The State of the U is strong. Also, props to Jerry for having the first set of answers submitted.
The Canes captured the nation's attention last year. Was 2012-13 the arrival of Miami basketball as a perennial contender?
We believe so. On the heels of last year's success UM brought in some very good players and has a top 15 recruiting class on the way in 2014 (featuring Ja'Quan Newton). They also attracted a trifecta of highly touted transfers (graduate student F Donnovan Kirk via DePaul - eligible immediately and guards Sheldon McClellan of Texas and Angel Rodriguez of K State, eligible next year)
So the achieved the first step to a consistently good program, in getting an influx of talent. Additionally fan enthusiasm hit an all time high last year and those around the program are hopeful it will continue. Most of all, Miami fans feel like Jim Larranaga and his staff are perfectly suited to lead this team into a new era of consistent success.
What's the biggest piece you've lost since last season?
The 'Canes lost so much. Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, ACC Defensive Player of the Year Durand Scott, Trey McKinney Jones, and Julian Gamble, all graduated. But the biggest loss was easily Shane Larkin, who left early and is now on the Dallas Mavericks. Larkin was one of the two or three best point guards in America last year and arguably the best player in the ACC. He scored when they needed and got all of his teammates involved offensively, in addition to being a fantastic defender. Miami will clearly miss his presence.
Who is the player who needs to step up the most this year?
Tonye Jekiri is an athletic 7 footer who was a regular part of UM's rotation last year as a true freshman, albeit for just under 10 minutes per contest. Jekiri can really run the floor, and is a perfect anchor defensively. Word is he developed slight tendonitis from taking so many shots this off season. He has the athleticism and work ethic of a potential star. It will be interesting to see how much he developed his offensive game. But of the eligible players on the current roster, Jekiri is the most intriguing.
Who is the player UVa fans ought to look out for the most?
Besides Jekiri keep an eye on Manu LeComte. LeComete is a freshman point guard from Belgium with a sweet jumper and creative ball skills. We are not sure he is quite ready for the ACC defensively, but he is reminiscent of NC State's Tyler Lewis. Another freshman PG who could come in and make an immediate impact is Corn Elder. Problem is Elder is currently adding depth to Al Golden's defensive back field. If he can come in and get acclimated quickly, he might steal the show in January. Those who saw him play in high school, swear Miami has the steal of the class. Elder is a legit 4.4 guy on the gridiron who averaged 20ppg 5 apg and 4 steals a contest his senior year of H.S.
What's your outlook for the season? What's a success, what's a failure, and what's something you can live with?
The ACC is so very loaded this year, and Miami has so much to replace. Yet I feel like anywhere from 7th to 10th in the league is a possibility. Jekiri will need to be a presence on both ends. 6'7 JUCO transfer James Kelly will need to rebound. Someone will have to step at the point. Garrius Adams will need to stay healthy on the wing (or the point if Lecomte falters) and Rion Brown will need to shoot the ball more consistently. UM also has a pair of promising freshman guards in DeAndre Burnett and Davon Reed. The possibilities are intriguing. An NCAA tourney would be a success. But not making it would not be a failure, as long as the young guys develop and set the table for next year when that very good class will join Rodriguez and McClellan for what should be a very loaded squad.