Miami women’s basketball 2020-2021 preview: Juniors

Redshirt Junior forward Destiny Harden prepares to take a free-throw shot during Miami’s game versus Duke at the Watsco Center on Sunday, Feb. 9.
Redshirt junior forward Destiny Harden prepares to take a free-throw shot during Miami’s game versus Duke at the Watsco Center on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

In the basketball community, the words Houston and Harden will always be intertwined with the NBA star’s reign with the Rockets. But for the Miami Hurricanes, juniors Jamir Huston and Destiny Harden will both be looking for breakout seasons in 2020-21, leading a class that head coach Katie Meier will look to for excellence.

Harden is set for her second season as a Hurricane. The redshirt junior sat out the 2018-19 season after transferring from West Virginia. As a redshirt sophomore last year, the stretch forward scored in the double-digits three times, all in Atlantic Coast Conference action, including a season-high 13 points against Virginia Tech and Duke. The 6-foot Chicago native pulled down 80 rebounds on the year, made 16 of 29 free throws, and shot a hair north of 28 percent from beyond the arc.

Harden will look to improve her assist to turnover ratio in 2020-21. She had 34 giveaways last year to go along with just 13 assists while making 15 starts.

Huston, meanwhile, has been a role player in the post during her time as an underclassman. Her minutes nearly doubled between her freshman and sophomore seasons. Her total rebounding numbers increased from 48 to 103 between her first two years. Against Georgia Tech on Jan. 30 a season ago, she logged a career-high of eight points and 35 minutes. Huston also pulled down 10 rebounds that matchup, just short of the season-high 13 she had against Miami (OH) on Nov. 30.

But she’ll look to improve her stats in other key areas, including a nearly 2-1 assist to turnover ratio in 2019-20 that included 26 giveaways. The Cleveland, Ohio native shot just above 32 percent from the free throw line. She didn’t score in the final five of the last six contests of last season.

The Hurricanes will be a year removed from having the luxury of forward Beatrice Mompremier, the only senior from last season’s roster. The transfer from Baylor was a centerpiece for Miami during her two years in Coral Gables, registering 34 double-doubles and becoming an AP All-American Honorable Mention on her way to being Round 2 pick in the April WNBA Draft.

While it may not be possible to replace Mompremier’s sheer production in the low post, Meier will need at least one piece to replicate the star’s imposing presence down low. The 6-foot Huston represents a prime candidate for that role if she can elevate her numbers and keep them consistent. Same for the more wing-oriented Harden, even as Meier looks to install a more “positionless,” guard-reliant five-out offense

The pair, now well-integrated in the UM program, will also have reinforcements joining the class for 2020-2021.

Transfers Naomi Mbandu and Karla Erjavec will look to add firepower for Meier this season. Both individuals originally hail from Europe, with the duo from France and Croatia respectively.

Mbandu comes into the program as the No. 2 overall junior college prospect from Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla, averaging 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore. She was a fellow member of the French Le Centre Fédéral de Basketball club alongside current Hurricane Kenza Salgues.

Erjavec—a transfer from Wyoming—comes to South Florida after averaging eight points per game at the Mountain West Conference program. The guard shot 32.7 percent from 3-point range and brings a favorable assist to turnover ratio (1.59) to UM. She also logged a double-double late in the season against San Jose State.