By Ben Molnar and Chris Jones, For The Miami Student
The Miami University men’s basketball team begins the 2015-16 season Friday on the road against Xavier University.
John Cooper begins his fourth season as head coach of the program with an experienced squad that returns eight seniors.
The RedHawks finished fifth in the Mid-American Conference East last season and tenth in the MAC overall with a 13-19 mark (8-10 MAC).
The RedHawks were 205th in the country last year in scoring, averaging 66.3 points per game, 321st in rebounds per game, notching 30.8 a game, 248th in assists per game, with 11.7 per contest and 136th in field goal percentage, shooting 44 percent from the field.
Below is a positional breakdown for who Miami will place on the floor this year.
On a relatively young team, the backcourt is where the RedHawks get most of their age and experience.
Redshirt senior Eric Washington will lead the squad at point guard and is on pace to break into Miami’s top-10 career assist chart after just two seasons. Washington, who was named to the Mid-American Conference East Division Preseason Team, ranked 25th in the nation in assists last season, totaling 176 and averaging 5.5 per game. He led all Miami scorers with 455 points (14.2 per game).
Starting right beside Washington is 6-foot-3 redshirt senior Geovonie McKnight. McKnight started in all 32 games and averaged 10.5 ppg last season. Rounding out the senior guards is 6-foot-3 Willie Moore. Moore, who transferred from the University of Oregon two years ago, provides much-needed depth to a Miami team plagued with injuries. He averaged 7.3 ppg and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc last year.
Debuting with the RedHawks this season are 6-foot-5 sophomore Abdoulaye Harouna and 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore Dion Wade.
Harouna, a Niger native, started in all 34 games at the College of Southern Idaho last season and led the team in triples. While his style of play can sometimes be a bit raw, Harouna adds athleticism and a shot-making ability that will definitely be utilized this season.
Wade, a Belgium native and Auburn University transfer, finished with 15 points and was 4-for-6 from downtown in the exhibition game against Ohio Midwestern University last weekend. Miami will be deeper at the guard position if Wade’s recent performance is an indication of what to expect from him off the bench this year.
Although currently injured, redshirt sophomore Ali Barnes and sophomore Zach McCormick will add quality minutes off the bench. McCormick averaged 4.2 ppg and 19.5 mpg, while Barnes, a West Chester native, was forced to sit out last season after transferring from Concord University. The 6-foot-3 Otterbein University transfer Jake Bischoff is also injured. Bischoff averaged 15.1 ppg and started all 26 games for the Cardinals. When healthy, he’ll be called upon to contribute off the bench as well.
Forwards and Centers
The frontcourt is an area of concern for the RedHawks, as only one player averaged more than four points per game last season. Sophomore Logan McLane anchors an inexperienced group that needs to quickly replace a solid core of graduated seniors. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound McLane averaged 14.3 minutes on the floor last season, shooting 51 percent from the field and averaging four points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game.
Senior Kalif Wright adds age and size (6-foot-7, 235 lbs.), but not a whole lot of experience to the squad. Cooper plans to have him on the floor as much as possible this season. Wright played 9.5 minutes per game last season, shooting 41 percent from the field and averaging 2.9 points per game.
Senior Brian Oddo is the only other big man on the team who saw time last year, averaging 4.8 minutes and one point per game. Standing at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Oddo can expect to see more time on the court after being developed by Cooper and company for the last three years.
The 6-foot-8, 217-pound senior Chris Bryant adds depth to the frontcourt, as do sophomore Rod Mills and senior Jere Vucica. Mills, a 6-foot-7, 208-pound Cincinnati native and St. Xavier High School graduate, averaged 5.3 minutes and 1.5 points per game last season. Vucica, a Croatia native, played at the University of North Alabama for three years and will sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Rounding out the group is the 6-foot-10, 200-pound LJ Livingston. He didn’t appear in a game last season but may see some extended minutes this year.
The season opener against Xavier University tips off at 7 p.m. in Cincinnati, Ohio.