The 2019-20 University of Miami basketball season began with a cooking lesson from women’s coach Katie Meier and men’s coach Jim Larranaga.
Meier greeted her five freshmen Tuesday morning with the following question: “Are you an ice cube? Are you a potato? Or are you an egg?”
They weren’t sure what to make of the odd question, so she explained.
“I said, `It’s time. You’re ready. I boiled the water this morning. What happens to an ice cube? It melts. Well, are you an ice cube? What happens to a potato? It gets soft. Are you a potato? What happens to an egg? It gets hard. Be an egg! That was my speech.”
Meier said she won’t tolerate any ice cubes on her team.
The coach shared the story with reporters during Media Day at the Watsco Center. Larranaga followed Meier at the microphone, and added his version of the allegory.
He told of a coach who was trying to motivate his team, so he boiled water in three pots. In one pot, he put carrots. In another, he put eggs. In the third, coffee beans. He asked them, “What happened to carrots? They went in hard but came out soft. Eggs went in soft, came out hard. The coffee beans, they changed the water and made it delicious, a cup of coffee.” The idea is are we going to be soft, hard or make things better?”
Both Hurricanes teams are eager to make things better this season.
The women went 25-9, were seeded fourth in the NCAA Tournament, but lost at home to Arizona State in the Round of 32 when they flubbed an inbounds play in the closing minutes. The men, with a roster of seven healthy players most nights, finished 14-18 overall, 5-13 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and failed to make the post-season for the first time in six years.
Meier’s team, led by ACC Preseason Player of the Year Beatrice Mompremier, has high hopes again. The Canes were picked to finish fourth in the ACC by league coaches, and Mompremier, a 6-4 center, chose to forego the WNBA Draft and stay in school for her final season.
“I’m particularly excited about this year’s team with the return of Beatrice Mompremier, and `premier’ is a really good hashtag for her because I really do believe she’s the best post player in the country and one of the best players in the country,” said Meier. “We’re fortunate to have her, and she is very determined on expanding her game and making sure the team is successful.
“A lot of times you’re in the situation with her with all they hype, accolades and pressure that you worry about yourself. But I’ve actually seen the most unselfish Beatrice this year than the three years that I’ve coached her. She’s going to play with a tremendous amount of pressure on her this year and part of my job is to make sure that pressure stays, but doesn’t turn into stress.”
Mompremier, a Miami High grad, gained valuable experience representing the United States in the Pan Am Games and training with the U.S. national team over the summer. She shrugged off the preseason awards.
“It’s great recognition to get, but I don’t think it really matters at this point,” she said. “You still have to come out and play your hardest every night.”
UM athletic director Blake James said of Mompremier: “Credit to Katie for bringing such a talented young woman into our program and continuing to develop her as a player. The recognition by the league is them realizing the great things she accomplished last year and the opportunities for even better things this year.”
Junior guard Mykea Gray also trained with Team USA and got tips from guards Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Skylar Diggins. “They talked to her the entire time about how to be a point guard, how to lead, what things to say,” Meier said. “She is playing a bigger role this season. It’s her time.”
The men’s team returns two starters — guards Chris Lykes and DJ Vasiljevic — and added freshmen Harlond Beverly, Anthony Walker and Isaiah Wong. Grad transfer Keith Stone from the University of Florida is rehabbing after knee surgery. One of the biggest stories is the transformation of 7-foot center Rodney Miller, who redshirted last year while he slimmed down 45 pounds.
“If he can stay healthy, he may be the most improved player in the ACC,” Larranaga said.
Miller changed his eating habits, and battled his weight all last season. “There were days I’d get on the scale and nothing changed, so that was hard,” he said. “I used to feel sluggish on the court, and now I have energy, don’t feel the time go by. I am quicker, can guard ball screens. It feels great.”
The men play an exhibition Oct. 30 against Flagler and open the regular season at home against powerhouse Louisville. The women’s exhibition is Oct. 29 against Nova and they play Jackson State Nov. 10.