Miami looks to get back to Big Dance

It’s time for the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team to lace up their shoes and build upon where they left off last year.

The Canes finished 23-11 (8-8 ACC) and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. It was the Hurricanes’ first appearance in the tournament and the Associated Press Top 25 since 2002.

Attendance at Miami’s BankUnited Center, the ACC’s smallest arena, was up nearly 25 percent due to the spectacular play of the Canes last year. The Hurricanes went a program-best 14-2 at home, including victories against Duke and Maryland.

Now, Miami is ranked as high as No. 8 in some preseason polls and expectations are high.

“We are excited about this team,” head coach Frank Haith said. “We have a lot of our core back. We had success last season and we hope to build on it. I like the pieces we have returning, and I like the new pieces, too.”

Haith nearly took Rick Barnes, his mentor, and the Texas Longhorns out of the NCAA tournament last season in a thrilling second round loss, 75-72.

For last season’s efforts, Haith was rewarded with a new five-year contract, and his team has earned more than a fair amount of respect heading into this season.

Haith was even commended by one of college basketball’s elite coaches, Mike Krzyzewski, for the turnaround he has sparked with the Miami program.

“He’s an outstanding coach, but he’s also a good guy and a team player,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s putting his stamp [on the program]. He understands he was developing a program and not just building a team for a season. He’s a really good hire for Miami.”

The team will once again be led by high-scoring senior Jack McClinton, an All-ACC First Team guard who averaged a team-high 17.7 points per game last season. In ACC play, he kicked that rate up to 18.8 points per game. McClinton is a menace every time he is on the court, including when the Canes need a key score. Over the summer McClinton participated in basketball camps produced by players like Chris Paul and LeBron James.

Said Haith, “When he came here no one knew who he was. Now, he is a marked man.”

Haith even promised, “Jack McClinton is not coming off the floor [this season].”

The Canes return four starters and will have the deepest team that Haith has had at Miami.

Resting on the wings are senior Lance Hurdle and junior James Dews. Both Hurdle and Dews have the ability to hit three pointers, as they both shot over .300 last year, and both can penetrate to the hole.

In the frontcourt, the Hurricanes will have to replace Anthony King, but senior Jimmy Graham and junior Dwayne Collins have the experience and ability to do so. Collins and Graham both feed off each other’s intensity and attack the glass hard.

The Canes are also fortunate, as they have junior Cyrus McGowan and redshirt freshman Julian Gamble coming off the bench, giving them good depth up front.

Sophomore Eddie Rios, senior Brian Asbury and junior Adrian Thomas are the other keys for the Canes. They have plenty of experience and will all see the floor frequently.

Freshman Dequan Jones, whom Haith has referred to as the best player he has ever recruited, will be a key asset for the Hurricanes. Jones is a proven slasher and is known for his highlight-reel, crowd-pleasing dunks.

“He’s terrific,” Haith stated.

This year Miami is feeling confident about taking their game to another level, despite having a target on their backs.

“We want to return to the tournament again,” McClinton said. “We are playing with a chip on our shoulder. We’re not going to let that chip fall just because we’re ranked higher than we were last year.”