The University of Miami men’s basketball team looks to carry its momentum gained from last year’s ACC Tournament magical run as training camp began last week.
The Canes (20-13) finished in the cellar of the ACC but stunned Wake Forest and Virginia Tech as a 12 seed, and only lost by three to eventual national champion Duke in a one week span.
This year the squad is a lot more mature.
“I think we will be a team that wants to get back to being a hardnosed, rebounding team with that edge, those types of things,” seventh-year head coach Frank Haith said. “If we are able to play like that we can win some ball games.”
The heart and soul of the team will be sophomore guard Durand Scott who averaged 10.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.4 apg and led the team in steals. He earned ACC-All Rookie honors and was named to the First-Team All ACC Tournament team.
Scott has a different mindset this year.
“Coming in as a freshman, I always told everybody that I wanted to give the seniors their respect,” Scott said. “Knowing it was their team, just like when I was in high school I knew it was my team senior year. So I led the team. Coach expects a lot more of me this year.”
Redshirt sophomore Malcolm Grant, who will be in the starting back court along with Scott, learned from last year that the ACC is a grind every night.
“Every game is going to be a good game,” said Grant who lost 10 pounds this offseason. “You are not going to be able to come in and have a night off. There is no nights off in the ACC. Everybody is playing hard and trying to win.”
Miami finished 4-12 in the ACC last year but is expected to finish in the middle of the pack according to most prognosticators.
Redshirt sophomore center Reggie Johnson will lead the way on the low blocks. He continued to get in shape after losing 40 pounds last summer. This summer he played basketball in China and lost even more weight.
“You talk about a young man who has a bright future,” Haith said of Johnson, who was the teams’ Most Improved Player last year. “He has to continue to work and obviously on his conditioning.”
Junior small forward DeQuan Jones is the big variable for the orange and green. He has shown flashes of brilliance but the talented athlete has yet to show consistently on a day in and day out basis.
Miami brings in three new comers in shooting guard Rion Brown, small forward Erik Swoope and power forward Raphael Akpejori who are all expected to have an immediate impact.
UM has a much tougher non-conference schedule this year. Despite the fact Miami won’t be playing in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Canes still have marquee match ups against Memphis, Ole Miss, West Virginia and Rutgers.
Scott feels this team is poised to break out and do something special.
“The University of Miami has always been under the radar,” Scott said. “I believe we are last so of course we are going to be under the radar. With this vibe I feel this year we are definitely going to open up some eyes and make some surprises.”
The season opener is Nov. 12 against Jacksonville at the BankUnited Center.
Justin Antweil may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.