

Telep told me while it will be hard for UM to replace McClinton's offense, he sees this class as a nice foundation for the future, one that should help the Canes get back into the NCAA Tournament quicker than most expect.

"Nobody is taking Jack McClinton's place offensively," Telep said. "But Durand Scott is going to be one of the best defensive players in the ACC. He's better than advertised offensively. But he carved out his niche and forces his way onto the court because he's a very prideful player on defense. Over four years, he's going to be one of the best defensive players in the country. Much like the role Marcus Ginyard plays for North Carolina, Frank Haith has his Marcus Ginyard in Durand Scott."

"It's a balanced class. They've replaced some guys on the wing and add a Malcolm Grant, it's a good group of guys. They're all different. Garrius Adams has size and could be a good offensive player down the road. Antoine Allen is the junkyard dog in this class. Donnovan Kirk does a good job as a rebounder and a nice job scoring around the basket. It's a nice foundation for the future."

But it's a foundation that needs a cherry on top, a star to tie it all together. Even if that star is a one-year rental named John Wall, the Canes should do everything in their power to sell him on South Beach.

April 02, 2009

A chat with Kirby Hocutt & more

Two weeks ago when the University of Miami was on the road in the NIT at Providence, I got a chance to catchup with athletic director Kirby Hocutt and pick his mind on a few hot button issues. I figured the highlights of our discussion might be the best way for me to start sharing a boatload of notes I've collected in the past week since the end of the spring football.

Kirby Hocutt > UM football coach Randy Shannon has two years left on his current contract. Entering his third season after going a combined 12-13, Hocutt said he has yet to broach the subject of a contract extension with Shannon and didn't share a timetable either when negotiations might begin. But he didn't sound like an athletic director whose begun looking yet for Plan B either. 

"We haven't talked yet," Hocutt said. "But that's no indication of our support for Randy. He's done an excellent job. There's an excitement around the program as well as optimism for next year. Miami football is on the right track. Randy has a plan and we're going to continue to support him and he's going to be the leader of the program for a long time. I'm confident of that."

> One thing that Shannon did that pleased Hocutt was the way he handled the recruitment of running back Bryce Brown, who went from longtime UM commitment to signing with Tennessee two weeks ago after Shannon decided not to renew his scholarship offer.

"He made the right decision in my opinion and I respect him for handling it the way he did. We're going to be fine moving forward," Hocutt said. "[Recruiting] has changed. Is it concerning? Yes it is. You would hope you can work directly with the parents and the young people involved. You hope the third party influence is not as involved as it is today, especially in the sport of basketball. This honestly was the first time I saw a third party involved in a football situation to the degree it was. And it's something I think we need to start talking about at the conference level and maybe moreso on a national level."

> One of the things Hocutt said he has become more involved in since taking over has been the future scheduling of opponents. He wants to get UM involved in big-time games including playing Notre Dame again and getting Florida on the schedule. Right now, Kansas State is looking to get off UM's schedule for 2011 and 2012. Hocutt said he and Shannon have agreed that as long as UM finds a comparable opponent for the series they would let the Wildcats out of their agreement. According to Hocutt, ESPN is trying to find a replacement to create a marquee TV matchup. Hocutt would not mention any names, but said it would be another Big 12 opponent. I've heard rumblings the possible home and home series could come against either Texas, Texas Tech or Missouri.

"We're going to make sure the opponent makes sense for Miami and what we're trying to accomplish," Hocutt said. "We'll see what opportunities present themselves and move down the road."

Speaking of down the road and opportunities, Hocutt seemed more confident there could be a future meeting with Miami and Notre Dame than with the Canes and Gators, who are currently scheduled to meet for the last time in football at Dolphins Stadium in 2013.

"If there is any way whatsoever to get [a series with Notre Dame] done, we'll get it done," Hocutt said. "I don't want to lead people on or sound too optimistic, but there has been an initial phone call and another conversation through a mutual relationship [TV]. There's definitely interest on both sides. If it's something we can get done in the future it sounds like we're both committed to it."

> When it comes to Frank Haith, consider Hocutt a huge fan of UM's 43-year old coach and a coach Hocutt would probably willing to fight for financially should Haith receive an offer to leave the program. Haith, who last week told reporters and his team he has no interest in leaving UM, has once again had his name resurface this week in filling a possible job opening. FOXSports.com reported Wednesday Georgia has Haith next on its list of candidates after Oklahoma's John Capel. Ten months ago, Hocutt and Dee extended Haith's contract at UM through 2014. Hocutt, who said he speaks to Haith on a weekly basis even during the offseason, said nobody has formally asked UM to speak with Haith.

"Frank and I spend a lot of time talking and its all focused around the future of Miami basketball, what we can continue to do to elevate this program," Hocutt said. "We have a great relationship. He knows we don't want anybody in this country to be our head basketball coach except Frank Haith. You hope you are in position as an athletic director and athletic department thatr people are coming after your coaches, your staff members. That's what you want. That means you got the right person in place and you are doing good things. I think it's a complement to UM that Frank's name is mentioned out there so much."

MORE NOTES, QUOTES & THOUGHTS...

This week I spent two days covering the McDonald's All-American festivities and got a chance to not only speak to a few big-time players, but pick the brains of high school basketball recruiting gurus on a variety of topics.

> UM's quest to land John Wall, the nation's No. 1 available point guard, should probably be considered what has been for a long time -- shaky at best. With John Calipari leaving Memphis for Kentucky this week, many gurus believe it won't necessarily stop Wall from following him. As I was told by SI's Andy Staples last night, Kentucky is probably the most ideal situation because they are desparate for a point guard. Wall has told several publications he plans to take an official visit to UM on April 24. But like Dwayne Collins told me last night when I bumped into him in the BankUnited Center parking lot at around midnight, "if I was him or anybody else living up in that cold, I'd want to take a trip to Miami, too. But that don't mean he's coming here."

> Speaking of Dwayne Collins, although there have been reports that the 6-8, 240-pound forward is considering leaving UM after this season to enter the NBA Draft, I'd consider the likelyhood of Collins leaving about the same as Wall coming to Miami. "Really, I'm just waiting on Coach Haith to tell me what he thinks," Collins said. "If he thinks I should go, I'll go. If he doesn't, I'll be back." NBADraftexpress.com ranks Collins 37th among the nation's Top Juniors. That's not close to being a first round pick.

> Jack McClinton's NBA Draft stock, meanwhile, remains up in the air -- especially after a knee injury slowed him toward the end of the year. McClinton will get a chance to make an impression on NBA Scouts again, however, when he participates in the Three-Point shootout of the State Farm College All-Star festivities Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at the site of the Final Four in Detroit.

> Florida-bound and local guard Kenny Boynton Jr. had a pretty good night (10 points) in Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American Game at the BankUnited Center. I asked Boynton Tuesday if there ever really was a bone in his body that considered playing at Miami, in front of his friends and family.

"There definitely was," Boynton said. "They did recruit me. Coach Jorge Fernandez recruited me real well. Coach Haith recruited me also. But I didn’t think he put more into it like Duke and Florida. I think coach Haith didn’t show me he really wanted me. He came to see me a few times. But he never called a lot. I think it would have been a good situation [coming to Miami]. It’s close to home, Miami is on the rise. I think I could have helped. But it’s a good situation where I'm going too. I like Florida a lot."

> Coming off their second series loss in 23 series in the ACC, UM's baseball team will open a three-game homestand against Florida State this weekend at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. The biggest news, though, is UM has decided to move No. 2 starter David Gutierrez into the Friday night starter role in place of the struggling Chris Hernandez Gutierrez is 2-2 with a 1.51 ERA. Hernandez is 2-2 with a 5.88 ERA.

By the way, the Canes will honor the 1999 National Championship team before Saturday night's game at 7 p.m. Get there early if you want to catch it.

March 27, 2009

End of the year wrap-up with Frank Haith

His team has been to the postseason four of the five years he's been here, second only in the ACC to North Carolina, Duke and Maryland which have been there all five. He's made the University of Miami a major player for some of the nation's top recruits -- from Devin Ebanks a year ago to the country's No. 1 recruit this season John Wall (who will be making an on-campus visit sometime after the McDonald's All-American Game). And he's elevated Miami's basketball program from the depths former coach Perry Clark left it at by making the Hurricanes a relevant player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Frank Haith has coached UM to four postseason appearances in the past five years. Only Duke, North Carolina and Maryland have been to the postseason more often in the ACC. So why does it feel like Frank Haith is getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment instead of the love Norman Dale felt at the end of Hoosiers? Why are some crazy fans calling Haith a failure and calling for his head after he couldn't take Jack McClinton and a senior-laden team back to the NCAA Tournament? Because there are very few people in South Florida who appreciate and understand how tough it is to win in college basketball. Because at The U (forget that, every sport in Miami) everything is measured by championships and greatness.

Haith understands that. He's learned that in his five years on the job. But just because the 43-year old coach knows there's still work to be done to get the Canes where he wants them to be and to turn more fans onto college basketball in South Florida, he's not about to jump ship. Even though some internet message posters and people on this blog say UM needs a bigger name coach, Haith sees signs of progress, hope, believers in him and his program. Although he admits it hurt him to see only 2,000 people in attendance on Senior Day when Jack McClinton was honored earlier this month (that was before the game started and when the ceremony took place), Haith said he was touched last week when he received a standing ovation from fans when he walked out of AmericanAirlines Arena during the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.  

Friday morning when I caught up with Haith for about an hour interview over the phone, he sounded just as passionate about his aspirations for this program as the day when I first met him a little more than three years ago. But he also sounded like someone whose learned a lot and is willing to try new things to make basketball work at UM. He talked about why no one should believe he'd leave no matter if the job pays more or has better tradition or support from its fan base. He made a passioned plea about how fans shouldn't see his team's 19-13 season and loss to Florida last week in the second round of the NIT as a step back. And he talked about the future, how he expects a Top 20 recruiting class (one that could strengthen even more) to take his program to the next level, and how the 2009-10 season should not be seen as a rebuilding year. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation...

MN: At the beginning of this season you guys were ranked in the Top 25, picked to finish fourth in the ACC and you fell short of that. But I get the sense you don't see it as huge of a disappointment as others. How would you sum up the season?
Jack McClinton had 31 points against Wake Forest in UM's most impressive win of the season. FH: "I think it was disappointing what happened to us, but it was not a disappointing season. Other people may look at it differently. But I think this team had a lot of bright moments, beating a Top 10 team like Wake Forest by 27 points at home. Jack [McClinton] makes All-ACC First Team for the second year in a row. Here's the thing, you can't just look at what we're doing here year-by-year. When you look at a five year period, we've won more games than anybody in the history of the program, more postseason games than anybody in the history of the program. There are a lot of positives you can draw. I think we've made basketball pretty relevant. It's not because we're winning, but because attendance is getting better. Our student section has gotten a lot better. We're getting involved with big time recruits. Every year, there are a lot of teams that would love to do what we've done. that. I think other than UNC, Duke, Maryland we've been to the postseason more than anybody. I'm really proud of that. That's a nice thing this program can hang their hat on as far progress."

MN: But is that going to be enough for you to want to stay here? There have been rumors out there linking you to other jobs like Alabama, Georgia, Arizona. Here's a two-part question: Have you been contacted by anybody? And ultimately, what would it take for you to leave Miami?
FH: "For the record, I have not been contacted by anybody. Not this year. I have been in the past and I've told you about that. But right now, it's only rumors and speculation. Here's the thing, I don't work everyday looking for my next job. I'm really seriously looking to stay here for the long haul. I love living here. But I do want to win."

MN: So does it bother you when fans say things like 'He should be fired'? Do you take it to heart?
FH:  "I know our fan base is kind of disgruntled about this season. It is a little mind boggling. We've improved. I know what the program was like when I got here. Like I said, we've made UM basketball relevant. But in terms of jobs, I don't look at certain jobs and say I want that one day. I just really want to win. And I want to win big here. Obviously, every coach will say that. But I really want to win big. I want to do to help that program win big. I don't know. Are there things we can get better at? Yes. Do we still have areas we need to improve on? Yes. Our fan base is getting better. Our student turnout has improved tremendously. The energy in the building has gotten better. We just need it more consistently. To win big, we need a home court advantage."

Frank Haith said the only thing that could drive him away from Miami is a feeling of a lack of appreciation and support from the administration. MN: Do you feel like you can have that here? Do you feel like the support you have or could have will be enough to make you feel comfortable, to make you feel like you can win big here?
FH: "As long as I can feel like... [pause] Here's the thing, [athletic director] Kirby [Hocutt] and the president [Donna Shalala] have been great. As a coach, you are always skeptical when the guy that hired you is no longer here. But Kirby and I have a really good relationship. It's made me even more comfortable being here. And I have the best president in the world, who is so, so supportive. You don't know how many times I've gotten pick me up texts or emails from her. It honestly makes it difficult to look elsewhere. I'm very loyal and appreciative of people giving me opportunities. That's just who I am and I want to be here as long as Miami people want me to be here. And I hope that's for a long of time."

MN: So is there something that could drive you away?
FH: "If I don't feel there's appreciation and support. Not just from the fans, but from the athletic department. But that's not what I feel. I feel like people want to see us succeed. It definitely made me feel good last week when I was leaving the Cleveland State-Syracuse game and fans got up and gave me a standing ovation. Like I said before, I'm real proud of the support we've come to earn from the students, too."

MN: Let's get back to basketball. Not to put the blame on anybody,  but were there guys you were counting on this past season that just didn't come through for you that ultimately led to the 19-13 finish and the second round loss in the NIT?
FH: "I don't point to guys, I point to situations. Who would have known Lance Hurdle was going to be hurt at the beginning of the year and miss, four or five games. Who would have known the situation with Eddie Rios would play out the way it did? It definitely hurt us not having that third ball-handler, having to put Jack at the point. Who would have known Dwayne [Collins] would turn his ankle down toward a crucial part of our schedule? Who would have known Jack would have an injury at the worst time of the year. You talk personnel, but we were one win away from getting back to the NCAA Tournament. We lost four games on final possessions. I don't know if we can point to one guy or one situation. The one thing I can point to as a whole was free throw shooting. That won us a lot of close games last year. And we really didn't shoot free throws well all year. That made a difference."

MN: Let's look ahead to next year. In the five years you've been here, you've had that go-to guy for big shots. Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite and then Jack McClinton. Are you guys going to have that guy next year? Can you survive without one?
FH: "I think if you go back to when Rob was a senior and Guillermo decided to go pro, you asked me the same question then. Nobody then knew about Jack McClinton. Yet, he turned out to be that guy. I think the same thing could happen with this team. And if it doesn't, tha's still OK, too. This team may not have a 20 point scorer when those guys leave. But I think we're going to have a number of guys that can score for us. I think our offense will be spread around. We're going to be young, but athletic and we're still going to have a few seniors, too. I think James Dews, Dwayne Collins, Malcolm Grant, Dequan Jones, Durand Scott, all those guys could score. Maybe that will be good for this team, more guys that can score. I would think Dwayne could be that go-to scorer in the post."

Dwayne Collins reached double figures in scoring only once during the final 11 games of the season. MN: Speaking about Dwayne, there were moments this year -- I think back to that dunk over UConn's Hasheem Thabeet -- when he lookied so promising, so dominant. And then, there were moments when he could not score, couldn't do much at all. Do you worry at all he's just not ever going to be that consistent guy?
FH: "I think with Dwayne it's his motor. He's a really good player, who can defend. But he's got to get that consistent motor. When he does, he can be one of the best big men in the country. When he realizes that potential. We're going to hammer it home this summer. He's going to be one of the best big men not only in the ACC, but the country. He has to be a tremendous spark all the time. You're right. At the beginning of the year, he played with tremendous energy and had moments where he was not as good. But I think he played really hard. He just didn't have a lot of breaks. I think that's what he boils down to. He has to realize great players can't turn it on and off."

MN: Without Jack and the offense you guys ran for him and with a lot these new additions, one has to believe you guys are going to look a lot different on both sides of the ball this coming season. Can we expect a different attack?
FH: No question. I think athletically, we'll be our most athletic team ever next year. With Dequan being able to play more of his style next year, I expect him to be a totally different player. I think the one thing we will be able to do, which we really haven't is extend the floor more. We didn't have a lot of depth. I'm not saying we're going to be a full court press team. But we'll spread the team more with our length and have our hands in guys' faces more because we're bigger and more athletic.

Malcolm Grant, who sat out a season after transferring in from Villanova, is expected to be a force in the backcourt next season for UM. MN: What is Malcolm Grant going to be able to give you guys that maybe you didn't have this season?
FH: "He's going to give us a true point guard that can score. The type of player he is, he'll do things help guys become really good. He's going to make guys around him better. He'll get them shots. I think Malcolm can do that. He's also really skilled. He can shoot the basketball. He's not your typical New York guard. He's also got a great feel for the game. Him and Durand [Scott] both are guys who can drive the ball. That's one thing we weren't very good at. We're not going to be as good a three-point shooting team. But we'll be able to run. When Jack played the one this year, we could not run. We were a little bit better when Lance [Hurdle] had the ball. But there's no question he was not the same Lance he was two years ago. I think next year's team will have more athletes, Dequan, Garrius [Adams], Durand and even with Dews coming back. Plus, a couple other guys we'll add on our team. I think this will be a team that can run. Don't get me wrong, we'll still have a bruising effect. Julian [Gamble], Cyrus [McGowan], Dwayne, there will be big bodies. Plus, a guy like Adrian Thomas, who had a nice run, will add his abilities. I think we got a lot of guys who will contribute."

MN: It sounds like you feel pretty confident about next year's team. Most people probably think you won't be very good without Jack, that this might be a rebuilding year. But it sounds like you feel differently...
FH: "I think we're still going to be good. Yes, it's going to be an extremely young team with only two, three seniors. But I don't ever want our team not to focus on postseason. Our goal is to make postseason. Obviously we'll be young and most people probably won't expect us to be competitive. But maybe that will be great for us. We won't be on anybody's radar and that will be good for us. What I want is for this team to be tough. I don't know if we were as tough this year as we were last year. I think we'll be a tougher team. That's the thing that hurt us this year. We could not do all the things we needed to do all the time because we had knicks and pains we didn't want to turn into something else. We need to be bruisers and have a tough man mentality. If we do, I think we'll definitely be back in the hunt."

MN: Beyond Malcolm Grant, it seems like right now you don't have another primary ballhandler lined up for next year with Eddie Rios gone. Is this something you'll address through recruiting? FH: "[Recruiting is] one way. But to be honest with you I think we have a few other guys who could handle the rock. Durand is a guy who can play all over the floor. At 6-6, he's a lot like [ACC Rookie of The Year] Sylvan Landesberg. I'm not saying he's him. But Durand can play the 1, 2, or 3. We also have another young man I can't talk about [Antoine Allen] who will be coming and we could sign another perimeter player [possibly John Wall]. We definitely don't want to go into next year without enough ballhandling. You got to have enough ballhandlers to be successful. That being said, we did win 19 games with only two ball handlers."

A game with Rick Pitino and Louisville, this year's top seed in the NCAA Tournament, could be the marquee out of conference game for UM next season. MN: Last question: Anything you can tell us about next year's schedule?
FH: "Here's what I know for sure. We're playing in Charleston in a preseason tournament ESPN is putting together. I hear South Carolina and Penn State are going to be there, too. We're going to play FAU again and we're going to have a Big Ten Challenge game at home because we'll play an ACC game at home in December. The Big Ten game might be against Indiana. We're still looking for a home and home series. Our schedule just won't be as heavy as it was last year. We'll still have some very good matchups. Right now, because Rick [Pitino] and I are good friends, there is talk of us maybe playing at Louisville. But that's kind of still in the air."

March 16, 2009

Haith: Alabama interest "just a rumor"

(We now interrupt the Bryce Brown announcement watch party for a basketball update from the University of Miami. We hope this does not ruin your afternoon).

UM men's basketball coach Frank Haith met with reporters Monday for the first time since his team was blown out in the first round of the ACC Tournament, denied an invite to the NCAA Tournament and rumors of his possible interest in leaving the program for Alabama surfaced late last week. Before getting to any questions from the media, Haith put an end to the questions about the latter first.

Frank Haith denied the rumors he's interested in the Alabama opening. "Obviously I've heard the rumors about me looking at other jobs, or people being interested in me and that's just what they are -- rumors," Haith said. "I'm not going to give that any time, each time my name is mentioned with a job. I want to get that out there first so we can move on to something important which is us being in the post-season four out of five years."

Interested or not interested, false rumor or simply the first sign UM's head coach is testing the waters, Haith will still have another game to coach Wednesday night in the NIT. And he made it perfectly clear he's not happy the fourth-seeded Hurricanes (18-12) will have to do so on the road while the BankUnited Center gets rented out to host other events. 

According to Haith, UM made a last ditch effort to find another venue in South Florida to host Wednesday's game against fifth-seeded Providence (19-13). But just like earning a trip to the Big Dance two years in a row, UM couldn't find a way to get it done. Oddly enough, Kentucky, whom UM beat earlier this season, was in the same dilemma with Rupp Arena being rented out. But the Wildcats will still be hosting UNLV because another venue, Memorial Coliseum (where the men played until 1976), is available. 

Haith said he thought his team, which finished tied for seventh in the ACC standings with a 7-9 record, would have likely been a 2 or a 3 seed with an opportunity to host two games in the tournament had BankUnited Center been available." 

"I don't know what to say. It's disappointing," Haith said when asked how he felt about having to play on the road. "We don't have a venue. It is what it is. I think our seeding was hurt because we don't have a venue to play in. It is what it is."

Among other topics discussed...

MCCLINTON'S KNEE: Haith said the team made sure to get Jack McClinton's sprained left knee checked out before he returned to practice last week. According to Haith, it's a grade one sprain with "stretched ligaments." Haith said it's up to McClinton to shake himself out of the nagging injury. The 6-1 point guard returned to full practices shortly before the ACC Tournament kicked off in Atlanta last week. He struggled with only nine points in the loss to Virginia Tech.

"It's a fine line there. I don't think he can play well unless he practices, in terms of getting a feel for it," Haith said. "He did practice the day before the ACC Tournament game. He did well. But I think he needs that practice to go out and play. We practiced yesterday and he went. I think Jack needs practice to play well."

Dwayne Collins has averaged just six points in his final nine games this season. DISAPPEARING DWAYNE: There have been a lot of disappointments this season on this team, but none has been bigger than Dwayne Collins, who never lived up to his role as the team's No. 2 scorer behind McClinton. Haith sounded like a coach who has tried everything with Collins and simply has no idea what else to do with him.

Collins broke double figures in scoring only once after scoring 18 points at N.C. State on Jan. 27. He had 10 points at Georgia Tech in the second to last game of the regular season, the only time he scored more than 9 in UM's final 10 games.

"Dwayne has made some improvement in his game," Haith said. "He's a better player. It's just been the consistency thing. I don't know how to... we've tried everything to make him more consistent. 

"He was 3 for 11 at the Georgia Tech game. He had a lot of touches. He was active. He played hard. He just didn't make shots. I just want him to play hard. That's the key thing, just play hard. He'll get his touches if he plays hard and is running the floor. He'll get his touches. There's moments when feeding the post and the posting up isn't working. We've emphasized getting the ball to Dwayne. But when you add in the fact he's shooting the ball sub 60 percent from the free throw line, sometimes those attempts don't show up. He's getting touches, he just has to produce.

It wasn't just Collins' lack of scoring that hurt, but his overall aggressiveness. He has a total of eight blocks this season, 24 less than his sophomore season and five fewer than freshman Julian Gamble, who played 550 less minutes than Collins.

"It goes back to his assertiveness, aggressiveness," Haith said. "There's no reason Dwayne Collins should only have eight blocks. We just want Dwayne to be more active. He's capable. It's just, I don't know. We need more of that. Yesterday at practice, he was swatting everything. I can't figure it out. But hopefully he can here at the end of the year.

> If the Canes are able to beat the Friars Wednesday, Haith said UM would likely end up playing either at 11 a.m. Saturday or Monday night at 7 in primetime TV game against top-seeded Florida, which should cruise past Jacksonville Wednesday.

> In case you missed it, the UM football team will be off for spring break until next Monday, March 23rd. The spring game is at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium on March 28th. 

March 13, 2009

Report: Haith interested in Alabama job

ATLANTA -- CBSSports.com is reporting that University of Miami coach Frank Haith is apparently interested in filling the opening at Alabama.

According to an industry source that spoke with the website, Haith is willing to leave UM if the Crimson Tide come with a respectable offer. Haith received a raise and a new contract after leading the Hurricanes to the NCAA Tournament's second round last season.

Frank Haith The Hurricanes were eliminated in the first round of the ACC Tournament Thursday and will miss the NCAA Tournament after being picked to finish fourth in the preseason and ranked as high as 16th in the national polls. UM is expected to receive an invitation to the NIT Tournament Sunday night.

Despite a disappointing season, Haith is still considered one of the best young coaches in the business and an excellent recruiter. His name has come up as candidate at other schools -- including Georgia -- throughout the season. I haven't had a chance to have a personal conversation with Haith since these latest rumors have come up, but he's said on multiple occasions he's very happy at Miami and coaching in the ACC. 

Still, next season UM will be starting over without Jack McClinton. One has to wonder if this might not be the best opportunity for Haith to move onto a place that pays better and supports basketball better than UM does. After all, the Canes play to half-filled arenas on most nights and this coming week won't even be able to host games on their own floor in the NIT because the BankUnited Center has been rented out. Haith has one of country's Top 25 recruiting classes coming in. If he left, it would be a huge blow to the Canes who would likely lose recruits if he bolted.

I'm waiting to get on my flight back home to Miami. I'll try to reach Haith when I get back home.

March 11, 2009

McClinton practicing at full speed again

ATLANTA -- The Miami Hurricanes didn't have a healthy Jack McClinton for their final three games of the regular season and it showed. McClinton, the ACC's third leading scorer this season at 19.7 points per game, shot an astonishing 9 of 37 from the field including a sub-par 6 of 18 from three point range.

UM needs a vintage Jack McClinton to win games at this week's NCAA Tournament, not the one slowed by a knee sprain in his last three games. The old Jack McClinton may finally be ready to lace them up Thursday at noon when the Canes (18-11) take on the Hokies (17-13) in a game vitally important to UM's NCAA Tournament chances. I didn't get a chance to talk to the team when they went through their walk through early Thursday morning at the Georgia Dome (my flight got in just after they were finishing up), but word from other reporters is McClinton looked awfully sharp. 

UM coach Frank Haith said Tuesday McClinton has been practicing at full speed since Monday. "[Monday] was the first day where he was full-go," Haith said. "We’re trying to get his knee right and I think he hasn’t been playing as well because of it. Yesterday he really let it go and hopefully he can build on that in practice today and have a great game Thursday."

The Canes have won their last three ACC Tournament openers and will face a Hokies team that has lost six of its last seven. But just because it looks like McClinton is finally healthy and Virginia Tech is sliding should we take it to mean UM is a shoe-in to be playing No. 1 North Carolina on Friday. The Hokies' last three losses came to three of the top four teams in the conference. UM, which has won 3 of its last 4, picked up two of its wins against teams behind them in the standings. Oh by the way, the Hokies have won two in a row against UM, too, including an 88-83 win in OT in January.

"We did a really good job last time in terms of execution offensively," Haith said. "But we did not defend as well and we have to defend a lot better. With that said, I thought [A.D.] Vasallo and [Malcolm] Delaney were outstanding in that ballgame. They both shot the ball extremely well and we have to do a good job on both of those guys and the big three – [Jeff] Allen, Delaney and Vasallo. They all had great performances against us."

> HAITH: 2009 NOT A DISAPPOINTMENT Despite being picked to finish fourth in the preseason and starting the season ranked 16th in the polls, Haith reiterated Tuesday that even if UM does not get an invite to the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday, he still would not consider this season a disappointment.

UM coach Frank Haith "I think this team has done well," Haith said ."I still go back to five years ago when I took the job and now you look at where it’s at now – we’re in the talk every year. Obviously I want us to win and get to the NCAA Tournament. I think that’s our goal every year, but in terms of a disappointment, I think some of our fans may feel something like that. I don’t feel like that. We have great seniors that will graduate and have won some big games. We’ve put ourselves in position to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. Some years we may get there and some years we may not. Four games have come down to the last possession. This team could be totally different if the ball bounces our way. It’s not like we have lost games by 20 or 30 points every night. We’ve been in every game and I think that shows there is progress in this program."

Just one sports writer's opinion, but the two games I'll point to should Miami miss the tournament are the road losses at Maryland, and the let down at Georgia Tech last week. Both of those games, UM didn't show the type of desire and fight it needed to. Despite being more talented, they were inexcusably flat emotionally. It's hard to point the finger at Haith for that. With a team full of seniors and veterans, it's on the players to show up and play better than that.

> NO LAWSON?: Not that I'm looking ahead, but if UM gets past the Hokies Thursday, the Canes could see a North Carolina team without ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson. The Tar Heels point guard injured his toe in the win against Duke is a bit questionable for this week's tournament. Lawson was huge in UNC's win over UM on Feb. 15. Of course, Lawson does have an extra day to rest that toe before Friday. UNC did not practice on the Georgia Dome floor Wednesday.

> CANES TO SCRIMMAGE THURSDAY: I won't be there because I'll be up here covering the ACC Tournament, but Randy Shannon's football team will be scrimmaging for the second time this spring on Thursday night at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami. It's supposed to get started at 6:30 p.m. Our Susan Miller Degnan will be there along with Barry Jackson. They'll send me some notes for the blog when it ends. The football team will be off after Thursday until March 23rd.

If you go, be sure to enjoy watching running back Mike James (No. 22), Miami's talented receivers (you'll be really impressed by Kendall Thomkins) and safety Vaughn Telemaque (No. 7). If your looking for improvement, keep your eyes on the backup quarterback battle between Tyler Cook and Cannon Smith, how some of the new offensive lineman (Matt Pipho, Ben Jones, Harland Gunn) are handling a talented deep defensive line core, and if UM's young linebackers are winning any of the one-on-one battles with a talented stable of running backs.

> RIVALS TOP 100 RELEASED: I finally got around this afternoon to taking a gander at Rivals first Top 100 player rankings for football in the 2010 class. Rivals will end up juggling this list 1,000 times before National Signing Day. But I was a bit surprised at some of the names I saw on the list and didn't. Northwestern defensive tackle Todd Chandler, Miami-Dade's No. 1 recruit, wasn't on there. Miami Palmetto defensive end Delvin Jones (in the 20s in The Miami Herald preseason rankings) is in there. Not trying to rip Rivals, who does a good job following the right kids for the most part. But I'll take our Larry Blustein over any of those guys. There's only so much you can gain from watching a combine. Larry and I knew Sean Spence would be a star at UM. Rivals never had Spence in its Top 100. 

> ON A PERSONAL NOTE: I normally don't share too much about myself here, I wanted to pass along the happy news that Tuesday night my wife and I closed on our first house. I'm definitely thrilled to finally have a real place to call my own. As happy as I am about that, I can't be more upset or heartbroken about the news we learned today about several colleagues who lost their jobs. The Miami Herald cut more than 200 jobs Wednesday in an effort to keep surviving in the struggling newspaper business. Thankfully, I still have a job. But I'm praying for the families of the people here no longer don't. It's a sad day at The Miami Herald.

March 04, 2009

Courtside blog: GT 78, UM 68 (F)

ATLANTA -- I'll be here providing updates tonight from UM's next must-win game, against Georgia Tech.

It's supposed to be Senior Night here, but it might as well really be empty seat night. Alexander Memorial Coliseum is pretty empty. Hard to blame Yellow Jackets fans. Georgia Tech is 1-12 in conference play this year and there really hasn't been a whole to get excited about.

I stopped the Fifth Street Ribs & Blues restaurants nearby about three hours before tip-off. The cook chatted me about tonight's game and asked me why I was bothering to show up. Yikes. The ribs at least were very good. 

If you want to follow the game live you can listen to Joe Zagacki with my friend Josh Darrow on WQAM, spend the $5.99 on ACCSelect (it didn't work for me before) or follow it on the ACC Gametracker.

> By the way, in case you missed it, former Canes safety Ed Reed gave the team a pep talk before they left for Atlanta. Coach Frank Haith has used ministers, priests, and former Canes James Jones for a pre-game pep talk in the past. But Reed is probably the best in the business.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

> Horrible start for UM. They've fallen behind 10-2 with a lack of any sort of execution on offense and they've been lazy on defense. Haith just let his team have it, slamming his clipboard and dropping a few "adult words" during the timeout. Looks like GT is going to try and let Lewis Clinch set the tone with his outside shot. He's nailed two three pointers early and has six points. 

> UM started the game 2 of 15 from the field before Jimmy Graham hit a jump hook with 11:32 to play in the first half. Clinch has another three-pointer and now has nine points. Miami looks totally out of sync and offense. Jack McClinton got pulled at about the 14 minute mark and has not returned yet. He took one shot and missed. Haith told me McClinton practiced for the first time since spraining his knee against Boston College on Tuesday. But it was a light practice.

> The Canes used some defense to key a 6-0 run to cut into Georgia Tech's lead at 16-12 with 9:21 to go. But the Yellow Jackets just went on a 7-0 run to negate it and go back up by double-digits. 

> Jack McClinton is supposed to be the best three-point shooter in the league. But tonight, it looks like Lewis Clinch is that guy. He's hit five three-pointers, each has negated UM rallies.

> Clinch now has 17 points. McClinton finally broke through with his first field goal with 4:35 left. UM simply hasn't been able to cut into Georgia Tech's double digit lead. The slow start has put them in a huge hole. 

> Canes are down 16 points at the break. Lewis Clench has 20 points. UM shot 36 percent in the first half. Those NCAA Tournament hopes are officially dangling by a thread. 

> FYI, the 16-point halftime deficit is the largest UM has faced this season. The largest comeback for UM this season was from 17 down to Maryland with 12:30 to go in the game. Miami won 62-60.

SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS

> The first 52 seconds of the half were exactly what you wanted to see if you were a Canes fan. James Dews hits an open jumper, Miami traps on defense, Dwayne Collins gets a steal and Jack McClinton makes a three-pointer before Paul Hewett calls timeout. GT leads 41-30 with 19:08 left.

> So much for that great start. Lewis Clinch and the Yellow Jackets came right back with a 5-0 run and their lead is back up to 47-33 with 15:55 left. Miami has completely dominated the boards today. The Canes simply haven't been able to put the ball through the hoop. 

> GT extended its lead to 19 points on an Iman Shumpert steal and dunk with 14:34 to play. Then, Miami went on a quick 9-0 run to pull within 52-42 with 13:19 left. Miami had a chance to trim it closer, but James Dews missed a long three-pointer.

> It's just been another frustrating night for McClinton. He picked up his third foul trying to create a jump shot and foul when he got his defender in the air. Instead, he got called for charging. 

> The Canes are not going quietly. After falling behind by 14 again, UM used a 7-0 run and a few gutsy baskets from Brian Asbury to trim Georgia Tech's lead to 58-51 with 8:37 to play. They need one more big run to really get back into the game. 

> You can never say a team with Jack McClinton is done. But with 5:14 left and UM down 12, the Canes looked overcooked. 

February 21, 2009

Courtside blog: UM 69, BC 58 (F)

BANKUNITED CENTER -- As usual, I'll be here to watch Frank Haith's basketball team try and save its NCAA Tournament hopes with a win today against Boston College.

Haith told us in his pregame press conference Friday he was going to shrink his rotation a little bit to get the best players on the floor more. We'll have to see if that happens today. The starting lineup certainly features UM's best five in my opinion: Jack McClinton, James Dews, Brian Asbury, Dwayne Collins and Jimmy Graham.

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS/THOUGHTS...
> Canes jumped all over Boston College and had as much as a 17-point lead in the first half thanks some terrific shooting. UM connected on 9 of 13 from three-point range, including four from James Dews who had 12 points. Brian Asbury and Jack McClinton each have 10 points. UM shot 58 percent in the first half and held everyone but Joey Trapani (8 pts) scoreless for the first 10 minutes of the game.

I had a couple of other quick notes I wanted to pass along from conversations I've had in the past week and from some of my personal experiences...

> Like most of you, I think its more than unfortunate the University of Miami's baseball stadium has been renamed in honor of an admitted steriod user. But I definitely liked the upgrade to the facilities. The new press box, locker rooms, media interview rooms, everything associated with the final phase of the $14 million facelift looked great. A program that has won four national championships was long overdue in receiving facilities on-par with just about every other major Division I school in the country.

But, I've got one complaint: Where is the ATM machine? If you don't come to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field with cash, you are basically screwed. Only one of the vendors (the pizza line) takes credit cards and you have to pay a minimum of $10 to be able to use it. Not cool. Also, don't make the mistake of getting in one line and thinking everything on the menu is on the menu. InsideTheU's Chris Stock thought he got in line for chicken fingers and fries. He found out 10 minutes later, it was only the line next to him that was serving it.

> Associate Athletic Director Jim Frevola told us late last night he expects the final finishing touches on the stadium (2,000 bleacher seats along the left field and right field lines) to be in place before UM hosts Florida State at the start of April.

> For those of you wondering if UM's basketball team is done recruiting, the answer is no. Haith can't talk specifics about unsigned recruits but basically confirmed his team still has a scholarship available to use in April. I've heard point guard Lisandro Ruiz-Moreno is no longer being recruited by Miami because of academics (most of his transcripts are still in South America) UM would probably like to get a point guard considering none of the three guards they have signed or lined up to come (Durand Scott, Antoine Allen or Garrius Adams) are not natural point guards.

February 19, 2009

Brian Butler makes radio appearance

TALLAHASSEE -- Just a couple quick messages to pass along. Got a text message on my way up here earlier today from 790 The Ticket radio personality Jorge Sedano to pass along that he's supposed to have Brian Butler (Bryce Brown's mentor) on his show tomorrow at noon. UPDATED: I'm not sure if Sedano did finally get Butler on his show, but here is the link to an interview with Evan Cohen on 760 ESPN in Palm Beach.

> Friday night before the baseball season opener against Rutgers, UM will induct Baltimore Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff into the Hall of Fame. Jim Morris, along with Pat Burrell, will present Huff with his Hall of Fame ring and jacket in an on-field ceremony before the game. Huff hit 21 home runs and drove in 95 RBI his final season at Miami in 1998. He hit .400 in his career (2nd all-time) and had a career .719 slugging percentage. For more information on a Parrott Jungle Banquet and the UM Sports Hall of Fame golf tournament on April 24th, go to UMSportsHallofFame.com.

February 18, 2009

Courstide blog: FSU 80, UM 67 (F)

TALLAHASSEE -- It took me awhile to finally settle in at the Donald L. Tucker Center (I had to fly into Jacksonville and drive) but I'm here for tonight's big Canes-Noles basketball tilt. We know Miami needs a win badly. I'll be here to provide you with a halftime update and postgame update.

> For you football fans, the Palm Beach post and Sun-Sentinel got a chance to talk to coach Randy Shannon "exclusively" today and collected some good nuggets before the start of spring next week. The most eye-opening news to come out is that Micheal Barrow is no longer the linebackers coach. Defensive coordinator John Lovett will now handle the linebackers and Barrow will be allowed to roam freely as a defensive assistant. The positive? Barrow is without question an excellent recruiter and this may allow him more time to go out on the recruiting scene.

> Sam Shields is indeed moving to cornerback as Canesport first reported last week. Shannon told the Sentinel he wanted more bodies there. My question is can Shields honestly help the team there or was this move simply made so he stops running out on the field at the wrong time on offense? I'm convinced the only place we are really going to see Shields on the field anymore is as a flier on punts and kickoffs.

> Well, the day has come and gone and Bryce Brown did not sign his National Letter of Intent. While UM has obviously told several reporters (including me) they will not renew the offer, I'm not going to buy it totally until I hear Bruce Brown, Brian Butler or someone from the Brown family say that's the case. The one thing I've learned covering this team is that things change quickly. And if Brown was told his scholarship offer was no longer available to him, he wouldn't be carrying on like normal. We would have had to have an update on potentialplayers.com, right? 

> Almost forgot: I've been told The Miami Herald will have its "exclusive" day with Shannon on Monday. Feel free to begin leaving me some questions you would like for us to ask if we indeed get the interview. 

FIRST HALF THOUGHTS/HIGHLIGHTS...

> Dwayne Collins apparently did enough in practice Wednesday to convince Frank Haith he deserved to play tonight instead of resting his sprained left ankle one more day. Haith is glad he did. Collins has come out strong with seven points, four rebounds and two assists. 

> The bigger news is that Jack McClinton finally has some help. James Dews leads the team with 8 points at halftime. Dews replaced Lance Hurdle in the starting lineup and is showing us why. He's done a good job defensively. Hurdle by the way has obviously gotten a boost from being benched. He had 6 points in 13 minutes and was effective.

END OF REGULATION

> Tough loss for the Canes. Jack McClinton gets held to 13 points. I'll have more for you tomorrow. I've got to drive to Jacksonville and fly home from there in the afternoon.

January 25, 2009

Canes pick up 19th commitment

BANKUNITED CENTER -- I'm here at the BUC for today's showdown with the Hokies. I've come to realize the courtside blogs don't get much attention. So, I've decided to abandon them until we get into some bigger games later in the year (I'll try to keep up with Beyond The Boxscore blogs for you hoop fans for now).

Let's get to the football news. For those of you who missed it, Barry Jackson reached the Canes' leading cadidate to fill the offensive coordinator position, Mark Whipple. UM is waiting to see if Whipple will take the job. If not, the search will continue. I'm not going to speculate on any other names until Whipple officially declines.

Shayon Green As for immediate news, the first of two big recruiting weekends ended earlier this morning. Miami was able to pick up one new commitment from the group of eight visitors, linebacker/defensive end Shayon Green from Tift County, Ga. I caught up with Shayon when I got to the arena to ask him what happened over the weekend to make him switch his commitment from Purdue to the Canes.

"It was just a great visit. I saw it with my family and from the moment I got there I knew I wanted to be a Cane," Green said. "I had come here last year and stopped by and I liked it then. But after I talked with Coach Shannon, he made me realize this was the place I needed to be. I'm excited."

Green said he was hosted by linebacker Darryl Sharpton and said he spent a lot of time with Sean Spence during his visit. But he said the special relationship which helped UM sway him from Purdue and the other 15 offers he received during recruiting was his relationship with fellow Tifton County native Wesley McGriff, UM's secondary coach. The fact his grandparents lived in Homestead also helped.

Green said Miami coaches told him he'd likely start out at linebacker when he gets to UM in the summer. But he could play anywhere. At 6-3, 225 pounds with 4.67 speed, his high school coach played him at defensive tackle, defensive end and linebacker during his three seasons on the varsity level. As a senior playing mostly at linebacker, Green tallied 67 solo tackles, 48 assisted tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack and one caused fumble. 

"He's got a pretty good knack of getting off really well on the snap," his coach Jay Walls told me before the visit on Thursday. "I think you'll see him play [weakside] linebacker or defensive end. He's going to get bigger too. He'll probably get close to 250 pounds. We've got a real good weight program here already. He power cleans over 300 pounds and benches over 300 pounds and squats about 600. He's a good one."

> The other non-commitments UM hosted this weekend included linebacker Sam Barrington and offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche and Marcus Hall. I'm going to try and reach them or their coaches sometime this week. I know Barrington is expected to announce his decision Feb. 3.

January 14, 2009

Vernon ready & other burning recruiting questions

With only three weeks left before National Signing Day, the recruiting rumor wire is going bananas.

Bryce Brown talk is at a fever pitch. Is Rivals.com's new No. 1 national player sticking with the Canes or heading elsewhere?

Does Miami have a chance at getting receiver Reuben Randle, the country's No. 2 overall recruit? Or will he stick with those SEC schools in his backyard?

Are the Canes going to lose any other recruits now that tight end Billy Sanders (UCLA) was the first one to jump ship? Will Kayvon Webster, Luther Robinson, or [gasp] will Brown be next?

All of those are nice burning questions for you recruiting junkies. Here's one at least that looks like it will Olivier_vernonfinally be resolved: Defensive end Olivier Vernon told me he's made a final decision and will announce it Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at his school. Vernon, a 6-3, 240-pound defensive end at American High in Miami, was one of the first players to commit to Randy Shannon's 2009 signing class last August. But he's been flirting with Alabama and Florida State ever since. While UM expects Vernon to begin taking classes Jan. 20, I was told by someone last night Vernon still hasn't given the Canes his final notice he's really coming.

I finally got down to chatting with Olivier last night -- two weeks after he told me he had planned to make a decision. Why was he holding out? To allow Bama's Nick Saban, FSU's Chuck Amato and Shannon to make in-home visits. Each made a different pitch. Vernon said Saban talked about how 'Bama could use him as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end; Amato talked about FSU's tradition and academics; Shannon didn't even talk about football, preferring to stick to life. Now, Vernon says he's ready.

"I already know where I'm going, I'm just got to let everybody else know on Thursday," Vernon said. "I just wanted to decide on the best school. All I really care about is going to the school where I think I have the best chance at winning a national championship at."

> Much the same way Vernon needed some extra time before making his final decision, Bryce_brownBryce Brown needs some time, too. According to reports from Canestime and Canesport, Brown is waiting to see who UM hires as its next offensive coordinator and waiting to plan his final recruiting visit for either Jan. 23 or 30th so he can meet and greet the new coordinator. The good news? Now, you can follow this saga all on your own. According to Canesport, Brown's mentor, Brian Butler is building a webpage at www.potentialplayers.com so fans can track Brown's latest thoughts. Amazing how far we've come in recruiting isn't it?

> Defensive back Prince Kent, who was supposed to graduating early, is holding off on enrolling at UM until the summer time. I spoke with his mother Bernetta Walker this afternoon who told me Prince_kentPrince needed some extra time to pass an online trigonometry class and fell behind because of football (the Under Armour All-American game). Kent, who grew up following his mother who was in the U.S. Army, has spent most of his life trying to rally his academics after falling a bit behind when his mother was stationed in Hawaii. But, he's been working with UM's academic department throughout the recruiting process to make sure his academics are in order. Prince is retaking the SAT soon to try and score higher than 1,000. "Our plan is to have all our paperwork in hand by the time we head down there for signing day," Walker said.

> Scratch Michigan standout and tight end Dion Sims off the Canes' list of potential recruits. Sims, rated Rivals.com's 7th best recruit, committed to Michigan State Tuesday. He was supposed to be visiting the Canes on Jan. 23, but those plans now look nixed. Sims picked Michigan State in part because he also hopes to play basketball. You can't blame the Canes for not trying to sell both sports. I spoke with Frank Haith Monday, who told me he and Shannon have spoken in the past and present about potential recruits playing in both sports. "We definitely work together when we've had to," Haith said. "[Assistant] Jorge [Fernandez] has made calls to kids when he's had to and I definitely know the kids they were looking at recently were good enough to play basketball for us, too, if they wanted."