The Miami Hurricanes Women’s basketball team kicks off their 2020 campaign with a home-opener Wednesday against Jacksonville. Here’s a brief rundown on what to keep an eye on from this Canes team.
Although the recruiting class was smaller than usual, it possesses great talent that could be beneficial from day one.
Out of Olesa de Montserrat, Spain, Paula Fraile Ruiz adds the length and international experience desired in a collegiate athlete. The 6-foot-4 forward spent four seasons playing in the Liga Femenina 2 de Baloncesto. She also participated in the 2019 FIBA U18 Women’s European Championship, where she averaged 5 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Miami’s other addition is Nyayongah Gony, who’s listed as a four-star prospect by espnW HoopGurlz. Gony has been described as a “perimeter player” by head coach Katie Meier, thanks to her extreme versatility at 6-foot-2. Like everyone else on the roster, the Lincoln, Nebraska native will benefit from experience and advice from her teammates on and off the court.
Additionally, the team adds another overseas prospect in Naomi Mbandu, the rising junior who spent the past two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast State College. Like Ruiz, she holds international experience, having played for France at the 2019 FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship. The 6-foot, 1-inch forward notched 2.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in the tournament.
Back for her 16th season with Miami, head coach Katie Meier looks to bounce back from a sluggish 2019-20 season and continue making history.
Meier has an opportunity to garner her 10th 20-win season with Miami, along with her 12th postseason appearance, as she looks to bring back the streak that lasted from 2009-2019.
The Canes also bring back notable players like forward Destiny Harden. She, along with the rest of her teammates, hold the same mindset in bouncing back from an early ACC Tournament exit.
What I’m looking out for:
1.) Who will step up for Miami with senior guard Mykea Gray out for the season with an ACL injury?
The 5-foot-4 guard started in all 30 games last season, averaging 12.7 points. She was a lockdown defender, too, leading the ACC in steals per game (2.13), deserving of ACC All-Defensive Team honors.
2.) With the departure of Beatrice Mompremier to the WNBA Draft, just how dangerous is this Hurricanes team?
The Miami native is gone, and that leaves a hole in the paint. Mompremier, who’s now with the Connecticut Sun, averaged 16.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, an obvious necessity for the 15-15 (7-11 ACC) Canes last year.
Coach Meier has noted a more position-less style of play this year, and that could be because of the 6-foot-4 forwards departure.
3.) Will Miami’s road woes disappear?
The Hurricanes were a drastic 2-8 when they would play outside of the Watsco Center last season. However, at home, they were 12-7. It’ll be on coach Meier to up their record to build a strong resume come March.
The Hurricanes will play four non-conference matches before kicking off its Atlantic Coast Conference trail against Syracuse on Dec. 10 and finish things off Feb. 25 versus Wake Forest.
Notable games to look out for include Duke (Dec. 13), Notre Dame (Dec. 31), Clemson (Jan. 3), Florida State (Jan. 14) and Virginia Tech (Feb. 11).
Miami failed to take down the Blue Devils, Fighting Irish, Seminoles and Hokies last season, and fell to a sluggish Tigers team in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
Creating some momentum early on against these teams better prepares them for the road ahead, especially for the expectations coach Meier has in mind.
“I think that we need to break through the second weekend [and] third weekend in March,” she said. “That’s obviously something that we’re trying to do, but I think the 100 percent graduation rate and ten straight postseasons is pretty impressive.”