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Above the rim: The sky's the limit for 7-foot-1 first-year Reece Potter

<p>Reece Potter is one of the tallest players in college basketball.</p>

Reece Potter is one of the tallest players in college basketball.

The Miami University men’s basketball team was in dire need of players after the 2022-23 basketball season. Only five guys returned to play from last year: Julian Lewis, Ryan Mabrey, Anderson Mirambeaux, Jaquel Morris and walk-on Eli Yofan. With many positions left empty, head coach Travis Steele recruited several players in the transfer portal as well as five first-years, including center Reece Potter. 

Standing at 7-foot-1, Potter is the tallest player on the RedHawks, and one of the tallest players in college basketball. At his height, Steele expects him to hold the team up defensively and stretch the court to cover shots. 

“Reece is an awesome young man,” Steele said. “When I got the job here, he became my number one target in that Class of 2023.”

Going into high school at Lexington Catholic in Kentucky, Potter was hesitant to commit to basketball. He split his time between baseball in the spring and basketball in the winter. Once he hit his growth spurt his sophomore year, the choice was made for him. 

Potter’s initial plan was to commit to Xavier University, where Steele coached before coming to Miami in 2022. When Steele left Xavier, Potter followed.

“I’ve always had a close relationship with Coach Steele,” Potter said. “He’s probably the coach that I’ve known the longest and was able to get the best relationship with. He took the job here, and he told me to come up here.”

Steele knew Potter through a friend who coached him in high school. Having known him for almost three years, Steele knows that Potter can be a great asset to Miami on and off the court. 

“He loves ball,” Steele said. “I think it’s hard a lot of times to find guys at his size that actually love basketball. Some guys just play because they’re tall. He loves it.”

Steele knew how to fit Potter into his schemes, having worked with Xavier players Jack Nunge (7-foot) and Zach Hankins (6-foot-11), who both now play basketball professionally overseas.

Potter can easily guard the rim with his height alone. However, Potter also uses his speed to cover the whole court, playing like a guard instead of a center sometimes. Many players at his height are lacking in speed and balance. Potter acknowledges that his height is one of his greatest strengths, but that it can just as easily be a detriment.

“Until [San Antonio Spurs’ 7-foot-5 Victor] Wemanyama came to the league, I used to think that some people were too big for the pro level,” Potter said. “They’ll dominate in college, but the game speeds up, and they’re not fast enough. I was uncoordinated in high school. I kept working on those skills and trying to get stronger.”

Potter joins sophomore Jaquel Morris (6-foot-8) as the team’s other big man, until Mirambeaux returns from an indefinite absence. Last year, Morris had the second-most blocks on the team (28) and the fifth-most rebounds (76). 

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With the addition of Potter, Steele has more flexibility in his schemes. He agrees with Potter that his speed is his second greatest asset besides his extraordinary height. 

“With his IQ and his skill level, he picks up things real quick,” Steele said. “He gives us great rim protection, but he’s mobile enough to get out on the perimeter and guard a little bit. He can play all over the floor.”

After a disappointing 2022 season that ended with a loss in the first round of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship, the RedHawks are looking to bounce back and turn the program around. However, with a group of mostly young players and newcomers, Steele faces a challenging season ahead of him.

“I’m obsessed with trajectory, not necessarily the result,” Steele said. “I think we got a chance to be a really good team at the end of the day. We have a really hard schedule, but it’ll give us learning opportunities and growth opportunities to prepare us to win the league.”

Steele said that Potter led the team in scoring at the preseason scrimmages in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Potter is currently recovering from a back injury, but he’s expected to make an appearance early in the season. However, Steele is more concerned with Potter’s long-term. Over the next four years, he expects Potter to get 1% better every day, a sentiment he shares with every RedHawk. 

“The sky’s the limit for Reece,” Steele said. “His talent doesn’t mean that he won’t ever go through some valleys, especially early on as a freshman. It’s where he’s going to be in two months, where he’s going to be in a year that I know he’ll be really, really good. The worst thing that a coach can do is put a ceiling on a player.”