Miami must find a way to replace its top two scorers from last season, Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite. The departed duo accounted for 33 points per game—nearly half of the UM's scoring average last season.
Despite the loss of Hite and Diaz, Coach Frank Haith is excited about the potential of his young team in 2006. Haith believes this team is the most talented roster from top to bottom he has coached at UM.
"I believe as far as athletic ability we are better this year," Haith said "We can do some things on defense that we have not been able to do since I have been here. We are able to open the floor up a little bit more and we are longer in the perimeter and post."
One of the new players expected to fill the scoring void is sophomore Jack McClinton. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds McClinton will play shooting guard and at times point guard for UM.
McClinton transferred to UM last season after scoring 13.6 points per game as a freshman at Siena University.
"Jack is an experienced player even though he is only a sophomore," Haith said. "He played division one basketball before and he knows our system because he was here last year. We lose a lot of scoring with Guillermo and Rob, but hopefully Jack can help in that area."
Also expected to provide scoring for UM is senior guard Anthony Harris. After a breakout season during 2004-2005 in which he scored 12 points per game, Harris took a step back in last season due primarily to a nagging foot injury.
Last season, Harris scored 9.5 points per game and started 20 of the team's 23 games on the year.
"I had a great summer," Harris said. "I got healthy and got a lot of rest—that was the main thing I needed to do was get rest on my foot."
In the front court, Miami returns Anthony King at forward as the only starter from last season. Miami also returns junior Raymond Hicks, who came on strong at the end of last season, and sophomores Jimmy Graham and Adrian Thomas.
Expected to make an immediate impact in the front court as a freshman this season is forward Dwayne Collins. At 6-foot-8, with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Collins combines great size with freakish athleticism. Of all the freshmen this year, Collins figures to make the biggest impact.
"Dwayne has had a big fall and a big first day of practice," Haith said. "He is a really athletic post player, but right now he is like a deer in the headlights. He understands that we are throwing a lot at him, but he is doing a great job. He has a chance to be special."
With so many unknowns and so many question marks this season, the key for UM in 2006-2007 will be figuring out who can fill the voids left by the departures of Hite and Diaz.
Miami has plenty of talented players on their roster, but they have not found who "the man" will be. Most likely, UM will have to go through some early growing pains to find a true identity as the season progresses.
"I think it all comes down to how those guys perform when the lights are on," Haith said. "I think those guys are the most talented team we have from top to bottom since I have been here. We are a relatively young team so it all depends on how these guys gel."
David Lake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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