Four newcomers expect to have an immediate impact

Coming off a 20-13 season in 2009-10, the University of Miami men’s basketball program has four freshmen who will look to help send the team back to postseason play.

Donnavan Kirk, a 6-foot-9, 227-pound power forward from Pontiac, Mich. will see his first significant action as a ‘Cane this season after redshirting last year.

“The year off helped me a lot because I was able to learn more about the game,” Kirk said. “I feel like I was just really athletic when I came to college, but now I know how to use it.”

Kirk is primarily focused on rebounding this season, while ball handling and shooting are two things he wants to keep improving.

“He will be in the rotation; I expect Donnavan to play quite a bit,” head coach Frank Haith said. “He’s a guy who’s not allergic to working. He’s a tremendous worker [and is] . . . probably our most athletic post player.”

Rion Brown, a 6-foot-5, 188-pound shooting guard from Hinesville, Ga. is the most highly touted of UM’s three newcomers.

“Offensively, I think I bring a lot of shooting to the team,” Brown said. “I been a knockdown shooter since I was little. I couldn’t do nothing else; I could shoot. Actually I been getting my driving game down a bit more, becoming a slasher. So, just those two things offensively. And defensively, my length, being able to guard the bigger shooting guards in his league, I think that’ll be great for us.”

“He’s got loads of ability, he’ll have an impact, he’ll play,” Haith said. “In terms of minutes played, he’ll play a lot.”

Redshirt junior guard Malcolm Grant sees Brown doing some big things during his career.

“Rion’s a really special player,” Grant said. “Before his four years is up, he’s gonna be a very special player.”

Coming to UM from Lagos, Nigeria by way of Kansas is Raphael Akpejiori. Coach Haith had some high praise for the 6-foot-8, 229-pound power forward.

“Compared to [former Cane and 2010 NBA Draft pick] Dwayne Collins at the same age, he’s got more [of a] skill set,” Haith said. “He’s got all those things that I like in terms of enthusiasm and energy.”

Akpejiori, who hopes to put on some weight, has high expectations for the upcoming season.

“Personally I hope to contribute in every way I can,” Akpejiori said. “Team-wise I really know—I don’t want to say I believe now—I really know that we gonna make the [NCAA] Tournament, so that’s just it. And I just want us to go far in the Tournament because going to the Tournament is something I know we gonna make.”

Miami’s final scholarship freshman is Erik Swoope, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound small forward from North Hollywood, Calif.

“So far it’s just been a big change because I used to play power forward in high school, so it’s changed to small forward,” Swoope said. “The last time I played pretty much out on the perimeter was maybe five or six years ago. So, I’m getting adjusted, but I‘ve been adjusting pretty quickly here.”

One aspect of Swoope’s game that needed some improvement was outside shooting, and he said that is coming along nicely.

“Overall, my shot needs some work, but I’ve been doing extra work after practice with the coaches and just getting in the vibe and the speed of college basketball,” Swoope said. “It, of course, has some room for improvement, but I definitely think it’s taken big strides since I’ve been here.”

Look for all four freshmen to see the floor this year for the ‘Canes.

Alex Schwartz may be contacted at