Sims: New faces of Miami men’s basketball

Junior guard Matthew Cleveland shoots a lay-up in Miami’s game against New Jersey Institute of Technology at the Watsco Center on Sunday, Oct 29. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

College basketball teams go through a transition process every year. Whether it’s the NBA, the transfer portal, or graduation, no team is the same back-to-back years. Miami is no exception. Miami does have something that not every team has, a Final Four appearance to follow up.

Jim Larrañaga and his Hurricanes lost their two leading scorers from last year, Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller, to the NBA. That’s over 31 points per game and an invaluable defensive presence that the ‘Canes will have to replace. Miami also lost depth big Anthony Walker to the transfer portal, as he’ll suit up for the Indiana Hoosiers this season.

While there were losses, Miami was able to prime in talent to try and replenish what was left. With a trio of exciting freshmen and one big transfer, Miami is in a good spot heading into the season.

The three freshmen that Miami is getting have the versatility to play all over the court and come from all over the world. The ‘Canes don’t have an incoming freshman that is from the United States. The trio of players coming to Coral Gables also all stand at 6’7” or above.

Kyshawn George, from Switzerland, stands at 6-foot-8 and has the skills of a guard. George plays in the mold of Wooga Poplar, who he started for during an exhibition game. The lanky guard has tremendous athleticism and is really able to move. In the exhibition game, George showed off his smarts and basketball IQ.

The freshman was able to find soft spots in the defense and kept his cool in his first collegiate game. George also has range to cover a plethora of sports on defense. The freshman seems comfortable guarding almost every position on the floor. The semi-professional experience that George got during his time playing in France seems to be paying dividends early. The moment does not seem to be too big for him.

Another freshman guard joining Jim Larrañaga’s back court is Frenchman Paul

Djobet. The 6-foot-7 guard was productive in limited playing time, scoring seven points in eight minutes. It may take Djobet a little more time to adjust to the speed of the collegiate game. In terms of the rotation that Miami employs, Djobet may find himself on the outside looking in for the time being. Playing time could be hard to come by for Djobet during his first year in Coral Gables.

Last but not least of the recruited freshman class is big man Micheal Nwoko. The 6-foot-10 freshman from north of the border showed out in the ‘Canes first action of the year. Nwoko came off the bench to deliver 16 points and seven rebounds in just 16 minutes of game time.

The Canadian was engaged on both ends of the floor. Offensively he was efficient, and defensively he was aggressive, fighting for rebounds. If Nwoko can prove to be an impact player right away, he could provide valuable depth at a position Miami is weak in.

Miami men’s basketball received a single transfer player this upcoming season: the big ticket from up-state, Matthew Clevland.

Miami fans may remember Cleveland from his time at Florida State University (FSU), when he capped off FSU’s miraculous comeback against the ‘Canes last season. Cleveland put home a three-pointer as time expired to secure a victory for the Seminoles.

The junior comes in with the ability to start immediately. Cleveland’s 13.8 points per game would have been third on the team last season. Cleveland started in the exhibition game and should fill the role that Isaiah Wong played for Miami last year.

The Atlanta native is looking to make a jump in his third collegiate season. Cleveland improved his offensive game drastically from his freshman year. Cleveland’s three-point shooting percentage jumped from 17.6% to 35.0%. The transfer’s free-throw percentage also increased almost 15 percentage points from 55 to 69. In terms of rebounds, Clevland did a much better job attacking the glass, especially on the defensive end of the court. The similar elevation of his game to this season would have Cleveland in store for a massive year in Miami.

Three of these new faces in Miami should be key contributors for Miami basketball this season. Cleveland will assume a starting spot and will be counted on as one of the main scorers for the ‘Canes. There is a lot of scoring that Miami lost with the graduation of Wong and Miller. Cleveland is here to supplement a good chunk of that.

George will find himself in a variety of situations due to his experience and athletic ability. Head coach Jim Larrañaga showed confidence in George by having him start in place of Poplar in the exhibition game. The versatility that George has on both ends of the court could see him banking minutes early and often for the ‘Canes.

Nwoko could find a unique role as a center for Miami. Both A.J. Casey and Norchad Omier are listed as forwards who will be expected to play Miami’s center role. Omier does it exceptionally well. Neither of those players are true centers, though. Nwoko could fit that bill.

Nwoko gives Miami the ability to match up defensively with some of the taller teams in the county. While Miami will still be playing small-ball, Nwoko helps them to play it a little bigger than before.

These new faces of Miami basketball will aid in the quest for the ‘Canes to get back to the final four. These players will be leaned on to play their part in that journey.

All stats and data via ESPN and 247Sports