Canes in search of a better season

After a season full of distractions and disappointments, the Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball team will look to improve on last season’s 9-21 record and bring new life into their 2008-2009 campaign.

Fourth year head coach Katie Meier believes this year’s team can compete in the upper half of the highly competitive ACC and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.

“We are excited for the upcoming season,” Meier said. “We are very challenged by this schedule we have, and we are excited to play such tough competition.”

It was rough for Meier and the Canes to get anything going last year. They finished last in the ACC with a 2-12 record and lost 13 games at the BankUnited Center.

The task before them will not be easy, though, as the Canes have lost their top scorer, Maurita Reid, to graduation. Reid was nothing short of impressive last season, averaging 15 points per game and picking opponents’ pockets for 110 steals on the season. Reid was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team.

However, Meier and her staff were able to put together a strong recruitment campaign, bringing in a class ranked as highly as No. 21 by some basketball publications.

Topping the class of five newcomers is freshman Shenise Johnson, a 5’11” forward from Henrietta, N.Y. Johnson scored 24 points per game in high school, while pulling down 17 rebounds and dishing out seven assists per contest. Slam Magazine ranked her the No. 11 prospect in the nation and the best in the northeast. Johnson is the Hurricanes’ second-ever McDonald’s All-American and was also named a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American.

“[Shenise] is one of the highest rated recruits to ever sign at Miami,” Meier said. “She is a multi-dimensional player with the size and skills to be threatening at every spot on the floor. Her scoring numbers are impressive, but her rebounding is what really makes her special. She is smooth, versatile and determined, and will have an immediate impact on this program. She is a gamer who has proven to play big in crucial games, and she will be a huge part of this program’s future success.”

The Hurricanes will have nine returning players, but the team returns only two starters. Senior LaToya Cunningham led all returners with 6.7 points per game last year, and will be counted upon for court leadership, as she has been voted team captain for the third consecutive year.

Sophomore Epiphany Woodson, who averaged 6.4 points per game last year as a freshman, will join her in the backcourt. Woodson is an explosive player and a proven point guard. Look for these two players to carry the team offensively.

Seniors Lamese James and Latoya Drake will be joined by juniors Charmaine Clark and Diane Barnes to form an experienced frontcourt for the Canes. All four have the ability to lead the team in rebounds any given night. Clark and Barnes will be the focus of the Canes’ post game.

Meier believes this team will be better and encourages fans to get ready for a great season.

“I hope the South Florida community can come out and watch these high-level basketball games and support us as their local team,” Meier said. “Our uptempo style is fun to watch.”