Canes Have Exhibition Game Tonight at 7:30

The Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team begins their 2006-07 season tonight with a home exhibition game at 7:30 p.m. against Northwood. Jimmy Graham is one player coach Frank Haith is expecting a big season from.

When Jimmy Graham stepped onto the floor last year, people were mesmerized by his physical presence. Physically built like a Greek god, the body of the 6-foot-8, 245 pound freshman at the time was probably the most physically imposing presence ever seen at Miami.

But he'd be the first one to say, the view was a lot prettier than the actual force that he was able to bring as a freshman.

Saddled with a knee injury his senior year of high school, he had never fully recovered and didn't have the explosion that he had in high school. Back is his 39-inch vertical leap, something quite sick for a guy who is built like a tank and can really get up and down the court with the quick guards Miami has this year.

But more than anything, it's all about confidence.

"My main thing is confidence. I have a lot of confidence I didn't have last year," Graham said. "It was just new. Everything was fast. Everyone was stronger and bigger, but I'm definitely ready for it this year."

The main thing though that Graham worked on to help him get to that level of confidence is his offensive game that was simply limited to put backs and brute force.

"I worked on it a lot, my offensive game," Graham said. "Defensively, I am quick and fast, but coach has worked on me using that quickness on offensive end. He wants me to run, run, run the pike and get easy buckets."

For the first time in some years, the ‘Canes force will be in the paint and Graham will be a major part of that along with Anthony King, Ray Hicks and Dwayne Collins.

"Our low post is going to surprise a lot of people," Graham said. "People underestimate us because we might be a little shorter, but we are going to do some good things. Collins is ridiculously athletic. Ray Hicks is an ox down low. King has really worked hard this summer. We expect big things out of him (King)."

Coupled with some good guard play and a coach who has shown to care about his players in Frank Haith, Graham expects big things for the season.

"I think our guard play is going to be terrific," Graham said. "Jack McClinton is going to be hyped to play this year. Denis Clemente is just fast as lightning. (Anthony) Harris is back for his senior year and is ready.

"(Haith) He's definitely a good coach. What's different about him is he has a real personal interest in his players. He's such a great person."

As has been the consistent voice of the players, the expectations of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years is what Graham looks for from this team.

"My expectations are huge. Me, as a player I think this will be an outbreak year. Last year was tough for me because I had come off my knee injury in high school. I expect double-doubles, nothing less, and I expect us to go to the NCAA tournament.

"But as long as we win, that's all I really care about."

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at rudy@canestime.com

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