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An early who to watch for Miami basketball this season

<p>Senior guard Mekhi Lairy guards Akron&#x27;s Xavier Castaneda during Miami&#x27;s Feb. 6 loss to Akron.</p>

Senior guard Mekhi Lairy guards Akron's Xavier Castaneda during Miami's Feb. 6 loss to Akron.

What to Expect this Season 

Last season the Redhawks proved to be competitive in non-conference games going 6-6. Some notable matchups: Miami University fell short to Cincinnati on Dec. 1 at Millett Hall in the final seconds 59-58. They also had a standout performance against Georgia Tech on Nov. 9, winning 72-69. 

Conference play proved a little more difficult. Miami concluded the regular season with a mark of 8-12, before suffering a First Round elimination in the MAC tournament at the hands of Kent State 85-75. 

Hope is on the horizon this season, as the Redhawks return seven players who will combine with seven new recruits to form what we all hope will be a championship ball club this winter. Our Redhawks open up the season with 11 non-conference matchups. 

Some exciting opponents include Georgia on Nov. 14, Indiana on Nov. 20, and Cincinnati Dec. 14. All three of those games are away. The Redhawks start conference play on Jan. 3, traveling to Central Michigan. Their home opener at Millet Arena is Nov. 7 against Evansville.

New Additions

Head Coach Travis Steele enters his first season at Miami. 

He was the former head coach at Xavier University with a final mark of 70-50, proving that he knows how to develop a competitive team and successful program. You can expect Steele to bring a new type of energy to this young team. 

“Number one is we compete at every moment. Number two we carry our brother, which is being invested in your teammates both on and off the court,” Steele said at his first press conference. “Third one is we embody undeniable confidence, which is having swagger, having that belief. And the fourth thing is strive for magus, which is basically striving for more, constantly having that growth mindset.” 

After being hired in early April, Steele wasted no time bringing in seven new players. The new signees are Mitchell Rylee, Billy Smith, Ryan Mabrey, and Jaquel Morris. Miami also acquired Anderson Mirambeaux, Julian Lewis and Morgan Safford through the transfer portal. 

Steele brings a different style of play to the table compared to his predecessor at Miami. His philosophy focuses on unselfish play, and during his time at Xavier he was a firm believer in man defense. Likely, we will see the same philosophies come through this season. It will be exciting to see how this new team comes together considering the short time frame for Steele and the new recruits to find their collective identity.  Many are optimistic this new brand of Miami basketball will result in a deeper run in the MAC tournament behind Steele. 

Returning Playmakers

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Fifth-year guard Mekhi Lairy

Mekhi Lairy is the player to watch this year for the Redhawks. 

Lairy is returning with most minutes played from last season. Some of his most memorable performances last season include: a season high in points with 28 against Buffalo, and tallying 4 steals in a game twice versus Akron and then Central Michigan. Lairy will likely be leaned on again this season after leading last year’s Miami team on both ends of the floor in steals with 40, in addition to handing out 109 assists and putting up 435 points.

Junior forward Kamari Williams

Kamari Williams played a significant amount of minutes last season, starting 9 games as a sophomore. He went 80% from the free throw line going 26 of 32. 

Expect to see Williams maximize his potential with Steele’s new offense. Steele’s unselfish ideology of constant ball movement should allow widespread scoring opportunities and more shot attempts. This will lead to more attempts at the charity stripe, which is where Williams thrives. 

Watch out for this Recruit

First-year Mitchell Rylee was a standout player in high school. 

Mitchell attended Covington Catholic and led them to a 24-4 record and a District Championship. He averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds while achieving All-State Honors. I expect the 6 foot 8 center to grow into a reliable role player for Miami throughout the next few seasons.