MIAMI: 'Canes cope with hectic off-season

Coming off of its second straight losing season and one of its most tumultuous off-seasons in recent memory, Miami, under new head coach Frank Haith, is hoping the team’s first season in the ACC will mark a new beginning for a program that has met nothing but trouble of late.

“All I can do is try to prepare our guys to compete against the best—the best players, the best coaches,” Haith said. “All this preparation is just to put in what we do and teach it, and then hopefully we’ll be able to perform.”

After starting off last season 13-5 with a 3-1 record in the Big East, the Hurricanes collapsed. Miami finished the season in a tailspin, losing 11 of its last 12 games. In addition, the team ended conference play with a disappointing 4-12 mark, tying Georgetown for 12th place and failing to qualify for the Big East Championships.

In late spring, Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee began a not-so-secret drive to raise the almost $2.5 million it would take to buy out the contract of head coach Perry Clark. Less than three weeks later, Dee fired Clark and replaced him with Texas assistant coach Frank Haith, the 2004 Recruiter of the Year.

The beginning of the Haith era in Coral Gables was far from smooth. Starting point guard Armondo Surratt and Leonard Harden and Karron Clarke all transferred in response to the coaching change. Additionally, top recruit C.J. Giles asked to be released from his scholarship. Of the four, the loss of Giles will likely be the biggest blow to the school—he was among the most highly recruited centers in the country. Furthermore, because Haith was hired in April, there was very little time for the first-year head coach to adequately fill the voids in his roster.

Miami is now forced to enter the season with only two returning starters and a gaping hole in the frontcourt. The team lost its leading scorer over the last two seasons, small forward Darius Rice, to graduation, and needs someone to fill the void. Haith will probably call on inexperienced forwards William Frisby and Gary Hamilton to start.

“Will Frisby’s been a guy that has not even played a full season, but he has ACC level talent,” Haith said. “We’ll see how he’s able to do.”

With few options in the front court, the Hurricanes will primarily run a three-guard offense. Junior Robert Hite, the team’s top player, will be asked to score more than the 15 points per game he put on the board last season. Joining Hite will be guards Guillermo Diaz and Eric Wilkins. Diaz, the team’s leading three-point shooter last season, will primarily play the point, and Wilkins will act as a second shooting guard.

“I’ve been very impressed with [Diaz and Hite]—those two kids are very good players,” Haith said. “They’ve got to be more complete in terms of being good offensive and defensive players, and... be more consistent in their play. But they’re very talented and I’ve been very impressed by both those kids.”

A wild card for Miami is 6-foot-11 sophomore transfer Glenn Batemon. After averaging just over 10 points per game for Fordham two years ago, Batemon is coming off surgery on both knees and is listed at 335 pounds but is reported to be close to 400. If he can return to form, he may give the Hurricanes the big man they need under the basket.

“We just got to try to get our guys in the mindset to improve each day,” Haith said. “We can’t retard our development. We’re going to have to play, and go out and play hard to give ourselves a chance.”


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