Don’t look now but Miami is starting to slowly become a basketball town instead of the football city that most of the residents have grown to see.
With the success of the Miami Heat and the failures of the Miami Dolphins during the last decade, it’s been easy to see why more people are starting to gravitate towards the hardwood instead of the football field. Another basketball team locally that everyone should start getting ready to root for is the Miami Hurricanes. This year the Miami Hurricanes have a team that is just as good as the 2013 Miami Hurricanes. Yes, this team is just as talented as that same Hurricanes team ended up finishing with a 29-7 record, finishing first in the ACC, that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and finished with a Regional Semifinal appearance in the NCAA’s to cap off the season.
It’s early, but the proof is in the pudding. This team is underrated and everyone’s on their way to getting to know it.
The Hurricanes started off the year without a ranking next to their name. Last year Miami went 25-13 and lost 66-64 in overtime in the National Invitational Tournament championship game to Stanford. It was a surprise Miami wasn’t ranked especially because they returned most of their major players. Miami took out all of their anger and animosity towards their opponents in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. They faced against No. 16 Utah and everyone thought that they would get rolled. However, they played more aggressively and they easily destroyed No. 16 Utah 90-66.
On their team there is no more important player than Sheldon McClellan. The senior shooting guard said this speaking about his team not being ranked to begin the year.
“We’re not really caught up in what people want to rank us and things like that. We’re taking each game one at a time and just being aggressive on both ends of the court” said McClellan.
Against Utah, the senior McClellan had himself a field day and scored 27 points en route to a Miami drubbing. McClellan is playing in his last year of college basketball and he’ll have to prove to NBA scouts that he too is an NBA caliber player.
In addition to McClellan, the Hurricanes have another senior on the perimeter in Angel Rodriguez who also is an NBA caliber guard. Rodriguez is best known for scoring in the biggest moments and performing when the stakes are the highest. In the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off the native Puerto Rican had a team-high 19 points and shot lights out going 6-of-10 from the floor, 3-of-6 from the three-point line and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
Additionally, another guard people should know is the wildcard of the team, sophomore Ja’Quan Newton. The backup point guard has all of the talent in the world to start but coming off of the bench in an auxiliary role will only help keep the defense on their heels. Newton had an excellent game off of the bench and finished with 17 points, one rebound, three assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 23 minutes of game time.
However, if the Hurricanes want to continue to win this season then they will need a huge year from Tonye Jekiri. The senior from Hialeah, Florida is averaging a double-double in his final season in Coral Gables and looks like he’s taken the next step with his game. Currently, Jekiri is shooting a career-high 59% from the floor and he’s also averaging 81% from the charity stripe. If Miami can have a low-post double-double machine than their interior will be just as strong as their perimeter.
With winning the tournament, the Hurricanes have started the season with a 5-0 record and they are ranked No. 1 in the ACC. With programs such as Duke who are boasting a bunch of freshman and underclassmen on their roster, Miami already has the upper hand because they have a more veteran-laden roster.
Sometimes even Top 25 polls get it wrong. Luckily for Miami they won’t have to worry about being underrated because as long as they continue to win their ranking will soon follow.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter@DJoumbarey.