The University of Miami men’s and women’s basketball teams relocated to Atlanta during Hurricane Irma, and moved their base to the Orlando World Marriott on Wednesday while they await power to be restored in Coral Gables and the campus to reopen.
Hurricane athletes from several sports, including the football team, and UM sports administrators are gathering at the Orlando hotel. They also have trainers on hand to help with gym workouts and physical therapy.
UM women’s coach Katie Meier said she suggested to the players that they leave town for the storm, they voted, and agreed to follow their coach’s advice. Atlanta seemed like a logical destination because three players are from the Atlanta area and Meier’s sister and brother-in-law, Mary and Mike Lutzenkirchen, live there.
They drove in a caravan for 14 hours last Wednesday, and split up into homes. They had a team barbeque at the house of Erykah Davenport, another meal at the home of Taylor Mason, and spent a lot of time at the Lutzenkirchens.
They played pickup games in the driveways, and also in the gym at Kennesaw State University, where Meier is friends with coach Agnus Beranato. A Gold’s Gym in suburban Atlanta offered its facility to hurricane evacuees, so the team got some workouts in.
On Wednesday, they drove 12 hours from Atlanta to Orlando, and hope to be back in South Florida in the next few days.
“It’s been an emotional time, but everyone handled it really well,” Meier said. “Being able to get on the court some, and play pickup games, gave us a sense of normalcy. We are so grateful to all the family members who took us in and made us feel at home up there in Atlanta. It was good bonding time.”
Most of the UM men’s players also evacuated to Atlanta with assistant coach Chris Caputo while head coach Jim Larrañaga and assistants Jamal Brunt and Adam Fisher flew around the country to recruit — Larrañagato New York, Brunt to Virginia and Fisher to California.
This is a critical period for basketball recruiting. In fact, one of the nation’s top recruits, Emmanuel Quickley, was scheduled to visit the UM campus over the weekend, but it was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Quickley has narrowed his choices to UM, Kansas and Kentucky.
“This hurricane really couldn’t have come at a worse time for us as far as recruiting, but obviously, there were more important things to worry about over the past week, so we are trying to stay in touch with our recruits and reschedule those visits,” Caputo said.
Caputo tried to get the players together as much as possible in Atlanta. They had a cookout at the home of Bruce Brown’s mother, and also gathered at the house of Lonnie Walker’s father. They worked out at Georgia State University.
They will practice on Thursday at the University of Central Florida.
“In a way, this whole thing has gotten us closer as a team,” said Caputo, who traveled to Atlanta with his wife, daughter and dog. “There’s nothing quite like shacking up with your teammates in a situation like this, being together going through something so stressful.”