It remains to be seen whether the University of Miami women’s basketball team will be more successful than it was last season. But one thing is for sure: Coach Katie Meier, entering her 10th season, will be able to see eye-to-eye with more of her players in the huddle this season.
Last year’s team had just three players six feet or taller. This season, there are six with the addition of freshmen Keyanna Harris (6-0), Laura Quevedo (6-1), Khaila Prather (6-1), and Erykah Davenport (6-2).
“I’m excited for our fans to see the length and size we have coming off the bench, that’s something we were very lacking last year,” Meier said.
The Hurricanes could use the size and strength, as six of their opponents are in the AP preseason Top 25 poll – No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 7 Duke, No. 12 Louisville, No. 13 North Carolina, No. 23 UCLA and No. 24 Syracuse.
Prather wasted no time making her presence known. The freshman from Baltimore led the Canes with 10 rebounds in 15 minutes in a 69-42 exhibition win over Nova Southeastern last Thursday.
“She’s gonna be pretty special,” Meier said. “And she’s got a very, very active mind, so we can play her at multiple positions.”
As a high school junior, Prather led North Point High School to a 27-0 record and the Maryland state title. She transferred to national powerhouse Riverdale Baptist as a senior, and the team finished 27-3 with a No. 10 national ranking. Prather also managed to maintain excellent grades, was in the National Honor Society, and is a pre-med major at UM.
“Her length and speed caught my eye first time I saw her,” Meier said. “She had a teammate who’s at Duke right now [Lynee Belton], a lot of people were recruiting her, and I thought, ‘I like this other kid that’s on the back side getting all these offensive rebounds that’s creating openings for this other player.’ And, once you get to know Khaila, she’s a super young lady. Then it was a fight to try and get her.”
The Hurricanes were 16-15 last season, and 8-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for an eighth-place finish. Three starters are back from that team – sophomore guard Adrienne “Money Mot” Motley (11.1 ppg), junior forward Keyona Hayes (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), and senior guard Suriya “Ray Ray” McGuire (9.2 ppg).
Miami was picked to finish eighth again in the ACC Preseason Coaches’ poll and the Blue Ribbon Panel media poll, behind Notre Dame, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Florida State, Syracuse and Georgia Tech.
Michelle Woods and Nigia Greene, both of whom redshirted last season due to injury, return to the active roster. Woods, a junior, suffered a fractured sternum in a car accident during the summer of 2013. Greene, one of the nation’s most sought-after guards in the high school Class of ’13, tore her ACL in preseason training last fall.
Meier got teary-eyed when she saw Woods and Greene line up for the national anthem before the Nova game. Greene was the second-leading scorer with 12 points in 15 minutes. “I was just happy to be back out there with my teammates,” she said.
UM women’s basketball at a glance
▪ Coach: Katie Meier
▪ Last season: 16-15 overall, 8-8 (8th) ACC
▪ Top Players: Adrienne Motley (5-9, Soph., G), Suriya McGuire (5-11, Sr., G), Keyona Hayes (6-1, Jr., F), Jessica Thomas (5-6, Soph., G), Nigia Greene (5-10, RFr., G), Khaila Prather (6-1, Fr., F)
▪ Noteworthy: Meier recently signed a contract extension through 2021 and contributed $75,000 back to the school for women’s athletics.