First-year coach Jack Owens and the Miami RedHawks open the 2017-18 season Friday night at Fordham.
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The RedHawks’ 15-player roster includes eight newcomers, one more than the number of holdovers from last season’s team, which also finished 11-21 overall and 4-14 in the Mid-American Conference, good for last in the six-team East Division. The newcomer count doesn’t include 6-foot-6, 228-pound redshirt-freshman forward Precious Ayah, who missed all of last season with an injury.
Owens, a former Purdue assistant, was learning that the mix has advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, he has plenty of clean slates with which to work and doesn’t have to worry as much about veterans having to shake off past practices and learn new ways. That hasn’t been a problem, Owens said.
“The guys are buying into the system,” he said. “I want to lay it on the line and build on that. We’re implementing the system. Getting them to buy in is good. The seniors have bought in.”
Miami lost its leading and third-leading scorer and 38 percent of last season’s scoring with the transfers of twin guards Michael and Marcus Weathers. Michael, named the MAC Freshman of the Year after leading the RedHawks with an average of 16.7 points per game, transferred to Oklahoma State, which also added Owens’ predecessor – John Cooper – as an assistant coach. Marcus transferred to Duquesne, which hired Keith Dambrot away from Akron to coach the Dukes.
Owens hopes that Miami’s offense will feature more balance. Logan McLane, a 6-9, 225-pound senior forward, is the Redhawks’ top returning scorer after averaging 11.8 points per game last season. McLane is one of four players who reached double figures in starts last season, joining 6-4, 202-pound redshirt-junior guard-forward Jake Wright, 6-5, 178-pound senior forward Abdoulaye Harouna and 6-7, 206-pound senior forward Rod Mills.
“Everybody will touch the ball,” he said. “Any different night, a different guy might lead us in scoring. We’ll have a lot of balance. If you’re open, take the shot. We’ll put guys in position to score and take what the defense gives us.”
Five of the newcomers are freshmen, three from Indiana, including 6-3, 178-pound guard Nike Sibande, who graduated from Crispus Attucks High School, the same school that produced Basketball Hall of Fame member Oscar Robertson.
Another Indiana native joining Miami is 6-2, 173-pound junior guard Darrian Ringo, a junior-college transfer who played at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School.
After opening the season vs. Fordham and Wright State, Miami travels to Montego Bay, Jamaica, to participate in the inaugural Jamaica Classic. The RedHawks will play Long Island University on Nov. 17 and Hartford on Nov. 19.
Miami’s non-conference schedule includes games at Missouri on Dec. 5, at DePaul on Dec. 21 and at Ohio State on Dec. 30 at noon.
The RedHawks are scheduled to open MAC play at Bowling Green on Jan. 2.
Miami was picked to again finish last in the MAC East Division in a pre-season poll of conference media observers.
“We’re ready,” Owens said. “You get to a point where you’re tired of going against each other. They’re itching to get going.”