The men’s basketball team underwent a total overhaul in the offseason, with the entire coaching staff and several players leaving the program. The fresh start has the Miami community feeling optimistic about this upcoming season and the team’s future.

“I think our guys are just excited to play,” head coach Jack Owens said. “Any time you start the year, you should have a lot of energy, expectations are great, but I do think we have some pieces in place to be successful this year.”

Former RedHawks’ head coach John Cooper was dismissed in March after finishing last season with an 11-21 record and going 59-100 overall in five seasons at the helm. Ex-Purdue associate head coach Owens was hired as his replacement.

A first-time head coach, Owens has 17 years of assistant coaching experience, including the last nine at Purdue.

He is widely viewed as an expert recruiter, having recruited NBA draft picks A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan to Purdue. He also helped the Boilermakers secure top-30 recruiting classes each of the last four years according to Rivals.com. This includes a top-15 class in 2013.

“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.

Owens hit the recruiting trail right away for Miami, grabbing five freshman commits — all of whom are projected to play big minutes for the RedHawks this upcoming season. Point guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands, shooting guards Jalen Adaway and Nike Sibande and forwards Dalonte Brown and Michael Ritchie are Miami’s newest additions.

Brown and Sibande are the two most heralded of of the group.

Hailing from Toledo, Ohio, Brown had an illustrious high school career at E.L. Bowsher High School. He reached the 1,000 career point club, and averaged a double-double and 22.1 points per game as a senior. He was ranked a three-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout.

The uniquely-named Nike Sibande is a two-star prospect from Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended Crispus Attucks High School and averaged 22 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a senior, leading his team to the Class 3A championship.

Miami also gained several transfers, including sophomore forward Bam Bowman and junior guards Darrian Ringo and Grant Pitman.

Coach Owens acknowledged that this season will be a learning process, especially for the newcomers.

“This is a journey,” Owens said. “With the new guys, they’ve just got to fall in line and do what we’ve been working on.”

Twin phenoms Michael and Marcus Weathers both transferred from Miami during the offseason. Michael led the RedHawks in scoring last season, while Marcus finished third on the team.

Even with those two departures, Miami returns several valuable upperclassmen. Senior forward Logan McLane led the team in rebounding last year, and finished second in scoring and blocks. Guards Jake Wright and Rod Mills Jr. look to provide some perimeter shooting for the ‘Hawks, while locking down opposing wings on defense. Other returners include senior guard Abdoulaye Harouna, sophomore center Darius Harper, sophomore guard Milos Jovic and redshirt freshman forward Precious Ayah.

The revamped RedHawks will open the regular season Friday at Fordham. After a one game return to Oxford, Miami will then head to Montego Bay, Jamaica to play in the Jamaica Classic tournament. The two tournament games against LIU Brooklyn and Hartford will be nationally broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

In the most anticipated non-conference matchup this season, MU will travel to Columbus on Dec. 30 to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

Three days later, conference play begins with an away game against Bowling Green.

The last noteworthy game occurs on March 2nd with the Battle of the Bricks. Miami hosts Ohio University to close out the regular season. And the Mid-American Conference Tournament begins on March 5th.

It will be a telling year for the basketball program. New head coach Owens will look to develop the talented core of freshman, while created a winning culture for the program.

While Miami has struggled on both sides of the ball in recent years, Owens will emphasize defense.

“We’re going to be tough and physical to make it difficult for opponents to run sets,” Owens said. “I’m a big scout guy and we want to use that to take things away from our opponents.”

The RedHawks shouldn’t be expected to make a substantial postseason run, but coach Owens feels that the possibility for success this season is there.

“I think if we can find the right mix of guy that can play together and play hard and do the things that talked about, we can put everything together and have a successful year,” Owens said. “But at the same time, it’s going to be a learning process for everyone.

Look for the ‘Hawks to lean on the freshmen recruits early and often this season. There will be plenty of ulcer-inducing growing pains, but the youngsters are too talented to keep off the court. The experience will prove to be vital if the Miami want to play deep into March over the next few years.

The projections for this season aren’t high, but the RedHawks will look to take people by surprise starting Friday at 7 p.m.

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