Hurricanes to Create Havoc

The loss to the NBA of one of the best University of Miami men's basketball players of all-time certainly won't make it easier for coach Perry Clark. And that's usually the case when the player gone is the only one in school history to surpass 1000 points, 600 rebounds, 400 assists and 150 rebounds in a career.

But the departure of John Salmons did little to strip the Hurricanes of something Clark is ready to unleash on future opponents. With an influx of athletic freshmen and the return of forwards James Jones and Darius Rice, the Hurricanes will bring a different team and plan on the court when the 2002-03 season begins at the Miami Arena Nov. 23 against New Hampshire.

An athletic and speedy team will make that happen.

"We're going to try to take advantage of our team speed," said Clark, beginning his third season with the Hurricanes, during basketball media day at the Edgerrin James Conference Room at UM, Tuesday morning. "We have a lot of guys who can run and are real good athletes. We want to pressure on defense and run on offense. After a couple days of practice, I can already see this is going to be a different team than last year's." Despite having to replace three starters, including Salmons, Elton Tyler and Marcus Barnes and the addition of five newcomers, the Hurricanes intend to press the opposition on defense and get the ball down court quickly this seasons in hopes of getting back to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

With Rice and Jones, two of the top three leading scorers of a year ago, having worked on their individual games over the summer and the addition of freshmen guards Robert Hite and Armondo Surratt, Clark is convinced that the Hurricanes will not have difficulties in putting the ball in the basket. Although how effectively the Hurricanes rebound the basketball and perform on defense will go a long way in determining the Hurricanes success this season, according to Clark.

But the first order of business will be creating turnovers and getting the ball into the hands of Rice or Jones with the games on the line. Rice, a second-team All-Big East selection last season after leading the team with 14.9 points per game, has never had to take control of games in the past thanks to the presence of Salmons and Jones. But that will have to change for the Hurricanes to have any chance of reaching the postseason. Rice is ready for the challenge.

"I've been waiting three years for this," said Rice, who added 11 pounds over the summer with a rigorous weight-training program. "It's finally here. I've added so much to my game and I'm not going to leave anything behind. Everybody will see just the kind of player Darius Rice is." In order to run the floor this season the Hurricanes will definitely need to crash the boards. And Clark isn't immune to that. He is expecting solid contributions from senior center Rafael Berumen and juniors Rodrigue Djahue and Will Frisby. . All three players will see an increase in playing time this season. Berumen, in his second season with the Hurricanes, averaged 2.9 points and 2.0 rebounds a game last year in just over eight minutes a game, while Djahue was on the court for over six minutes a game and averaged 1.7 points. Frisby pulled down 1.4 rebounds a contest last year.

Clark said those numbers will have to improve. "We weren't a real good rebounding team last year and that really has to change," said Clark, who has a record of 40-21 at Miami. "Rafael Berumen and Rodrigue Djahue have to come up big for us this year."

With the quick emergence of Surratt and Hite early in training camp, another of the players being closely monitored by Clark is senior point guard Mike Simmons. The 6-1, 198-pounder from Los Angeles, California will be asked to play solid defense, distribute the ball and to get the ball to the team's scorers. Simmons, who played in all 32 games and averaged 16.7 minutes a game last season, will likely start along side Rice, Jones and Berumen when the Hurricanes tip-off the season. Although one of the freshmen players could end up starting at shooting guard, Clark hasn't made a decision on who it will be. Clark added that losing Barnes, who transferred to Northeastern after violating a team policy, will hurt the Hurricanes in the scoring department. But that it's another reason why the Hurricanes will utilize three guards at times this season.

"We're going to try to go small and outrun some people," Clark said. "It's going to be fun basketball to watch."

The Hurricanes have registered a 46-20 record in the Big East since the 1998-99 season, yet not many people expect UM to celebrate a conference title or make another postseason trip this year. And Clark isn't making any promises.

"Hopefully this isn't a rebuilding year for us," said Clark. "But hopefully I can stand up here in January and say the same thing. You just hope you have a nucleus and that you can add to that."

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