MEN’S BASKETBALL: Team confident about new season, ACC chances

After a season full of injuries and distractions, the Miami men’s basketball team will look to improve on last season’s 12-20 record heading into their 2007-08 campaign.

Coach Frank Haith believes this year’s team can emerge in the upper half of the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.

“This is the time of the year we are excited about playing basketball,” Haith said. “I think we have a team that has a chance to be on the cusp of postseason. I think we have our deepest team. We are excited that we will be a competitive team in the ACC.”

Following back-to-back winning seasons in Miami, Haith suffered his first losing season as a head coach in 2006-07. The Hurricanes finished last in the ACC with a 4-12 conference record and missed the postseason for the first time since 1998-99. However, in the ACC Tournament the Canes upset No. 20 Maryland in the first round and fell just short of topping Boston College in a second round overtime game, ending Miami’s season.

Returning guard Jack McClinton was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season, as he led the team in scoring at nearly 17 points per game. He was also the ACC’s most accurate three-point shooter, hitting almost 44 percent of his shots beyond the arc while breaking the school record for threes by hitting 91 three-pointers. To go along with his jump shot ability, McClinton was very accurate from the free-throw line hitting almost 90 percent.

Still Haith feels he could get more out of his star player.

“We want to see him become a better driver and a better finisher. We want him to add that to his outside shooting,” Haith said. “I think if he is able to get fouled more and get to the free throw line more, he will help this team immensely.”

In the frontcourt, senior Anthony King will return for his second senior season, along with sophomore Dwayne Collins. Before King’s season ending wrist injury, he led the ACC in rebounds with 9.3 per game.

With King out, Collins stepped in became an effective rebounder, leading the ACC in offensive rebounds. Junior Jimmy Graham was a productive player throughout the season.

The combination of King, Collins, Graham and senior Raymond Hicks is expected to carry the team into postseason play.

“We have four legitimate post players,” Haith said. “I think our front line will collectively be as good as anybody in the league.”

On the other hand, the Canes have a glaring hole in the backcourt. The Hurricanes are without a proven point guard. Freshman Eddie Rios, a hometown product, will take on the challenge along with junior college transfer Lance Hurdle. Rios was one of the top high school point guards last year.

Resting on the wing is swingman Brian Asbury, who averaged nearly 12 points and had six rebounds per game, will look to continue his exceptional play from last season.

This year the Canes feel confident heading into the season.

“We are very excited,” McClinton said. “Last year we lacked depth. Now we can do a lot more inside out making the guard job a lot easier.”

Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at