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.

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 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. 

February 23, 2009

Haith lands commitments for 2011, 2012

The Miami Hurricanes might not be done with their 2009 singing class yet, but that doesn't mean they're waiting to get started on 2010, 2011 or even 2012.

Frank Haith landed two 6-10 players Monday for the future. Monday afternoon, Frank Haith's team picked up two verbal commitments from players not only highly regarded, but who came to the U.S. recently from outside the country. They are: 6-10, 200-pound, Rwandan-born wingman Yvan Ngirabuakunzi (a 2011 commitment) and 6-10, 220-pound center Ismalia Dauda from Nigeria (a 2012 commitment).

Both phoned UM coaches to tell them they wanted to be a part of the Hurricanes future recently -- even if that future is several years away. Dauda, a freshman at Miami Choice Academy, is considered by some publications to be the best 15-year old freshman in the state of Florida. He hasn't even played for his high school team yet. According to his coach, former FIU and Miami High assistant Bernard Wright, UM coaches didn't need to see Dauda play to see what they liked. They only had to watch one practice.

"Coach [Jake] Morton came down here to see some of our upperclassmen. He saw Ismalia practice once and it didn't take Miami very long to offer," said Wright, who said Dauda also received an early offer from Arkansas. "[College] coaches aren't waiting anymore to jump on kids. They see the size, potential, they want to be in position to get a talent like him early. He went to the North Carolina game recently and came back and told me, Miami is where he wants to be."

Dauda played for the Nigerian Junior National team last year and plans to play for Global Elite, a Nike-sponsored summer travel team based out of Atlanta in the offseason. Wright said Dauda has an older brother who played professional basketball and lives in Fayetville, Arkansas. But he doesn't expect that to play a role in the recruiting. 

"He visited Arkansas unofficially in December," Wright said. "He came back saying it was way too cold for him. He wants to play and live in the warm weather. I'm pretty sure Miami is where he wants to be for the long haul."

Ngirabaukuzi, who arrived in the U.S. this past summer, has gotten a chance to play to high school basketball in the states at Piney Woods School in Mississippi. The former member of the Under-18 national team is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds this season and is a very good three-point shooter according to his coach Lemuel Jones. 

February 10, 2009

Another Jack McClinton?

The news coming out of UM never seems to take a break does it?

The Miami Hurricanes have a new guard who will be part of their 2009 signing class. And coach Frank Haith and his staff are hoping hard he turns out to be a lot like the one leaving after this season -- Jack McClinton.

Antoine Allen Say hello to Antoine Allen, a 6-2, 186-pound combo guard from Mississippi Elite Christian Academy. Allen isn't another ESPN Top 100 recruit like the other two guards part of Haith's next class. But he's another good under the radar player from Baltimore, who just happened to play for the same AAU program McClinton did.

I caught up with Cecil Kirk coach Anthony Lewis, who coached both players, a few hours ago. His take in a sentence -- Allen is better defensively than McClinton was at 19 and just as good a shooter as he was, too. Allen told me he is averaging 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists at his prep school, which takes on other prep schools and junior colleges. He can play either point guard or shooting guard (like Jack) and can light it up from three-point range.

The good news is he apparently has the same work ethic as McClinton, which is probably the most important trait. "The one thing I asked coach was is if they had a 24-hour gym open for me," Allen said. "I'm a guy who loves to be in the gym at all hours, working hard. That's me."

> Allen is expected to sign in April and will start at Miami in the fall. He'll be one of four new guards on the team along with Malcolm Grant, who should be UM's starting point guard next season, Durand Scott and Garrius Adams. James Dews is the only guard expected back next season.

January 06, 2009

Hocutt: 'No urgency' in filling OC spot

As I was writing my game story on deadline Monday night out at the BankUnited Center I got a visit from UM athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who was nice enough to come back and look for me after the game to follow through on a chat I had requested with him while he was busy earlier in the evening. On a night when he was hosting other guests and chatting with President Donna Shalala, Hocutt could have just forgotten about it entirely. But the fact he remembered was nice.

Anyway, it wasn't a very long conversation, but I did get to throw a few questions at him. I didn't have my tape recorder, but I did have my notebook. So, some of this will be paraphrased off my notes. We'll start with football.

> The first question was obvious -- what if anything could he tell us about the search to fill the offensive Kirby_hocuttcoordinator vacated by Patrick Nix. While he obviously wasn't going to drop any names or give us any hints he did provide some insight. "One thing I can tell you is we're looking for the best candidate possible, somebody who is experienced and can do the best job at not only developing these young players, but helping us win games. There is nothing we're in an urgency to do. We're in the process of talking to some people and finding the best candidate to run the system that Coach Shannon wants to run. That's really the biggest factor."

> I brought up the fact that last year Miami took its time -- about a month -- before replacing Tim Walton with Bill Young. "Again, we're not in a rush," Hocutt said. "We don't see hiring a coordinator before national signing day as a necessity. We see choosing the right person as the top priority."

> I asked him how he felt about the team's fade from being in the ACC title hunt to losing its final three games. I asked him if there was going to be more pressure on Coach Shannon and his assistants next season to compete for a conference title and national championship.

"That's the goal to compete for championships here. It was a tough finish to the season. But I saw it as a step forward. This was a really young football team. What I really admired about the team was that those players never gave up. They were hurt, short-handed, but the kept fighting. It's a testament to the coaches. I really believe we have the right guys coaching this team. The future is bright. Randy is with us for the long haul. I know everyone wants to see this program win a championship tomorrow. I do. But I really believe we're doing it right. Randy is not out looking for the quick fixes. He's recruiting not only great athletes, but great kids. We're looking to build a winner to stay over time. And I think we've got the right man leading us."

> Before I had to run back to finish my game story, I had to toss a couple basketball questions his way. Hocutt's face lit up talking about coach Frank Haith, who got an extension and a raise this past offseason through the 2013-2014 season. Hocutt, who watched Monday's win over FAU, said he expects UM's new basketball practice facility to be completed by March 1st -- just in time for the McDonald's All-American game. As for other facility upgrades and endeavors... "We're in the planning stages right now of planning some major upgrades to the Hecht Athletic Center. We really want to get the work on the football locker room and training room done. After that, the athletic training center, Cobb Stadium upgrades, the Hall of Fame and the tennis center."

MORE HOOPS...
Not everything I wanted to get into my basketball game story made it. Here are some leftovers...

> UM coach Frank Haith said he was proud of his team's 11-2 non-conference schedule. "11-2 non-league, with the schedule we played, I feel real good about us being in good shape, where we want to be. No bad losses, strong RPI, strength of schedule top 5 in the country, we are where we want to be. That strength of schedule won't change in the ACC."

> Forward Jimmy Graham, who bruised his right wrist severly two weeks ago when he slipped in the shower, saw his first action in three games. He played with what appeared to be a soft cast for nine minutes. He grabbed four rebounds and had one steal. Haith said Graham practiced for the first time Sunday in a few weeks. "Jimmy is quite yet back to form," Haith said. "He's going to need to get a few more practices in. He's not quite ready yet."

November 23, 2008

Where will The U go Bowling? Plus, Mr. Scott

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands -- The dreams of reaching the ACC title game officially ended for Randy Shannon's Hurricanes Saturday. North Carolina lost and Virginia Tech won like it had to. But Virginia couldn't beat Clemson, ultimately ending Miami's hopes of winning a three-team tiebreaker (UM can't win a two-team tiebreaker with Georgia Tech or a three-team tiebreaker with GT and VT) and reaching the Dec. 6 title game.

Now, it's time to explore the possibilities of where Miami could be headed this bowl season. Should the Canes win at N.C. State (that doesn't look so easy anymore) they are pretty much guaranteed of going to one of the other top four ACC bowl tie-in games not named the Orange Bowl (which takes the ACC champion and the Big East champ) or Chick-Fil-A Bowl (which takes the ACC's No. 2 team and the SEC's 5th best team). At this point, UM can finish no worse than at least tied for 7th in the bowl pecking order should it lose to N.C. State (which means no trip to the blue turf in Boise). So, here is a look at the possible destinations and opponents. Let me know what you think and where you'd like to see the Canes play when you finish...

Gator_bowl> The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on Jan. 1 versus a Big East team (maybe West Virginia who would likely be the runner-up; Notre Dame is playing its way out of it) or a Big 12 team (there are rumors Nebraska could go there). It's going to be hard for Miami to climb up to Gator Bowl status considering Georgia Tech beat them soundly and would get the edge should Virginia Tech win the Coastal Division and head to the ACC title game versus Florida State, Boston College or Maryland. It would have definitely been nice to see a UM-Notre Dame game. UM-Nebraska wouldn't be bad because it has history and the teams are schedule to meet in five years. But like I said, UM would have to beat N.C. State and probably have Virginia Tech and FSU lose next week to even be considered in the running for this game as the third or fourth best team in the conference.

Champs_sports_bowl> The Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 27 versus the Big Ten's No. 4/5 team (it's going to be either Northwestern or Iowa). This is probably where UM ends up if it wins at N.C. State -- especially when you consider Boston College (who could finish second or third in the Atlantic Division) played there last year. Orlando would love to have UM, which is only a three-hour drive away. The problem is a Miami-Northwestern or Miami-Iowa matchup isn't exactly sexy. But it looks like a game UM could win at least.

Meineke_car_care_bowl> The Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 27 versus the Big East's No. 3/4 team (Rutgers, Pittsburgh or Connecticut). If the Champs Sports Bowl passes on an 8-4 UM team, look for the Meineke Car Care Bowl to scoop the Canes up because of their old Big East connections. A Miami-Pittsburgh or a Miami-Rutgers matchup would be sexy because you get Randy Shannon versus Greg Schiano or Randy Shannon versus Dave Wannstedt. If it's UM-UConn (which never really were Big East football rivals), look for the Canes to get passed up.

Music_city_bowl> The Music City Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31 versus the SEC's 6th or 7th best team (Vanderbilt, Kentucky, South Carolina or Auburn). How about a game with the old ball coach Steve Spurrier on a cold night in Memphis? Not a bad draw for Miami. But UM-Vanderbilt or UM-Kentucky would bore me to tears. This is likely the game Miami heads to if it loses to N.C. State. Vanderbilt or Kentucky would definitely have home field advantage in SEC country.

Emerald_bowl> Finally, the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 27 versus the Pac 10's fifth best team or another substitute (possibly Fresno State). This is the place Miami is headed if everything goes against them if they lose to N.C. State and everybody passes them up in the pecking order. California or Arizona could be possible opponents in this game. But right now, the Pac 10 is so bad, people wouldn't be surprised if a WAC team got in instead.

> Now, to basketball. I actually did this interview on Wednesday shortly after Durand Scott announced his decision to skip out on UConn and Pittsburgh to head to UM. But considering the football Canes were about to take on Georgia Tech, I figured it was best to save it for a couple days.

Q: What made you decide on UM? You could have stayed closer to home?
Durand_scott3A: The first time I went down to Miami on an unofficial trip it was OK. But I wasn't feeling it. When I made my official visit with my mom, it hit me that I had to decide where I really wanted to spend the next four years of your life. It came down to whose hands are you willing to leave your life in -- and I felt comfortable with UM. Plus, Pitt and UConn are two schools who have already been there, done that. At Miami, I wanted to be part of the start of something and put them on the map.

Q: Was Frank Haith a big part of why you chose Miami? I heard assistant Jorge Fernandez played a part, too.
A: They both really made me feel comfortable. They were like friends for me, not just someone who talked to me about basketball. It was about life too. Coach Haith is a great coach. He's been through a lot. He knows what's best for a kid.

Q: When did UM actually get into the recruiting picture for you?
A: Probably around the end of my sophomore year in the summer. The first school that actually offered me was Arizona. And the first school that looked at me was Duke. Miami is just a team on the rise, a family unit. I like what it's all about.

Q: Miami has four seniors on this team including Jack McClinton who will be gone after this season. Was playing time a factor at all?
A: When they leave I know there's more opportunity for me to play. But it wasn't he biggest factor. I'm just a hard worker in general. If I just go there and work hard, I have confidence I'll be able to play and help the team. The opportunity is there for me to play. But it wasn't the top reason.

Q: What were the guys like when you made your visit? Did you feel at home with your future teammates?
A: When I first stepped on campus, I just loved the feel of being around everybody. When I first started looking for a school, the first thing I thought about was being comfortable around my teammates. We had to have the same mentality, the same goals, to win. I love people who work hard and want it more than anybody else. Once you have that me and you are going to click. Really, all I care about is winning. I'll do whatever it takes to win.

Q: The top player for UM its 2008 class was DeQuan Jones. Did you ever play against him on the AAU circuit? And what do you think of being his future teammate?
A: I never got to play against DeQuan. But he's a very explosive player. I'd love to play with him. He's so athletic, so fast, so good. I saw his dunk on YouTube. Watching him do something spectacular can lift you off your feet. He's the type of player I'd love to have on my team.

Q: What are you doing when you aren't playing hoops?
A: I'm by my books. If I'm not about the books, I'm not a going out guy. This year I've been kind of lonely up at school. I lost three of my best friends to college. So, I'm getting used to playing with some new teammates.

Q: I heard you got hurt? What happened and how bad is it?
A: I pulled a ligament in my ankle. I went to the doctor and I'll be out three weeks. But I'll be in the lineup soon. I'm dying to get back out there. We lost in the state championship last year. I want to win this year.

Q: How do you know Malcolm Grant? I heard he played a role in getting you to UM, too.
A: He's from New York like me. I played against him when I was a freshman and he was a senior. We kept in contact even after he got into Villanova. The first time I saw him, I said this kid is going to be good. Some times things don't go as you wanted. I think its kind of a blessing for him and for me that we'll get to play together. I thank god for it. He's a special point guard.

November 19, 2008

Recruiting analyst: 'Miami basketball is relevant'

When it comes to basketball recruiting, there isn't a guy more knowledgeable in the country than Scout.com's Dave Telep. He's been in the business more than a decade and is on the board that chooses McDonald's All-American's, the Naismith High School Award winner and the Gatorade Player of The Year. So, when I called him moments after Durand Scott picked Miami on Wednesday and he gushed about the job Frank Haith has done building Miami's basketball program I made sure to listen closely.

Here's what Telep, Scout.com's National Recruiting Director, had to say.

Q: What does landing Scott mean to Miami basketball?
Dave_telepA: "It's an enormous addition. It comes to this: they won a long recruiting battle with two of the best programs in the country. It's a big deal. They played their cards right. Miami doesn't have the tradition of being a traditional powerhouse program. They've got to scratch and claw for everything they get. But they're in a position now to sustain from success. Frank Haith will be the first person to tell you none of this comes easy. It's a constant grind when you are battling the line you are in the ACC and you are competing with Connectictut and Pittsburgh for a kid like Scott. That's a grind. I can't say enough what a victory this is for Frank Haith."

Q: Is this the big-name, landmark signee they were looking for to put them over the top, for this program to pound its chest and say we're getting the big-time guys now? Or, has that day already come and gone in your eyes?
A: "I think every year is just another chapter in the book. If you look at Miami's basketball program right now, you see a program on the rise that's not going to be a one-hit wonder. It's built for the long term. Bringing in Durand Scott, Garrius Adams, Donnovan Kirk and a Lisandro-Ruiz Moreno [who still has not signed], it's another foundation for another strong basketball team. Miami basketball is past those days of being on the outside looking in. Miami basketball is relevant now."

Q: What kind of player is Scott? What does he give Miami on the court?
Durand_scott_2
A: "He's a very good defensive player. He has a lot of pride in playing defense and in high school that's a rare treat. He's a streaky shooter, so he's got to improve on that. But he can be a secondary ball-handler. He can shift in, rebound, pass, be a Jack of All Trades wing player. At the end of the day, though, what makes him special is he is wired to win. Winning matters to Durand Scott. Sometimes, you got to teach a guy to want to win. You don't have to with him. He wants to win in AAU season. Garius Adams is the same way. You can't put a price on what that means to your team. You already have a winning culture in Coral Gables and now you are bringing in guys who feed the monster. He should not be labeled as a savior, just another very good player."

Q: After this season, Miami is set to lose All-ACC guard Jack McClinton, Lance Hurdle, Jimmy Graham and Brian Asbury. How do you see this team next year with all the new additions with a guy like DeQuan Jones and a guy like Malcolm Grant in the mix?
A: "I envision a tempo and a pace that is basically an aggressive team that can guard you 94 feet, up and down the length of the floor and run, run, run on offense. They are going to be very athletic and very good."

Q: This class could still have one more huge chip added to the mix -- the No. 1 player in the country in North Carolina point guard John Wall. What do you think are the realistic hopes Miami fans should have in also getting Wall?
John_wall
A: "Miami is in its infancy stages with John Wall right now. All you can do is sell your program and see what direction it goes in. John Wall is the equivalent of getting Manny Ramirez in free agency. You make your best pitch to him and hope he bites. That would be the highest profile recruit to ever commit to Miami. But we're a long way -- probably five months -- away from that one."

Durand Scott chooses Canes

The University of Miami men's basketball program reportedly landed one of the top players in the country moments ago when Durand Scott, a 6-4 shooting guard from Manhattan Rice, N.Y. announced on SNY.TV he was picking Miami over Connecticut and Pittsburgh.

Durand_scottIt's a huge get for the Hurricanes, who announced the signing of two other players at the start of the early signing period last week. Scott is rated the 43rd-best overall player in the country by ESPN.com and a four-star recruit by Rivals.com. Scott has a close friend at Miami in Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant, also from New York. He also reportedly built a strong relationship with UM assistant Jorge Fernandez.

"I made my decision because of comfortability, just the type of person I am and where I believe I best fit," Scott said SNY.TV "When I took my visit to Miami, I knew it was the place I wanted to be. But I didn't want to tell everybody. I wanted to weigh my options.

"Everything there is great, basketball wise and academic wise. I love them. They've sparked my interest. They also made me feel welcome. They have [Malcolm Grant] who is there also. It's not like I'm going to be meeting a bunch of people that I don't already know. I'm familiar with some people there."

November 13, 2008

Men's hoops signs two recruits

DOLPHINS STADIUM -- I know I'm a few hours late with this, but I had to cover Heat practice this afternoon. Frank Haith's basketball program officially inked two recruits this morning -- a day after the start of the early signing period. It's the two we expected -- 6-5 North Carolina guard Garrius Adams and 6-8 forward Donnavan Kirk of Detroit.

Garrius_adamsAdams is ranked among the top 20 shooting guards by both ESPN and Scout.com and averaged 18.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a junior at Middle Creek High School. “Garrius is a great shooter and scorer and will be a strong wing presence for us,” Haith said in a statement released by the school. “After this season we will be losing some of our perimeter players, and I expect Garrius to come in and make an immediate impact.”

Donnovan_kirkKirk, ranked among the top 30 power forwards by ESPN and Scout.com, is known his hook shot. As a junior he averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game for Detroit Country Day, who is ranked No. 1 among Greater Detroit area schools by ESPN RISE heading into the 2008-09 season. A four-star recruit, Kirk is ranked No. 55 among all players in the 2009 class by Scout.com. The 6-8, 213-pound forward was also recruited by Michigan State, Southern California and USF.

“Donnavan will give us athleticism in the front line,” Haith said. “He’s a hard worker with a good skill set. It was a tremendous accomplishment for us to be able to go into Michigan and recruit him to play basketball for the University of Miami."

Miami has point guard Lisandro Ruiz-Moreno of South Kent Prep committed and is waiting to see if it will add highly-touted New York city guard Durand Scott, who is down to UM and UConn. Of course, the hot rumor now is Miami has a shot at landing the No. 1 recruit in the nation in the 2009 class, North Carolina's John Wall. But it looks like that won't be decided anytime soon.

> Last night I was at UM to film our weekly segment of Getting To Know The U with Mollie Rose. Haith doesn't like for the media to watch much of practice, but I was able to film some of the shoot-around -- including something I would have never believed: sophomore Eddie Rios dunking. Yes, I got it on film and will upload it in the next day or two. Our interview by the way is with guard James Dews, who we discovered is a big fan of chick flicks. His favorite? The Notebook.

> OK. Enough basketball. I'll provide you with my keys to the game in the next few hours. I just got to get this Heat notebook in before the start of the game at 7:30. Any predictions for tonight and why you think the Canes will win? Shoot 'em at me.

November 12, 2008

Canes eyeing JUCOs for linemen

With the recruiting search for offensive linemen intensifying, UM officially entered the JUCO (junior college) ranks this week. Canesport.com reported Monday Miami offered Nassau Community College's Andrew Tiller, a 6-5, 350-pounder who also has offers from N.C. State and Rutgers. Rivals.com rates Tiller, nicknamed Baby Huey, as the nation's 57th-best overall junior college recruit.

Miami certainly could use a few quick fixes considering offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland likes to have a solid seven to nine man rotation and because the current rotation will take a big hit with losses to graduation after Jeff_stoutlandthis season. Miami needs to fill a starting center spot (likely AJ Trump or Tyler Horn) and at least two tackle spots next season. While the interior of the line looks to be in decent shape with sophomores Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa, Trump and current scout team redshirt freshman Harland Gunn available, it's the outside of UM's line which looks thin. Jason Fox will likely be back at left tackle, but who moves in at right tackle remains a mystery. Franklin has the size and talent to move outside. After that, there is seldom used junior Matt Pipho, who will be given a chance, 6-5, 345-pound junior Chris Barney (who was excelling before he suffered an injury in fall camp), big 6-9 sophomore Ian Symonnette (who has not played a down) and true freshman Ben Jones.

Of UM's 16 current commitments, four are counted as tight ends or linemen. Recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt has said Miami wants to go after as many six to eight tight ends/lineman in this class (the thought is UM could convert a few tight ends into linemen, ala Jason Fox and Eric Winston). Only two of those commitments, though, appear to be legit linemen. Fleming Island's 6-4, 240-pound Cory White, who plays left tackle in high school and January prep school arrival and former Northwestern Bulls star Brandon Washington (the most likely newcomer out of the 2009 signees other than a JUCO player to be an instant impact player). Billy Sanders (6-4, 235) is playing tight end and defensive end at his Idaho high school. Fort Myers High's Stephen Plein, suspended by the FHSAA a few weeks ago for an altercation with a referee, has only been playing defensive end.

Miami has gone after plenty of high school targets including some of the nation's best available non-Malcolm_bunche
commitments: North Carolina's Xavier Nixon (6-6, 263), Utah's Xavier Su'a Filo (6-4, 285), Arizona's Taylor Lewan (6-7, 272) and Washington D.C.'s Peter White (6-4, 340) to name a few. But the guys UM has the best shot of landing are likely Delaware native Malcolm Bunche (6-6, 315), who recently decommitted from Rutgers and local product, Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler (6-5, 310). UM is supposed to get an official visit from Alabama's Brandon Moore (6-3, 315) in January, but its looking more and more like he'll stay at home to play for the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide. Miami also recently entered the chase for Henry Conway, an under the radar 6-6, 300-pound lineman from Ohio.

> For those of you who like recruiting rankings, Randy Shannon's 2009 recruiting class currently ranks 10th overall according to ESPN.com, which updates its rankings on a monthly basis. Last year, Miami landed ESPN's No. 1 class. With 8 different freshman having scored touchdowns this year, it's quite obvious ESPN picked the right team. By the way, Rivals.com has UM 10th. Scout.com has UM ranked 17th.

> While UM could hear something soon on highly-touted New York City guard Durand Scott (who is said to be choosing between the Canes and UConn), the nation's No. 1 player, North Carolina point guard John Wall told Scout.com's Dave Telep Tuesday night he's interested in officially visiting the Canes before making a decision. Wall also wants to visit Baylor (where he has an AAU connection). Wall is supposed to be visiting Memphis this weekend and stopping by Duke next week.

John_wallTelep said in a recent article he thinks local standout Kenny Boynton, who recently committed to the Gators, will be the best college basketball player of the 2009 class. He pegged Wall as the best pro player. Scout.com's Evan Daniels picked Scott as the most improved player in the '09 class. As far as 2010 is concerned, UM is already involved with Pine Crest guard Brandon Knight, who could emerge as the nation's top overall recruit. UM is also in the running for Atlanta 6-6 swingman Jelan Kendrick and 6-7, 210-pound Long Island power forward Tobias Harris and three other highly-touted instate players.

> Could former Canes coach Butch Davis be leaving North Carolina for Tennessee after this season? Davis has been a hot target for Tennessee fans, who are looking for a star to fill the shoes of the soon-to-be departed Phillip Fullmer. But in Wednesday's ACC teleconference, Davis said he doesn't plan on leaving North Carolina. He said his agent hasn't been contacted -- as far as he knows -- either.

Butch"I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the University of Tennessee job. It's a great job, but I have no interest in it. Like I've said for the last couple of weeks I love being here, my family loves being at Carolina, we're building it with the administration. We're doing everything we can every single day to build a championship football program here."

Of course, Davis sure sounded a lot like that before he left UM for the Cleveland Browns too.

> Here's an official reminder to check out our audio page for interviews with players from this week as Miami prepares to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies Thursday night.

November 11, 2008

Report: Scott down to Canes-UConn

With the early signing period set to begin Wednesday for sports other than football, the future will begin panning out for the Canes basketball and baseball teams. No name will be bigger to follow for Frank Haith's team than New York City two-guard Durand Scott.

Durand_scottThe 6-4, 180-pound wing is rated the 41st-ranked player in the nation by Rivals.com and 27th best overall by Scout.com. And according to a published report Monday, Scott is now apparently down to choosing between the Hurricanes and the second-ranked Connecticut Huskies. UConn freshman Kemba Walker, Scott’s high school teammate, told the Journal-Inquirer.com he has been working on Scott to come to UConn. "I think it’s down to us and Miami," Walker said Sunday, "but he hasn’t told me which way he’s leaning. I really hope he wants to come here, but it’s his decision."

Scott, who apparently has trimmed Pittsburgh out of his final list, would be a huge get for the Canes. UM  already has three oral commitments for its 2009 class and still has hopes (albeit slim) of landing the nation's No. 1 recruit, North Carolina point guard John Wall. But if Wall doesn't pick UM, Scott would be the headliner to a stellar class. With Jack McClinton and Lance Hurdle out the door after this season and second-leading scorer James Dews entering his junior season, the Canes are obviously in search of talented guards for the future. So far, it looks like that future is pretty bright.

The 2009 Point guard spot looks like it will become a battle between either Lisandro Ruiz-Moreno of South Kent Prep ('09 commitment), current sophomore Edwin Rios or Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant. The shooting guard position would then go to Dews, Scott or North Carolina's top public school player, 6-5, 180-pound 2009 commitment Garrius Adams (No. 20 SG by Scout.com). The wing would be manned by current freshman and 6-6, 200-pound slasher DeQuan Jones. That's a pretty sick team.

Look for some updates tomorrow on the recruiting front in basketball and baseball.

October 06, 2008

Progress report: Florida State

I tried to get this done yesterday, but had Randy Shannon's press conference to get to and then transcribe. So, here it is today. Once again, feel free to share your grades and your thoughts on the progress of this team. In fact, I'll leave you with a few questions to ask yourself: Are you still willing to sit back and watch this team grow? Or, are you getting tired of the losing and demand wins now? And, finally, is this football team better than last year's team which started 4-1?

Onto the progress report. I'll remind you my grading system system, in honor of the Canes, is simple: National championship material (excellent), BCS worthy (good), MicronPC Bowl here we come (average), Coker-esque (poor) and Scout Team reserve (the bottom of the barrel).

Quarterbacks: This was the first time this season Robert Marve and Jacory Harris didn't look like All-Robert_marve_stuffed Americans. Rather, more like what they really are: freshmen. Marve wass 17 of 40 for 122 yards and an interception. He said afterward the ball was a bit slippery because of the rain, but wasn't really trying to make excuses. Florida State had a lot to do with his problems. The Seminoles defense applied a ton of pressure. Harris, meanwhile, also threw his first interception of the season. But he proved yet again he can at least move the team down the field. He drove UM down the field before the half and had a touchdown pass dropped by Leonard Hankerson in the end zone. Still, coach Randy Shannon said Sunday Harris deserves to play. And I agree with him. He's certainly not hurting the team. This week's progress report says: MicronPC Bowl here we come. The numbers weren't great. But a lot of that had to with receivers dropping passes. I liked the fight both quarterbacks showed dealing with heavy pressure and all in all, there weren't really a ton of mistakes on their part.

Running backs: It's hard to grade this unit this week considering Miami had to Graig_cooper_bottled_upabandon the run so early. But here are the facts: Graig Cooper's run of back-to-back 100 yard games came to an end. After getting off to a snails' pace on UM's first two possessions, he finished with 31 yards on six carries and actually moved UM downfield before a sack pushed the Canes back. Ultimately, I thought Cooper did a very good job picking up blitzers in blocking situations, something he asked Shannon to let him do. Marve and Harris after all only got sacked twice despite the constant pass rush. And neither time was it Cooper or any of the running backs' faults. Cooper also led the team in receiving with seven catches. This week's progress report says: BCS Worthy. I'm ultimately grading Cooper and this unit on what they had a chance to do -- catch the ball and block -- and not what they didn't (only 14 rushing attemtps in all). And I thought they did a good job at it.

Receivers/tight ends: Tough day when it came to the drops for the receivers -- especially the veterans Leonard_hankerson like Sam Shields, Leonard Hankerson and Kayne Farquharson. But I thought the freshmen did a great job when given opportunities. Aldarius Johnson appears like he's emerging from the pack. He had 5 catches for 55 yards including a beautiful play late in the game when he broke a tackle and scurried up field for a 27-yard gain on Miami's final scoring drive. Travis Benjamin had the biggest catch of the game on the trick play pass from Graig Cooper and Laron Byrd came through with a key fourth down catch to keep a drive alive. But the veterans are killing this unit. Shannon talked Sunday at length about his receivers and I get the sense he's ready to commit to the freshmen more and more. He also said position coach Aubrey Hill is stressing "stacking" where receivers sort of box out defensive backs to shield them from the ball -- something receivers haven't been doing enough. This week, Hankerson could be out with an injury, which means Jermaine McKenzie (who we thought would play and didn't) will get his chance in the slot with the only other healthy slot receiver on the team -- Farquharson. This week's progress report says: MicronPC Bowl here we come. Like you, I'm getting tired of seeing the drops by the veterans. Wet ball or not, they got to come up with it. The freshman certainly aren't having those problems.

Offensive line: No running game and lots of pressure on the quarterback. That's how the offensive line performed Saturday. The highlight? Left tackle Jason Fox scoring on a trick play. Florida State's front line was obviously better than UM's. The Canes certainly missed Reggie Youngblood at right tackle. Chris Rutledge started in his place -- not Tyrone Byrd like we were told -- and missed a key block early that led to one of two FSU sacks. Overall, for a unit Miami thought it was its offensive strength, this unit played the worst of any Saturday. Still, it was only two sacks officially. So, it wasn't that bad. This week's progress report says: MicronPC Bowl here we come. We all expected more and got less especially early. But Fox's touchdown and the fact there were only two sacks allowed saved the line's grade this week.

The Front Seven: All week long we heard about how great Miami's run defense had performed through four Antone_smiths_winning_td games. Then, they reverted to looking like they did against Virginia a year ago. Christian Ponder didn't feel much pressure at all and wasn't sacked once. Instead, he escaped the pocket on countless occassions and eluded slower Miami linebackers. 144 yards by an opposing quarterback on the run? Inexcusable. The lone bright spots for Miami were freshman Sean Spence, who led the team with 10 tackles and scored on a deflected pass/interception return for a touchdown, and Glenn Cook's stop of Antone Smith on a key third down situation. But that -- and a few nice stops by defensive tackle Marcus Forston in the backfield and one play by Joe Joseph -- was it. This week's progress report says: Bottom of the barrell. It certainly hurt not to have Colin McCarthy and to have Eric Moncur go down. But now this defense must get used to it. Both won't be back this season. There are just too many missed tackles and blown assignments happening. We'll have to see if it really is fixable.

The Secondary: The poster boy for UM's day in the secondary was freshman Brandon Harris, who was Fsu_abuses_brandon_harris flagged twice for pass interference, once for holding and missed several open field tackles. Harris, making his first start at corner, had a bad day and its excusable. But where is the veteran help? Florida State's receivers didn't abuse Miami like North Carolina's did a week earlier. But Miami still didn't do a great job wrapping up. Shannon said there is still too much arm tackling going on. The one positive was Bruce Johnson's interception -- the first for the secondary this season. But there were too many blown coverages and mistakes. How FSU scored on third and goal from the 20 is beyond me. Where were the safeties? This week's progress report says: Coker-esque. I'm beginning to wonder if I should change this category because not even Coker's defensive backfield was this bad.

Special Teams: Here is the one area Miami shined Saturday -- and Benjamin deserves all the credit. He Travis_benjamin not only scored on a 18-yard end around and a 51-yard catch, but he kept UM in the game and helped a struggling offense with his great returns. He finished with 274 all-purpose yards. Matt Bosher also had a great day. He was 3 for 3 on field goals on a wet field and averaged 45.3 yards a punt (that includes a 57-yarder). He also did a great job on kickoffs, kicking the ball into the corner and not allowing FSU to put together many big returns. This week's progress report says: National championship material. You can't ask Benjamin, Bosher and the special teams unit to do anymore than they did. Well, maybe play defense too.

Coaching: Aside from a few successful trick plays and some good efforts on special teams, Patrick Nix Randy_shannon and Bill Young were taken to school Saturday by Jimbo Fisher and Mickey Andrews. Miami didn't fall behind 24-0 by accident. FSU shutdown Miami's running game and put immense pressure on Marve and the quarterbacks with blitzes it seemed UM only was able to adjust to in the second half. Young honestly never made the adjustments to stop Fisher's offense. This week, the real challenge begins for Young who has to find a way to make this defense better without Moncur and McCarthy. This week's progress report says: Coker-esque. All of the offensive woes (drops by receivers) weren't all Nix's fault. But the offense didn't look great. I've already ripped the defense enough.

September 15, 2008

Canes land big hoops commitment

It's been a busy, busy day for me. I've got two stories tomorrow in the paper -- one on Plantation cornerback and UM football commitment Brandon McGee and the health battles his parents had to endure and another on defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff and his military background.

But today's blog will bleed basketball. Tonight, the Canes landed a big commitment -- and another budding star from coach Frank Haith's home state of North Carolina -- when swingman Garrius Adams announced he was picking the Canes over South Carolina.

Garrius_adamsAdams, a 6-5, 185-pound senior Apex Middle Creek High is rated a four-star recruit by Scout.com and is in Rivals's Top 150. And according to his coach, David Kushner, he'll fit into the Canes offense perfectly.

"Garrius is a guy who is a late bloomer, someone the bigger schools past on at first, but were chasing late," Kushner said. "When he went down and visited Miami with his parents two weeks ago, he really felt at home. He's what coach Haith is looking for, a guard that can shoot the ball and is long and lean. He's got an 82-inch wingspan. He can be a ridiculous defender."

Adams averaged 18.2 points and 7.8 rebound a game last season for Middle Creek and was the conference player of the year in Wake County. Kushner said Adams can play the point too and is the type of combo guard Haith likes. He is the fourth player Haith has recruited to Miami from his home state and the second member of the 2009 class for Miami. The Canes still have two available scholarships and Kushner said he was told they are looking for another big man and another guard in the class.

My take is it's a great pickup for the Canes, who have had undersized guards in the Haith era. And it shows signs Haith is beginning to make bigger and bigger in-roads in what has to be the richest basketball recruiting state in the country. Adams is a big time player in North Carolina and likely the best public school player in the state. Kushner told me he's been fielding phone calls on a nightly basis from college coaches and basketball recruiting writers for months hoping to find out where Adams was headed. For you football junkies, that's what the Northwestern and Booker T. coaches and kids were having to deal with in terms of attention last year.

Kushner shared a funny story on how Haith exactly was able to land Adams. "I think the first time Frank saw him it was the at an AAU tournament in South Carolina. Garrius had probably his worst game of the summer in front of a crowd of just about every ACC and SEC coach. The next night, there were maybe a handful of coaches and Haith was there. Garrius was awesome that night. He hit 5 or 6 3's, played great defense and showed everybody just how good he really is. Haith offered him on the spot. And he showed Garrius he's the type of coach who would stick with him."

I'm going to try and get Adams at some point. But for now, here's what I was able to dig up on him on YouTube. It's a MixTape. Enjoy.

> PS, I'll see you guys for my live chat tomorrow at 2 p.m. -- after Randy Shannon and his quarterbacks talk to us. I'll also share my weekly special -- The Recruit Report -- tomorrow as well.

May 08, 2008

A chat with Big Reggie

Frank Haith told me shortly after UM's season ended last month that I was going to love Reggie Johnson, the 6-8, 290-pound center he recruited from the same Winston-Salem neighborhood he grew up in. He said everyone would eventually fall in love Johnson's big personality. After spending 20 minutes this afternoon chatting with big Reggie, I'd say this is another prediction Haith is going to nail.

Reggie_johnsonJohnson, who is scheduled to graduate from Winston-Salem Prep soon and arrive in Miami on June 8th, was about as fun an interview I've had with an athlete in quite some time. He's not shy about much and he's even a big fan of the Eye on The U blog. Johnson, whose coach compares to Clippers forward Elton Brand, told me he is currently working hard to get in shape for his UM arrival. He's come a long way for someone who didn't even start playing basketball until the 10th grade. After doing what he says was the hardest thing he's ever had to do "leave McDonald's alone and leave my mother's fried chicken alone," Johnson has developed into one of the best big young men in the country.

Scout.com rates him a three-star recruit. But he played much better than that. As a senior, he set the state record for rebounds in the state championship, averaged 24.1 points, 17.3 rebounds and 7.1 blocks a game and had an impressive 25-point, 21-rebound effort against Oak Hill Academy, consistently one of the best high school programs in the country. Now, he says, his goal is to take Miami to the next level. As he was busy curling 50-pound weights, I caught up with Reggie Thursday. And this is what he had to say...

Q: You've come a long way from being that big guy who was on the sidelines doing nothing. You remember the old Reggie and what made him become the new Reggie?
A: What made me start playing basketball was the competition. I'm competitive for every competition. I didn't take it very seriously at first. But then I found out I could go to school for free and that got me working hard. My mom. I know her background financially. I knew I could help my mother out and that got me on the ship. It all started when one of my close friends introduced me to Coach [Andre] Gould. He said to me 'God, you aren't playing ball?' And I said 'No sir.' He said 'Come to my school, I'll get you in shape and get you into someone's college for free.' I said, 'I'm there.'

Q: Talk about your visit to Miami back in October before the start of the season. I know Jack McClinton instilled a new work ethic in his teammates, pushed them to the limit. DId you pick up on that?
A: I was very impressed. It wasn't just a visit. It was the first day of actual practice. The first day of practice, it wasn't lazy. They were going at it hard. They were willing to work. Coach was digging at them, telling them what they need to do. I was like 'Yeah. This is what I need right here. A coach that is going to make me work for something, not going to hand me anything, shortcutting me and my career. It was great. They work hard. They work extremely hard and they got me right there.'

Q: How much more excited are you about coming to Miami now that they're coming off a great season?
A: It was a very dramatic turnaround. They finished 12-20 the previous season. When coach Haith and his staff started recruiting me the following week, I started looking at the record they had and the people they had coming in. DeQuan Jones had already committed to Miami. The pieces were coming together. So, it felt great at the time.

Q: I spoke to '09 recruit Donnovan Kirk about this earlier this week and he said seeing Miami have that dramatic turnaround really helped him in choosing UM. Had the Canes not gone 23-11 and made a run to the NCAA Tournament are you a Hurricane right now?
A: I'm a Hurricane. I'm a Hurricane until I die. Actually, it wasn't even a factor. Coach Haith, he's young and upcoming. I believe he knows what it takes to get it done. I think either way I was going to become a Hurricane. And plus, I look at it like this -- me coming in can be a very good contribution to the team, along with DeQuan Jones and Malcolm [Grant] coming in. I believe the best is yet to come for the Hurricanes.

Q: UM had a great season, but so did you. You averaged 24.1 points, 17.3 rebounds and 7.1 blocked shots a game and set a state record for rebounds in winning the state championship. How do you feel the year went?
A: I feel it went great. I got a state championship so I can't complain. That's what I was striving for. Getting MVP was a great feeling. I can't picture it better. Coach tells me rebounding and defense are going to win the game. I'm a person who knows rebounds win the game. So, I go after them. I'm a Ben Wallace type.

Q: Being from North Carolina, I'm sure you get to know a lot of guys going to other ACC schools. Any rivalries we can look forward to?
A: Anytime I'm around Ty Walker (Wake Forest) or CJ Wiiliams (North Carolina State), we just kind of joke around about what who is going to do what next year. It's going to be fun. We had an all-star game not too long ago. Me and CJ Williams just talked about N.C. State and Miami. And we just kicked back and talked about that. If you don't get up for that, something is wrong. You got to love that.

Q: What are your strengths?
A: My post play. My post play alone. I just believe I'm going to be heck down in the paint to guard. I got a counter move for every move. I just believe that I'm going to dazzle.

Q: The Canes are losing Anthony King and Ray Hicks, two veterans in its frontcourt. They'll have Jimmy Graham and Dwayne Collins back. But after that it's all new guys with Julian Gamble, Cyrus McGowan and yourself. How do you see yourself fitting in next season?
A: Coach just told me to come in and bust tail. Coach also told me who knows what can happen. I've never set foot on Miami's campus and actually practiced with them. So, who knows what can happen. They're going to be throwing so many things at me, this play, that play, what kind of set is this? It's all going to depend on how I come down and adjust to it and catch on to it. The post play is a big part of Miami's offense. That's really what got me to come to Miami because I know we're going to play inside-out regardless.

Q: Tell me about the recruiting process with you. VCU was really after you. But you ended up going with coach Haith, who grew up in the same neighborhood as you. How much did that play into you choosing Miami?
A: Coach Anthony Grant. He and I were close. He's a heck of a coach. When I first met with coach Grant, I clicked with him. He was kind of a father figure to me even in a short period of time. He's a great, up-and-coming coach. But with VCU, I just believe coach Grant is such a great coach, he's not going to be there as long. I believe Coach Grant could end up going to some place like Florida. He's a great coach. Coach Haith, I didn't even know he was from the same neighborhood as me until after I committed. That got me even more closer to Coach Haith. I love him. I love coach Haith.

Q: What kind of characteristics make up a guy from Winston-Salem?
A: We're going to work for anything we want and we're going to go through anything. Look at Chris Paul, Josh Howard. Those guys are from Winston-Salem and them guys are making names for themselves in the biggest league. Those guys just work. And that's what we want -- a championship at the end of the day.

Q: I talked to coach at the end of the season and he talked about what he wanted to see out of his guys this offseason. He said the No. 1 thing for you was cutting some weight, get that body in shape. How much weight have you lost and how big are you now?
A: In the state championship game I was around the 300 mark. Now, I'm down to 290, 288. I've just been busting tail to make sure I'm ready for college. I'm working out from 3:05 to 6 p.m. every day, conditioning and then basketball. I'm participating in track too, throwing the discus and the shot put. In college you got to be in shape. So, I'm in the gym everyday. It's a routine I pretty much picked up from when I went on my visit and watched what they did in practice and everything. My coach kind of took note of that and I'm starting to do things they did in practice in too. I'm doing the ladder. We got a strength and conditioning coach here. He's busting my tail too. He's getting my feet right, building stamina. All the pieces are here. I just got to take advantage of it.

Q: When you envision the future of this UM team what do you see? Are you already talking to the younger guys, game-planning what is going to happen?
A: Me, Malcolm and DeQuan have gotten real close. We talk at least once every two weeks. DeQuan is a gym rat also, so I don't bother him too much. Be we talk often. I talk to Malcolm Grant and I welcome him to the family. I just talked to DeQuan like two days ago and Malcolm. We've just been talking about winning the championship, just showing the world Miami is not just a football school. I mean that's what was on my mind. Miami -- that's a football school. Then, DeQuan talked to me and helped recruit me also. I believe in the system. I believe we can show the world Miami is a basketball school as well as a football school.

May 06, 2008

Q&A: '09 hoops recruit Donnovan Kirk

After making a few pit stops Monday at a trio of high schools in South Florida for spring football, I got a chance this morning to squeeze in some blog work by speaking with the newest big-time basketball recruit headed to The U -- 6-8, 213-pound forward Donnovan Kirk of Detroit Country Day.

Kirk, rated the 56th-best recruit in the 2009 class by Rivals.com and a Scout.com Top 100 player,
committed to UM coach Frank Haith last week to become the first recruit in Miami's '09 class. (Villanova Donnovan_kirktransfer Malcolm Grant, a 6-foot point guard, will also make his debut in '09 but is technically part of Miami's '08 class. The Hurricanes still have three scholarships available in '09). Kirk, whose parents both work in the auto industry, told me he's excited to be the first of what he hopes is a Top 25 national recruiting class at Miami. A B-student, Kirk said he still needs to get his SAT or ACT score to qualify at Miami. But he said it shouldn't be a problem. Here's what else we talked about...

Q: Being a guy from Michigan, I have to imagine you grew up a Wolverine or Spartans fan. That being said, the Canes were able to lure you from both of them and get you to commit to coming to South Florida. What did coach Haith do to convince you to come here?
A: I grew up in Pontiac and was a Michigan fan. But I wouldn't actually say it was that hard of a decision. I had narrowed it down to four schools, but really it was Michigan State and Miami. Coach Haith definitely built a strong relationship with me. I definitely see the relationship going forward in a great way. I met him at the beginning of my junior season. Miami was the second the school to offer me. But they definitely made me feel more comfortable than anyone else. Plus, I have family down there.

Q: Your high school coach mentioned last week that you had made an unofficial visit to Miami. What were your impressions and how did it play a role in your decision to pick the Canes?
A: My trip was definitely good. I went at the start of winter, I think when they opened the season against a D-II school. The highlight was sitting down and talking with the coaches and getting to know the players. The one thing I could see right away is that they're not selfish. They try to work together to win basketball games. What impressed me the most was when I watched them play and I watched coach Haith and how much they respect him and how he gives them respect. It was great to see that. I saw it again when I watched them on TV a couple times. I really feel like I can fit in.

Q: How important was it to you that UM had as good a season as it did. I mean, a year ago the Canes were 12-20 and in last in the ACC. How much did their turnaround to 23-11 and the second round of the NCAA Tournament help you in picking them?
A: That was very important. I was able to see that they really are good and on their way up, they're building something. I needed to see there really was a winning attitude. Its hard to go to a school where you are not winning games. I see players coming in and know players who really want to be a part of something special. I see a team coming in now that is ready to take Miami to the next level. And I want to be a part of that. I'm definitely going to work hard to make Miami one of the best schools in the nation.

Q: How do you see yourself fitting in? Your coach compared you last week to [former Gator and Atlanta Hawks rookie] Al Horford. He's a little bigger than you, bulkier. Do you see yourself being like Horford at all?

A: I think my game is a lot like his. But I'm still trying to get as big as he is. Coach Haith told me he'd like for me to get to like 230 pounds by the time I get to Miami. They want me to get stronger. I could also be 6-9, 6-10 by then. I'm really just trying to pick my game up, but the ball on the ground more, working on my handles. I think I can be strong and quick. My game is really inside, not out. I mean, I can hit the shot from the outside. But I love getting to the basket, dominating down low.

** Along my pitstops at American, Miramar and Carol City Monday, I got a chance to speak with '09 football recruit and Rivals.com 4-star defensive end Olivier Vernon. While I'll have my complete report over on the high school blog later this afternoon, I figured I'd let you know Vernon now considers himself "a soft verbal" to Miami.

He says while the Hurricanes are still the team he wants to play for, he said other college coaches like Alabama's Nick Saban have intrigued him with the notion of playing a flex linebacker/defensive end position like Vernon's idol, Jason Taylor. This season, Vernon will start at middle linebacker for American. He said UM is only recruiting him as a defensive end.

April 30, 2008

Quick hits: Hoops recruit, pitching, Ice

Just got back from Wednesday's baseball practice and have a few quick tidbits of info I'd like to share with you from all three sports:

- Frank Haith's basketball program has picked up another player who will be part Donnovan_kirkof the 2009 class, 6-8, 205-pound power forward Donnovan Kirk. Scout.com's Dave Telep reported it this afternoon. Kirk, a Scout.com Top 100 junior from Detroit County Day, picked UM over Michigan State, USC and South Florida. Rivals.com rates Kirk 56th in its Top 100. Telep reported UM got in early on Kirk and swayed him from the hometown Spartans. Assuming Kirk sticks to his word, he becomes the second member of the 2009 class, joining Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant. Miami has four seniors heading into next season and likely two more scholarships available to use in '09. I've got a call into Kirk's high school coach and hopefully will have more for you later tonight.

- Baseball coach Jim Morris said Wednesday he's going to leave freshman Chris Hernandez in the Friday night starter role instead of going back to now fully healthy sophomore Eric Erickson. Hernandez was named Pro-Line Athletic National Pitcher of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) on Tuesday. The former Monsignor Pace standout matched a career-high with 11 strikeouts in a career-long eight innings to lead No. 1 Miami to a series-opening 1-0 shutout of No. 16 Virginia last Friday. He improved to 7-0 on the season with a 2.77 ERA. I caught up with Hernandez this afternoon and will have a Q&A later this week for you.

- Booker T. Washington football coach Tim "Ice" Harris told our Andre Fernandez Ice_harristoday he will indeed be leaving the Tornadoes to work at UM. Harris is waiting until after his team competes in the Class 3A state track and field championships this week to formally announce it. He'll be following his son Brandon, a star cornerback and '08 recruit. Rumor is the job Harris will be taking is Community Liaison. Harris led Booker T. to the state football championship this past December and won last year's state track title. UM coach Randy Shannon has been friends with Ice for years and I'm told UM is very much interested in letting him coach down the line.