Mark Richt and the football team grabbed most of the attention at the University of Miami in recent months, but basketball coaches Jim Larrañaga and Katie Meier have been busy preparing to unveil their 2016-17 teams in the next few weeks.
The men play their first exhibition game at home Nov. 2 against Barry University, and the women open the season Nov. 11 at Kentucky.
Here is what Larrañaga and Meier have learned about their teams through the preseason:
1. JaQuan Newton will likely replace Angel Rodriguez as starting point guard. “I really like how JaQuan is playing, and we’re trying to develop Bruce Brown and DJ Vasiljevic into viable options,” Larrañaga said. “It’s very, very clear that JaQuan is the most comfortable, most experienced and he’s shown some very good leadership qualities.”
2. Vasiljevic, a freshman from Australia, is even better than advertised.
“DJ is seriously good. Offensively, I’m very, very comfortable where he is. He’s going to be able to score the ball, share and handle the ball. He’s smart and knows how to play. His challenge is going to be on the defensive end of the floor. He has to use his savvy and cleverness we see on offense on his defense, as well.
“You’ll love him. He’s smart, articulate, funny. He’s very team-oriented. Gets along great with the guys. The coaches love him. He is everything we thought he’d be, and a whole lot more.
3. Sophomore Emese Hof has emerged as a vocal team leader, Meier said. “Yesterday, Emese said, ‘Can we huddle?’ and I said, ‘Sure,’ and she grabbed the team and probably said some words I don’t want to translate and just got ‘em and I was so proud. That was a very good moment. She is a warrior and is just asking for everyone to have the same mentality.”
4. Freshmen Serena-Lynn Geldof (Belgium) and Sarah Mortensen (Denmark) “have high-level basketball IQ and will be very, very special.”
5. The women’s team has plenty of incentive to start strong. “I don’t have to create fake pressure. We’re opening at Kentucky, we’re at Ohio State. What else do I have to say?’’
6. Dewan Huell, the highly-acclaimed recruit from Norland High, will help the team, but needs to put on some beef.
“Dewan is like a lot of young, big guys, trying to find himself,” Larrañaga said. “In terms of output in practice, we’ve been very pleased. We’re working on his skill development, specifically his jump shot. As that part of his game improves, he’ll get to add more and more. He has a lot of strengths that will impact our team. An outstanding defensive rebounder. He runs the floor extremely well. He’s a very good target up in the air to get the ball to. He clearly has to get stronger. He came in at 215, he’s now 225, but the players he’s going to be battling against are 250, 280.”
7. Anthony “Amp” Lawrence will get “significant” playing time at small forward and power forward.
8. Seniors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy are co-captains. Murphy said he is “holding the freshmen accountable.” Reed, who experienced the NIT and the NCAA Sweet 16, told the newcomers: “I’m not going backwards,” and challenged them to step it up.