The 2017 Miami University Men’s Basketball season is the 118th for the RedHawks and marks the beginning of a new era.
Previous Purdue Boilermakers associate head coach for the past five years, Jack Owens was hired last March. In addition to Owens, the RedHawks hired former standout guard Damon Frierson. Along with Wally Szczerbiak, Frierson was a critical part of the Hawks’ 1998-1999 Sweet Sixteen run.
“I look forward to not only rebuilding this championship program, but also making this program one that all Miami alumni can be proud of,” Owens said in his introductory press conference.
During Owen’s tenure at Purdue, he was integral on the recruiting trail where he landed 6’ 8,’’ 250-lb power forward Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 2015 and was a McDonald’s All-American. At Purdue, he broke the school single season record for rebounds and averaged 18.5 points per game during his final season. Miami University can only hope that Coach Owens recruits similarly.
Owens replaced John Cooper who coached the ‘Hawks for the past five years — compiling an overall 59-100 record. After last season, it was time for a coaching change for the ’Hawks. Not only were they 11-21, but defense allowed an average of 74.5 points per game — the highest for the school since 1990.
Over this past offseason, two of the ‘Hawks’ top-three scorers, now sophomores Michael and Marcus Weathers transferred to Oklahoma State and Duquesne respectively. The current RedHawk squad will miss these two on offense and will experience growing pains during Owen’s first season.
However, there are bright spots on this team. Owens fielded five recruits over the past offseason. Nike Sibande, a 6’3,’’ 178-lb guard, averaged 22.0 points per game as a senior, leading his high school to an Indiana Class 3A championship this past year. Hopefully, Sibande can take an immediate leadership role on offense, filling the gap that Michael Weathers left.
The second standout recruit is Michael Ritchie, a gritty 6’5,187-lb point guard from Mount Prospect, Illinois. Ritchie was Owen’s final recruit, but this shouldn’t take away from the effect he will have on the team. During his senior campaign, he was strong from 3-point land, shooting 42 percent. Ritchie will undoubtedly pose a formidable threat to Mid-American Conference defenses from beyond the arc and will be a staple on RedHawk offense.
In addition to new recruits, it was recently announced that on at 6 a.m. on October 5 at Millett Hall there will be walk-on tryouts. A month later, the new RedHawks hope for a solid turnout to their first game against Maryville at 2 p.m. on November 5.