"Foundation set" … Miami is ready to make a move upward in the ACC.
By Charlene Curtis for theACC.com
Head coach Katie Meier's teams have always been known for aggressive play on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Whether it is pressing full court after a made basket or pushing the tempo on offense after a rebound or steal, the Hurricanes are best when playing an up-tempo style.
Where the 2006-07 Hurricanes lacked size and depth, the future looks much brighter for Miami. The squad returns their second-leading scorer, senior Maurita Reid and a host of other promising veterans and first-year players. Reid averaged 14.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and a team-high 3.2 steals per game from her off-guard position.
Even if Reid increases her performance, for the Hurricanes to have a winning season, she will need the help of her teammates. Last year's squad finished the season with just eight healthy players on the roster. This season Miami starts with more players, better quality, and greater size. Of the 14 Hurricanes listed on the Miami roster, eight have previous experience in a Miami uniform, two are junior college transfers, and four are right out of high school.
Junior LaToya Cunningham could get the early nod at replacing last year's leading scorer and point guard, Renee Taylor. Cunningham averaged about 25 minutes of action as a sophomore. She and Reid were the only two Hurricanes with a positive assist to turnover ratio.
Experienced, smart, and reliable, Cunningham will be asked to establish the uptempo style of play on defense and offense. Her ability to pressure the ball on one end and attacking the defense with a pass or a dribble on the other will be keys to unlocking Miami's desired pace of play.
Cunningham will get help at the point position from freshman Epiphany Woodson. From a championship level high school program, Woodson "is talented and a consummate point guard," said Meier. "When she turns the corner, she will be a great one."
The other perimeter position will be filled by senior Albrey Grimsley. Grimsley's best offensive weapon is her ability to get into the paint off the dribble for the explosive mid-range jumper. Sophomore Eboni Sadler, who missed the later portion of last season with a shoulder injury, is healthy and ready to add additional athleticism and scoring to the perimeter game.
Lamese James, a 6-1 junior forward, is back after taking a redshirt last season. As a sophomore, James averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a starter late in the season. She will add experience and skill to the front court along with 5-10 sophomore Charmaine Clark and 6-4 senior Carla Williams.
Clark, who started 20 games as a freshman, was Miami's third-best rebounder. She showed her versatility having to play both forward positions and was often matched up defensively against the opponent's best player.
Williams is one of four junior college transfers on the Miami roster. Meier is excited about Williams' offseason development. "Fans will be impressed by Carla Williams," Meier said. "She's not the strongest kid, but is someone who has made great strides after just one season at Miami."
Perhaps the biggest change to the look of the Hurricanes will be made by two forwards, 6-2 sophomore Diane Barnes and 6-2 junior Latoya Drake. Both are junior college transfers, and according to Meier, "both are special and athletic." Meier said, "With them we are defending the rim. We now have some special explosion to the ball."
Entering her third year at the helm of the Miami Hurricanes, Meier sees her team turning the corner. "The foundation is set with what we wanted to bring to the league," she said. "I am excited and enthused about our potential." Without a doubt, the 2007-08 Hurricanes have more size, more depth, more talent, and more athleticism. And to be successful, Miami must "play defense and finish the play on the defensive end with a rebound," Meier said. "The upper classmen are imploring defensive rebounding."
And will the ACC's leading scorer again be wearing a Miami jersey?
In the three seasons that Miami has been in the ACC, the Hurricanes have had the league's leading scorer on its roster. First, it was Tamara James, an All-ACC and All-American honoree, who averaged 22.3 and 21.5 points per game during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 campaigns respectively. Last year, the diminutive Taylor led the ACC in scoring with her 18.6 points per game.
Could Reid, who played with Taylor at the same National Championship-winning Monroe Junior College, be the next Hurricane to lead the ACC in scoring? "I would like to be the leading scorer in the ACC," Reid said almost apologetically. But having a winning season in the ACC and advancing to postseason play appeared to be more on the senior's mind than finishing the season as the league's number one scorer.
None of the current Miami players have played in a Division I NCAA Tournament. Perhaps, the only numbers on the minds of Reid and her Hurricane teammates are those that go on the left side of the win-loss column. Foundation set.