Basketball, Commentary, Sports

After Duke takedown, Canes hoops deserve support at home, not divisive fans

Photo by AJ Rickets // Online Sports Editor

Photo by AJ Rickets // Online Sports Editor

It was a game that resembled the Canes of two years ago. A rousing second half run, alley oops thrown down at will, and tremendous three point shooting. Fitting that Miami scored 90 points – the last time that happened?

The 90-63 win against Duke, in 2013.

But this time instead of Shane Larkin knocking down triples and Kenny Kadji throwing down slams, it was Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan running the show, and a career performance from Manu Lecomte, who scored in double figures for the first time since early December.

What can you say about this team? A reporter in the post game press conference, with an expression of impressed resignation, flatly asked Angel Rodriguez:

“How in the world did y’all lose to Eastern Kentucky?”

Undeniably, it was an inconsistent December for Miami. It started with a victory over No. 24 Illinois in front of a raucous record crowd at the BankUnited Center (BUC) – after that, three losses in five games, including the Eastern Kentucky debacle.

It has been a search since then to find the same chemistry that helped propel this group to one of the best starts in school history – one that saw Miami go 9-0 and reach No. 15 in the polls.

Junior guard Angel Rodriguez practices before the game. Photo by AJ Ricketts // Online Sports Editor

Junior guard Angel Rodriguez practices before the game. Photo by AJ Ricketts // Online Sports Editor

Angel Rodriguez was fearless again Tuesday night, slicing, dicing, and shooting for 24 points. 

Consider what he’s done against top 10 teams this season: 24 points at No. 7 UF, 25 vs. No. 3 UVA, and now 24 at No. 4 Duke.

“It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen in Cameron from an opposing player,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski after the game, a searching tone in his voice, wondering how in a span of three days Duke went from undefeated and No. 2 in the country to dropping back-to-back games and their first defeat at home in three years.

And Manu Lecomte, who had scored 19 points in the last five games combined, just decided to drop a career high 23 in the mecca of college hoops. The routine became common – three points on the board, Lecomte running down the court, three to the dome. One might’ve thought he or a Cane was about to slap the floor with the intensity and joy with which they were playing.

Another tough test waits Miami on the road this weekend at No. 12 Notre Dame, before the Canes return home next week to take on North Carolina State. Win or lose against the Irish, the BUC will most likely see solid attendance, but that brings into mind a recent controversy in the student section that has for no reason turned into a disappointing situation.

Most people have heard the story at this point – ‘Fire Al Golden’ and ‘Bring Back Butch’ signs were confiscated – sparking an outcry among the sudden victims. “Freedom of expression! The hypocrisy of Shalala! Shame on Miami!” they cry. The burden, my goodness! You got your sign taken away! Except there’s a few things truly disappointing here.

In honesty, the signs probably shouldn’t have been taken. Signs have been brought to games all the time. There’ve been plenty of fantastic ones over the past few years, ranging from an “I’m allowed in Publix!” sign held straight to Jameis Winston, to the classic “Safety School” poster every football and basketball game against the Noles brings. Taking a sign away because the administration isn’t in favor of it – sure, I guess, not cool.

But it’s begging the question: Why? Why is there the need to hoist a “Fire Al Golden!” sign at a basketball game? 

These players deserve more. Yes, you pay a student athletic fee. But these players deserve more. The stories of courage, grit and perseverance on this team are staggering when you look deeper.

Angel Rodriguez left his family at the age of 15 to pursue his dream of playing college basketball. 15! He left his home, his family, everything he’d known. What were you doing at 15?

You can bet Ja’Quan Newton is playing every game in memory of his mother, who passed away last year.

Manu Lecomte took a chance on Miami, coming all the way from Belgium.

Tonye Jerkiri only arrived in America less than five years ago. He’d never even played basketball before.

Sheldon McClellan spent more time working on his jumper this summer than you spent watching Netflix. And Hulu. And ESPN. Combined.

Think it stops there? Not quite.

Davon Reed stayed as optimistic as ever through an injury this season and came back an entire month earlier than expected.

James Palmer was the No. 1 recruit out of D.C. – you know how many schools close to home wanted him? He chose Miami.

Deandre Burnett was talked about all over the country as one of the top incoming freshmen last year; eager as ever to begin his college career, he broke his wrist a mere week before the opening game. Now, he’s playing a vital role in UM’s gameplan.

Omar Sherman decided to get to work right away – being a freshman is no excuse to slack! – he promptly dropped 20 pounds, and for good measure, added 50 to his bench.

You need more?

Joe Thomas is finishing a full-circle journey that has him back in his hometown after four years at Niagara, and he’s getting to play down the road from his high school, Michael Krop, with his high school teammate, Angel.

Don’t forget about the walk-ons too. Mike Fernandez is frequently the first player on the court during shootaround and busts it every day in practice for any potential opportunity; he’s 1-1 from the field in that one chance he’s gotten.

Chris Stowell puts in work every day at practice, but it doesn’t stop there – he’s a Foote Fellow – you know, that group of the smartest kids at UM whose course load is rigorous year round.

And the transfers – Ivan Cruz Uceda, who is going to get his first playing time at Notre Dame this weekend, didn’t speak any English before coming to the States from Spain.

And Kamari Murphy, sitting out this year due to the transfer policy – the ever-frustrating NCAA rule – still gives his teammates his best every day in practice, while receiving little to no recognition at all for it this entire season.

So when these guys take a moment to look at the crowd during a break in action, they really shouldn’t have to deal with seeing “Bring Back Butch!” signs. It’s not the right place for it. Shower all your football frustration on Twitter, send emails, go hold a rally. Sure, you have a right to the sign, but why on earth can we not support the guys who’ve displayed what’s listed above?

The irony in all of this is that the person who brought this to the public’s attention is the Student Government vice president. That student interacted with public figures about the matter on Twitter and agreed to be interviewed by media. Seems odd to me that someone with the responsibility of moving the school forward has instead sparked controversy after coverage by the Miami New Times, The Miami Herald and ESPN. If Student Government (SG) has a branch meant to promote athletics – Category 5 – then why would SG’s leadership pull stunts like this?

Posters and angry tweets are not making anyone go anywhere. The decision has been made; everyone knows the fans are angry, and that’s that. The Board of Trustees and athletic department has stood firm behind Al. End of story.

But that’s beside the point. With the way Canes Hoops has been playing, one can hope the BUC will hopefully be too focused on the exciting brand of basketball to worry about making signs about another sport.

The Canes just went to Duke and threw down lobs like they were on a playground with nobody around. It’s time for them to enjoy a home court advantage, rather than looking to their peers and seeing signs about nothing that they can control.

See you next Thursday at the BUC.

January 14, 2015

Reporters

AJ Ricketts


23 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “After Duke takedown, Canes hoops deserve support at home, not divisive fans”

  1. CanesNeedChange says:

    With the SG VP publicly calling out Al Golden, aren’t you being hypocritical yourself by publicly calling out the SG VP? Everyone is entitled to their opinions and deciding whether to make them public, so I see nothing wrong with what the SG VP did. And I think our Canes would be a even bigger laughing stock for the nation if our own students aren’t even protesting decision-making from the athletic department following a sub-par losing season. We are already stuck in mediocrity and irrelevance at the moment regardless of whether someone brings critical signs to basketball games.

  2. Canefan79 says:

    “Appreciate your service. My father served in the military as well and I spent much of my childhood on a military base associating and playing sports with those who serve. But if you’re comparing a SG member who looks silly to Pear Harbor, that’s pretty silly as well. I’ve been in SG too, so can speak on how I feel SG was being embarrassed. He’s not bucking the system to get things done – he was causing unneeded headaches for everyone.”

    Great thanks for your father’s service. Silly? You obviously can’t understand nuance. Yes, the cost was astronomically greater at Pearl Harbor, but the LESSON of leadership is the point, not the attack. Kimmel didn’t want to cause “headaches” as you put it and he displayed a fatal leadership flaw. The SG member obviously drew some attention, since your newspaper is now running a front page about the Golden firing controversy and is including the SG member incident in its story.

    Maybe a State Department internship with Jen Psaki and Maria Harf would best suit your skill sets.

  3. AJ Ricketts says:

    Appreciate your service. My father served in the military as well and I spent much of my childhood on a military base associating and playing sports with those who serve. But if you’re comparing a SG member who looks silly to Pear Harbor, that’s pretty silly as well. I’ve been in SG too, so can speak on how I feel SG was being embarrassed. He’s not bucking the system to get things done – he was causing unneeded headaches for everyone.

  4. CaneFan79 says:

    “The irony in all of this is that the person who brought this to the public’s attention is the Student Government vice president. That student interacted with public figures about the matter on Twitter and agreed to be interviewed by media. Seems odd to me that someone with the responsibility of moving the school forward has instead sparked controversy after coverage by the Miami New Times, The Miami Herald and ESPN. If Student Government (SG) has a branch meant to promote athletics – Category 5 – then why would SG’s leadership pull stunts like this?”

    “Stunts?” “responsibility to move the school forward has instead sparked controversy after coverage by the Miami New Times, The Miami Herald and ESPN.”

    So AJ, how much leadership experience do you have which qualifies you to question his actions? Leaders do buck the system in order to get things done. Perhaps you would like him to be more like this historical leader:

    In his 1955 book, Admiral Kimmel’s Story, Husband Kimmel summed up his view of the situation:

    “The deficiencies of Pearl Harbor as a fleet base were well known in the Navy Department. In an interview with Mr. Roosevelt in June 1941, in Washington, I outlined the weaknesses and concluded with the remark that the only answer was to have the fleet at sea if the Japanese ever attacked.

    I accepted the decision to base the fleet at Pearl Harbor in the firm belief that the Navy Department would supply me promptly with all pertinent information available and in particular with all information that indicated an attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor.”

    Admiral Kimmel was the LEADER of the Pacific Fleet, but meekly followed orders from higher up…Hopefully, in your young life you have learned from studying history the terrible tragedy Kimmel’s timidity assured. Sounds like to me you should be appluading the SG member for standing up as oppossed to being a spineless “Yes” man like Kimmel

    I spent 22 years in the military, service which included two wars and two expeditionary conflicts…I’ll be ____’ed if I got shot at overseas and then let some relatively novice media member use their position to intimidate a REAL leader from speaking out for needed change.

  5. James says:

    Okay, we can all agree that the signs shouldn’t have been taken. Big whoop. What’s more disappointing, as AJ accurately points out, that instead of trying to remedy the problem and work with administration on making things right, you have a student leader going to the press whining that his sign got taken away.

    That’s not good leadership.

    A good leader would be at those basketball games, sign or not, and support UM Athletics no matter the current status quo of the team. It’s kind of gross that he did that.

    Also, do people actually think that one “Fire Golden” sign will actually lead Blake James and UM Administration to really fire him? Sheesh, just support UM.

  6. Tony says:

    The Former U’s football program is already a national laughingstock, by its lack of accomplishment. Laranaga’s team is a source of pride. It is in no way diminished by fans’ protests of the football team’s mediocrity. I take it as a positive that fans demand excellence of all The Former U’s athletic endeavors.

    You must also understand that the administration’s mule-like stubbornness and intransigence have driven the vitriol to the current levels. They have chosen this road, not the fans.

  7. AJ Ricketts says:

    Not at all against people calling for his firing. Not happy with 6-7 either. Against having the entire nation laughing at us because our students protest at basketball games. Nobody with basketball wants to see that. Can’t put aside your hatred for Golden for two hours to support the team?

  8. Tony says:

    If you truly supported The Former U’s student atheletes, you too would be calling for Golden’s firing, by any means necessary. However, it appears that you are too steeped in mediocrity, and accepting of the status quo. You are the definition of SLURPER. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  9. AJ Ricketts says:

    Goodness, the gall of anyone to support student-athletes, let alone a student athlete!

  10. Marcus says:

    They only reason he is standing up for the players is because he is an athlete himself. He works for athletics. How is anyone supposed to trust a biased news source?

  11. idiot says:

    How long did Shalala let you out of her fupa cave to write this drivel?

  12. Jason says:

    I actually think this article is an example of what’s right with UM. Teaching ‘members of the press’ to do their job and report on things as they see them. There are no lies, there is no slander. It’s a member of the press exercising HIS right to freedom of speech and everyone has the same right to disagree with it as he does to write it in the first place.

    For what it’s worth, the signs shouldn’t have been confiscated, and he pointed that out. Unfortunately, this VP has taken a Fire Al Golden sign and turned UM into a laughing stock across the country, even more so than Golden has. Poor leadership.

    Say what you want about Golden, say what you want about freedoms. But if your views and freedoms get in the way of supporting the players and team, which this VP’s clearly did, you may be a great American but you’re a bad Miami Hurricane.

    Whether you agree with Mr. Ricketts or not, kudos to him for being the only one in this mess to stand up for the players!

  13. AJ Ricketts says:

    – *job

    – There will no retraction. What is there to retract?

    – Please point out the lie. There is no slander. Maybe look at the legal definition of slander? All facts were stated.

    – I would argue that people bringing negative football signs to basketball games are part of the problem, but I feel you’d never see any logic.

  14. Andrew says:

    What a total hack kob. You need to print a retraction immediately. You just lied about and slandered someone and it needs to be fixed. You and this article are part of the problem at UM.

  15. Tony says:

    It’s really of no consequence what anyone thinks of the proper place for a protest. The nature of a protest is to disrupt the status quo. Besides, no one is protesting the basketball program. This is simply a red herring. In fact, a basketball game is a perfect venue for protesting displeasure over the football program: lots of people in attendance; highlights the contrast between Coach L and Corch G; embarassment to the administration.

  16. AJ Ricketts says:

    They have not, and do not plan to.

  17. AJ Ricketts says:

    The Miami Herald and Sports Illustrated did not ‘go after him’. They gave coverage of his protesting. Nobody in the basketball program wants to hear anything about Al Golden while basketball games are happening. They have nothing to do with football. There was no ‘incorrect labeling’, and said student has failed to represent his role.

  18. Dan says:

    Unfortunately, this is a lie. The media were the ones who went after the Student Vice President. He’s at every game because he supports the basketball team, the only difference being is that it is an adequate place to also mention the football program because it is all under the same athletic department. Shame on you for incorrectly labeling a student

  19. Rick O'Shea says:

    This article is a hack job, and I hope the SG individual demands a retraction.

  20. Our basketball program shouldn’t have to take a backseat to anyone. It’s flat out wrong for someone who is expected to represent the University with dignity to go and in essence spit on fellow ‘Canes. As the SG Vice President, he has access to people that the typical person doesn’t. He can go through proper channels, if he had a clue what he was doing(Take it from someone who was in SG, you’d be amazed how much you can get done with a simple email). I don’t have a problem with people being unhappy with the direction of the football program, I have a problem with the way it’s being done. If you choose to skip next season, or not renew your season tickets(if you invested in them), go for it. If you want to tell the Hurricane Club to go take a hike when they ask for money, go for it, but your unhappiness shouldn’t be used as an excuse to embarrass the University.

    Frankly, this isn’t about free speech, this is about some kid who wants to hide behind a concept in order to avoid responsibility. You can say and do whatever you want, but the University can respond any way they see fit. You want to bring in stupid, self serving signs to the BUC, be prepared for someone to throw them in the garbage. I’m amazed someone in StormSurge didn’t take the sign and rip it in half.

  21. Tony says:

    You might consider that a FIRE GOLDEN or BRING BACK BUTCH sign(s) might actually improve team and student morale. I would cheer for it, and take pleasure in knowing that more than mediocrity is expected. Mediocrity is NOT acceptable as any type of standard at the University of Miami. That is what Golden has delivered, and is condoned by the school administration. Now the administration openly attempts to suppress displeasure with it.

    Coach Laranaga does not condone mediocrity. He was able to overcome the “cloud” excuse. May I suggest a new sign: NO CLOUD ON COACH L

  22. MHB says:

    The answer isn’t censorship. It’s about listening to the fans that have put up with 12 years of terrible on field performance as far as the football team goes. The admin has ignored “the noise” to the point that they are alienating fans. Good luck 2015, it won’t be pretty.

  23. Juan says:

    So are you saying that b/c someone is carrying a sign that this will cause them to cheer less for the basketball team? What if the sign said “In Coach L we trust” or “Viva Puerto Rico” for Angel’s nationality. What does a sign have to do with how much those students cheer or not.

    What is the problem with voicing or expressing your displeasure with an aspect of the school?

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