Cross town teams meet for hyped season opener

As the Hurricanes look to kick off the season against the FIU Golden Panthers, they will be featuring a starting lineup that does not include Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite, two cornerstones of the team for the past two seasons.

“This is a different team. Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite were fixtures on this team,” Head Coach Frank Haith said. “We will have to do a lot of different things this year. We will have to spread the wealth. We must get everyone involved.”

The Hurricanes will be looking to get contributions from a number of different players.

“We are expecting Anthony Harris and Anthony King to step up and take a major role on this team,” Haith said. “Additionally, Adrian Thomas, Jimmy Graham and Brian Asbury have looked good as well.”

The Hurricanes and the Golden Panthers will both be kicking their seasons off this Saturday at the BankUnited Center. If exhibition games serve as indicators, then Miami and FIU both seem to be headed toward a good season: Miami is coming off a 94-54 victory over Northwood, while FIU ran away with a 90-41 win against Villa Julie.

Miami, 18-16 overall and 7-9 in the ACC in 2005-2006, is coming off a disappointing season, where they fell short of making it to the NCAA Tournament and lost to Michigan in the third round of the NIT Tournament.

“The goal this season is to improve from last season,” Haith said. “We want to progress and get better as a program. My goal, every year, is to play in the NCAA Tournament.”

The Golden Panthers also had quite a disappointing season, as they went 8-20 overall and 4-10 in the Sun Belt Conference.

History aside, the present teams at hand are difficult to gauge, as both feature a plethora of new faces.

FIU has two of its top three scorers back this year, as Johwen Villegas and Erick Lora look to lead the Panthers to a better season.

Additionally, the Panthers feature two new faces, Alex Galindo and Dejon Prejean. Galindo is a transfer student from Kansas, an elite collegiate basketball university. He is a major three-point threat and is a sound jump shooter. Additionally, FIU expects good things from junior guard Dejon Prejean. He is a strong, athletic defender who is known for his good ball-handling skills.

The ‘Canes have nine returning players from last year’s squad. Of the starters, the team only has two of its prominent players returning from last year – Anthony King and Anthony Harris.

“We have a much different team this year,” Haith said. “We are deeper this year. We are hoping to play a lot of guys. We are a very athletic team, and we are good in terms of passing and moving the ball around. We will also utilize our big guys in the post.”

Among a list of other things, Miami will be going away from the guard dominated play they have featured the last couple of years and try to get the ball down low to their big men, since they do not have experienced big time perimeter players.

The team is young, but they show a great deal of athleticism and promise. With experience and playing time, everyone might get a chance to see an exciting group of players, who should keep things quite competitive.

“This is a big game for both teams because it means getting started on the right foot,” Haith said. “We are looking to have a strong season and FIU is the first step toward achieving that goal.”

Pravin Patel may be contacted at