Katie Meier is a legend at Duke. Her photo hangs in the concourse at Cameron Indoor Arena. She was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 1986, led the Blue Devils to their first NCAA Tournament as a sophomore, was an All-ACC pick and a four-time Academic All-ACC selection.
But her blue blood turned orange and green the moment she became the University of Miami women’s basketball coach 14 years ago, and she is treating Thursday’s game at Duke like any other road game.
Of course, she will be a bit nostalgic within the familiar confines of Cameron, and the sight of the iconic gothic chapel will bring back memories, but her only concern is getting her Hurricanes back on a winning track after dropping a home game 76-67 to Clemson last weekend.
Beatrice Mompremier, Miami’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed that game due to the sudden death of her father. The team didn’t have time to prepare for her absence. She returned to practice on Tuesday, and her status for the Duke game is “day to day,” Meier said.
Without Mompremier in the game, the team’s other top post player, Emese Hof, has to handle a much bigger load. She scored 11 points and had 11 rebounds against Clemson. Hof, a 6-3 senior from the Netherlands, leads the ACC with 2.3 blocks per game and has had five blocks in three games this season. She and Mompremier have combined for 18 double-doubles.
“The other team can more easily trap or double-team me when she’s not there,” Hof said. “There’s more focus on me when Bea’s not there. She’s like a lightning rod. And there’s about 17 points and 14 rebounds that somebody has to get, so everyone has to do a little more when she’s not there.”
Meier says her team is completely different when Mompremier, who is 6-4, and Hof are in the game together. “When they’re both healthy and here and on, they’re a pretty special combo to play against,” she said.
The UM coaching staff first saw Hof play when Meier coached the USA Basketball U-19 team to the 2013 World Championship. Hof and Hurricanes guard Laura Cornelius were playing for the Netherlands. Meier liked them both, and offered them scholarships.
“Mese [Hof’s nickname] is just such a stabilizer,” Meier said. “She’s so intelligent. It’s so great when the interior of your offense and defense is so strategic, and she is so incredibly strategic. She’s played a lot of basketball. Played a lot of styles, so she just anchors everything. And for me, personally, I laugh with her and hug her every day. That’s a promise I made to her father, that I’d hug her every day, and it’s not an obligation, it’s something I look forward to.”
Hof, whose parents and older sister played basketball, said she was always tall, but didn’t become a good player until high school. She decided to pursue college basketball in the United States, and chose Miami over Syracuse and Vanderbilt, mostly because of Meier.
“Coach Meier is bubbly and kind, but also pushes you to get better on the court, that combination appealed to me,” Hof said. “Her energy is amazing.”
Hof had never been to America before her recruiting visits. All she knew was that Americans eat a lot of fast food. It took her a while to adjust to the new culture.
“Here, everyone’s so friendly, like ‘Hey, how are you?’ Dutch people, we just say `Hi,’ and keep walking. I had to figure out what do you say back when people ask `How are you?’ It was a new country, new language, new classes, new team, I had to take a deep breath. First semester I was in a class called Evolution of the Biosphere, in English, and I was like, `What is going on? I can’t even speak normal English, let alone these names of rocks,’ but I figured it out.”
Hof’s infectious smile, wit and compassion make her a fan favorite.
Despite being favored Thursday over Duke (8-7, 0-3), the Hurricanes (14-4, 2-1) are taking the game seriously.
“This Duke game, we have to seize an opportunity,” Meier said. “They’re 0-3 in the conference, but so would 90 percent of the teams in the country given the schedule they were given – Louisville at home, at NC State and at Georgia Tech. Those are three toughest defensive teams in the league. That’s the nature of the ACC. There are no easy games.”