University of Miami

New-look UM basketball teams play exhibitions Thursday


A colander and a haunted house.

University of Miami basketball coaches Jim Larrañaga and Katie Meier got creative in the final week of preseason, employing a kitchen utensil and ghoulish costumes to get their teams ready for the 2014-15 season.

The regular season doesn’t begin until Nov. 14, but both teams play home exhibition games Thursday. The UM women face Nova Southeastern at 4 p.m. and the men follow at 7 p.m. against Eckerd College at BankUnited Center. Admission is free.

Only two players are back from last year’s roster on the men’s team – Manu Lecomte and Tonye Jekiri. Transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan are expected to start and play leadership roles, as both have big-conference experience. Rodriguez, a Miami Krop grad, was voted All-Big 12 with Kansas State, where he averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. McClellan transferred from Texas after scoring 13.5 ppg for the Longhorns.

Others to watch are Deandre Burnett, James Palmer, Omar Sherman and Miami native Joe Thomas. Ivan Cruz Uceda, a Spaniard suspended until January for breaking an eligibility rule, can get some minutes because the exhibition is not an official game.

Larrañaga, concerned with the Canes’ porous defense, used a colander to demonstrate how water is contained when you clog the holes.

“I’d like another six months of practice, but the players are ready to play a game,” he said. “Coaches want to see them against outside competition.”

The women’s team doesn’t have as many newcomers, but Meier still has questions.

“I thought I’d have more clarity about my team coming in,” Meier said. “We’re still a work in progress. There isn’t one player who doesn’t deserve playing time on this team. Everyone has looked good in preseason, so now I want to see who can handle pressure and decisions in game conditions.”

Meier and her staff lightened the mood on Halloween by surprising players with a locker room haunted house, complete with strobe lights and coaches dressed in costume. “They’ve been working so hard, wanted them to have a little fun,” she said.

Suriya McGuire is looking for a big senior season. Sophomore guards Jessica Thomas and Adrianne Motley and senior forward Necole Sterling lost weight in the offseason and spent extra time in the gym. “They completely reshaped their bodies,” Meier said. “They’re leaner, stronger and quicker.”

Motley made the ACC All-Freshman team last season with a team-leading 11.1 points per game. She averaged 30 minutes per game and proved such a clutch player her nickname is “Money Mot.”

Guard Michelle Woods is back after spending last season as a medical redshirt for injuries sustained in a car accident. “It’s been a joy to have Michelle back,” Meier said. “She is so excited to be playing again, and she’s had a great preseason. She’s a veteran newcomer.”

Redshirt freshman Nigia Greene, a highly-rated guard from Atlanta, will begin her UM career after missing last season with a torn ACL. The Canes will be without injured freshman Aisha Edwards.