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Men’s basketball is full of experience and ready to win

<p>Dalonte Brown attempts to win a tipoff against Buffalo&#x27;s Montrell McRae on March 1 at Millett Hall.</p>

Dalonte Brown attempts to win a tipoff against Buffalo's Montrell McRae on March 1 at Millett Hall.

“All of you, get up right now.”

It was 3 a.m. on a late July night when two Miami Naval ROTC sergeants barged into the film room in Millett Hall and yelled at the men’s basketball team to wake up.

The players rose and sleepily wandered out of the room toward the concourse.

“Run, run, faster,” the RedHawks were instructed as they trotted down to Yager Stadium.

By 3:15 a.m., they began a series of military-style workouts. They pushed and encouraged each other for hours, all in the hopes of building team chemistry and continuing to create a “winning culture” under head coach Jack Owens.

“That experience alone really brought us together,” senior forward Bam Bowman said. “I feel like it’ll make us more fun to watch ’cause we’re out there playing for each other and Miami.”

Since Owens arrived in 2017, he has attempted to instill a winning culture. He took over an 11-win team that had not made the NCAA Tournament in a decade. The RedHawks still haven’t earned entry into the annual March tourney, but they’ve upped their victory total to 16 and 15 in Owens’s two respective seasons.

“Before you can win, you have to establish a program with winning in every area,” Owens said. “That’s an area that I think, on and off the court, our guys are really brought in to playing for each other, playing the right way and playing hard.”

Now, Miami returns the same core group of players it has featured for the last two seasons. 

Bowman is the only senior. Juniors, Nike Sibande and Dalonte Brown, are back. Those three paced Miami in scoring a year ago, and it wasn’t even close. After missing all but five games last season, redshirt sophomore guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands is healthy.

All four of those players have been with Owens throughout his entire Miami tenure.

“I feel like we’re kind of in sync,” Coleman-Lands said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so we can highlight our strengths and kind of help manage our weaknesses.”

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The RedHawks bring back Mekhi Lairy, Milos Jovic, Precious Ayah, Eli McNamara, Michael Ritchie and Benjamin Litteken. Myja White is coming off a redshirt year. They recruited Javin Etzler and Dae Dae Grant, and added James Beck and Josh Brewer via transfer.

“This is the deepest we’ve been,” Owens said. “We just have to stay healthy. If we can do that and just continue to do that each practice, each game, we should be fun to watch, for sure.”

After two years of short-stretch brilliance mixed with growing pains, Owens is pushing his players to put it all together. 

That’s why he had them sleep in the film room and do ROTC workouts at 3 a.m. in July. That’s why Nike Sibande never went home to Indianapolis this summer, choosing to spend it working in the gym with the coaching staff. That’s why Owens stresses “winning the day” by improving every single practice.

Owens is hoping the winning culture carries over to the court. The RedHawks’ goal is to play in the NCAA Tournament.

“We haven’t won at a high level yet,” Owens said. “For us to think big picture, I just think we have to focus on winning the day and taking care of the day.”

Miami has its first chance to win the day over an opponent this Saturday against Wright State. The contest will tip off at 2 p.m. in Millett Hall and will air on ESPN3.