Basketball season is right around the corner, and the Hurricanes have high expectations to continue the success following a season where the men’s team made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve made it plain and clear, I’m not trying to go backwards,” senior guard Davon Reed said in a press conference on Monday. “I see that we have the talent to be back in the NCAA Tournament and be one of the top-tier teams in this league, but it’s not just going to be given to us.”
Miami has plenty of talent returning to the team, including the slashing Reed, defensive anchor redshirt senior forward Kamari Murphy and the offensive firecracker that is junior guard Ja’Quan Newton. That being said, one of the challenges that the Canes are going face this season will be to adjust to having five new players, four of whom are freshmen, in the rotation who have yet to play their first game with the team.
“Something I see right now with a young team is the inconsistency,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We want to see a consistent effort defensively and a more consistent performance offensively, but we know we need to be patient with the young guys.”
The freshmen are top recruit forward Dewan Huell, guard Bruce Brown, international guard Dejan “DJ” Vasiljevic and center Rodney Miller. Redshirt junior guard Rashad Muhammad will also be playing his first minutes for the Hurricanes. He sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules after coming to Miami from San José State.
“I think we had a great recruiting class with them coming in,” Murphy said. “You have seen the talent, especially on the offensive side, from the beginning.”
That is something that has been no secret; the newcomers can score the basketball. They have added to the array of offensive ability that the Canes already have, with players who thrive off driving to the basket.
“We are very athletic and get out in the open court well,” Reed said. “We can be a good, high tempo team because we attack the rim.”
According to Larrañaga, offense hasn’t been as much of a concern as the other end of the court, where there is noticeable need for improvement, especially with the less-experienced players.
“The area that needs the most attention is our interior defense and rebounding,” Larrañaga said. “We are going to have some challenges as far as defensive conversion is concerned.”
Reed echoed his coach’s points, speaking about the importance of defense for the team’s success.
“If you can’t defend anybody, you’re going to lose every game,” Reed said. “Offense is something you can figure out as the season goes, but defense is something you got to have from the beginning.”
Reed and Murphy are the captains this season and are taking it upon themselves to make sure that the young team does what it needs to do to win games.
“Now we have the process of teaching them the defensive principles,” Murphy said. “Especially when you have four freshmen, it’s all about teaching and game experience.”
Reed has made himself known to the team, being vocal in what he expects from each and every one of the players.
“I got a big mouth and I talk a lot, so it’s natural for me,” Reed said with a smile. “Just trying to make sure that myself and Kamari hold everyone accountable. The little things that people may not know. Not giving a token effort to certain things but actually playing hard and taking everything seriously. Just trying to be that leader more than anything and letting people find their way, but also making sure that they know what it is that we do.”
Larrañaga is confident that despite the fact that the Hurricanes have a lot of room for growth, they will figure it out and reach their goals for the season.
“I would describe our culture as playing up to your capability,” Larrañaga said. “I think this team will do it.”
Miami will open the season with an exhibition match against Barry University at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Watsco Center.