Archdeacon: Miami’s ‘Dancing Teddy Bear?’ ‘Oh, he’s nice’

OXFORD — So his mom was right after all.

Several years ago — back when he was well on his way to becoming the curiosity-piquing, 6-foot-8, 310-pound center of attention that he now is at Miami University — Anderson Mirambeaux was playing for the Dominican Republic’s U-16 national basketball team when a coach from the United States planted a seed:

His hoop dreams could happen if he played basketball in America.

Soon after that Mirambeaux said he got a scholarship offer to attend Redemption Christian Academy, a boarding school in Northfield, Mass.

“Me and my family talked about it, and we decided it would be best for me,” he said.

He had never been to the U.S. and said his only ideas of life in America came from TV shows and movies:

“I felt like it was a place where everything was nice. A place that was like a dream.”

Reality, it turned out, was a little different.

“The school was kind of in the middle of nowhere,” he said of Redemption, which is on the New Hampshire state line between Boston and Albany N.Y. “I didn’t know anybody there; didn’t have any friends and I didn’t speak any English. I tried to learn, but in class I didn’t understand what anybody was saying.”

“That first week was really horrible. I was mostly just quiet. I felt all alone and wanted to leave. And then when it got cold and the snow came, that’s when I hated it for real and wanted to go back home.

“I’d call my mom back in the D.R. and she’d always tell me: ‘Keep pushing. This is going to be good for you.’”

Mirambeaux did push on — transferring from Redemption Chrisian to Teays Valley Christian School in West Virgina, then playing two years at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas and spending a season of limited duty at Cleveland State — before coming to Miami last season and immediately being named team captain.

This season he leads the RedHawks in scoring – averaging 13.1 points per game – and Saturday he helped Miami rout Central Michigan, one of the Mid-American Conference’s best teams, 88-60, at Millett Hall.

A true curiosity piece on the court, Mirambeaux is one of the most surprising — and fun — players to watch in college basketball.

It’s because what you see isn’t what you get from the Dominican big man.

He looks like a football offensive lineman, a point that teammate Bradley Dean — who led Miami with 20 points off the bench Saturday — made afterward:

“Andy’s very unique. I haven’t seen many players his size have that kind of skill set and such good feet. In my opinion, I think he should be in the NFL and be an offensive lineman.”

But just when you start conjuring up images of Anthony Munoz and Joe Thomas, Mirambeaux throws in some Nureyev and Baryshnikov.

A year ago, Jack Schmelzinger, the sports editor of The Miami Student, put it best when he described Mirambeaux as “a bull in ballet shoes.”

After Saturday’s game, Miami head coach Travis Steele referred to his senior center — who finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three steals and several plays that came with some Harlem Globetrotter showmanship — a “Dancing Teddy Bear.”

Mirambeaux is a man of many monikers because he’s a player with many moves.

At the 11:58 mark of the first half — after he got the ball beneath the basket and used an Oscar-worthy double fake to send two CMU defenders jumping skyward for naught — Mirambeaux made the lay-up and was fouled by the Chippewas’ 6-10 Markus Harding.

Before he headed to the free throw line — where he also made his free toss — Mirambeaux stood in front of the cheerleaders and band and gave a double biceps pose like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Late in the first half, when he was double teamed beneath the basket, he flipped a perfect no-look, behind the back bounce pass to Bryce Bultman, who quickly flipped the ball out to Dean, who was beyond the arc and immediately buried one of his four three pointers in the game.

Later, there would be another no-look pass that produced a score and an up-and-under lay-up and then there was his three pointer from beyond the top of the key.

Just his 11th trey of the year, he celebrated it with a backwards, twinkle toes” two-step which was fodder for Steele’s “Dancing Teddy Bear” reference.

“I feel like I can shoot the ball from there, even though my percent (33.3 percent) might not say that,” Mirambeaux said with a smile. “And right then, I just felt good.”

Oppportunity at Miami

Growing up in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic capital, Mirambeaux said he started out as a baseball player — a catcher — but it soon became evident his real love was basketball:

“There was a court near where I lived, and I used to go over there every time I got done with baseball.”

Once he got to Teays Valley, northwest of Charleston, he started to blossom as a basketball player. Travis Tarr was his coach and he and his wife and their kids became his foster family. Mirambeaux said he lived with Travis’ parents.

He said in high school some people nicknamed him Big Baby, a reference to Glen “Big Baby” Davis, the LSU star who played with the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and L.A Clippers. At 289 pounds, he was smaller than Mirambeaux.

Although he led Teays Valley to a huge upset of national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy — which had two future NBA players in Cole Anthony and Cam Thomas — Mirambeaux said he got no Division I offers, and ended up at the Texas junior college, where he was named the team captain and averaged 13.4 points per game.

Cleveland State offered him a scholarship two seasons ago, but the Vikings had several veterans and Mirambeaux rarely played and averaged 1.5 points per game.

But Steele remembered him. He was an assistant at Xavier then and the Musketeers met CSU in the first round of the NIT.

Mirambeaux played just six minutes, but scored four points, grabbed two rebounds,and blocked a shot.

“I remember thinking, ‘’Who is THIS guy? He’s pretty good!’” Steele said.

When Mirambeaux entered the transfer portal in hopes of just finding a place to play, Miami — especially since Steele had added former Cleveland State coach Rob Summers to his staff — reached out.

“Coach Steele was transparent and I liked that,” Mirambeaux said. “He told me what he wanted from me and how I would get an opportunity.”

With a mostly new roster filled with young players Steele was looking for a leader and thought Mirambeaux could fill that role, especially if he didn’t fill his uniform quite as much as before.

He wanted Mirambeaux to lose some weight and that prompted a daily regimen of swimming, running, extra sessions on the treadmill and an altered diet.

Although it didn’t produce a miraculous makeover, it did cut 10 pounds.

RedHawks eyeing MAC tourney

“When I first got here, some people looked at me and said, ‘He can’t play,’” Mirambeaux said. “My first game here we played Evansville and some of them were like ‘He ain’t all that! He ain’t gonna do nothing!’”

Mirambeaux smiled at the memory: “Yeah, I ended up with 27 (points.)”

He had 22 of those points in the second half, made eight of 10 free throws, had eight rebounds and added a litany of jukes, fakes and fancy passes.

“Yeah, they looked at me afterward and said, ‘Oh, he’s nice!” he added quietly.

This season Mirambeaux, who recently won a starting role, has shared the post with 7-foot-1 freshman Reece Potter, who scored a career-high 20 points Saturday.

Miami is 13-14 and 7-7 in the MAC and tied for sixth place — with just the top eight teams going to the MAC Tournament in Cleveland.

Mirambeaux hopes the RedHawks make a splash in the postseason tournament and after that he wants to play professionally overseas.

After missing some early games this season to take care of his academic affairs, Mirambeaux said he will graduate in the spring.

“That’s the most important thing,” he said Saturday. “I’ll have a degree from a prestigious university.”

His parents have never seen him play a game in the U.S. and he said they aren’t able to watch his college games because ESPN+ doesn’t work for them down there.

“But I tape the games and send them to them. And I talk to my dad after every game. I tell him about the good things that are happening.”

And that’s why he should always ask his dad to hand the phone to his mom.

He needs to keep thanking her for being right all along.

This has been good for him.

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