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Miami men’s basketball builds solid foundation in preparation for the MAC tournament

Reece Potter's height gives him a significant advantage, but his speed and mobility is also a huge asset for the team
Reece Potter's height gives him a significant advantage, but his speed and mobility is also a huge asset for the team

The Miami University RedHawks men’s basketball team have landed the No. 7 seed in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament. They head to Cleveland to face the No. 2 Akron University Zips in the quarterfinals on March 14. 

The season has had its ups and downs. From injuries and tough losses to gratifying wins, the RedHawks made the best of a rough start and learned from every game. 

In his second season with the RedHawks, head coach Travis Steele said this year has been going very well for the team.

“Obviously you always want more, but I think it's been good growth from where we were,” Steele said. “Last year, year one to year two, we've gotten much better.”

Graduate student wing and captain Darweshi Hunter transferred to Miami last spring. He said this season has been all about improving from last year’s 12-20 record.

“I think [this] season went well,” Hunter said. “Right now, we are on an upward trajectory. We have everything ahead of us.” 

For Hunter, a big part of the team’s success is everyone stepping into a leadership role and contributing their fair share to the program.

“Everyone talks, everyone leads in a different way on this team,” Hunter said. “I think we all lead in some way.”

Miami’s roster includes eight first-years (one redshirt), three sophomores, two juniors, one senior and two graduate students. Despite the team’s youth, Steele expressed his pride in their maturity. Even though many of them just got here, he feels that they represent love and honor.

Young teams face some particular challenges, especially with a lot of the upperclassmen being transfers. Only five players from last year returned, meaning 11 of the 16 teammates are new to Miami this year. 

For Steele, one of the challenges is the unexpectedness they face each game. 

“We can be great one game and the next game, not so great, and then look great again,” Steele said.

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However, the team’s youth also has positives. This young roster has a lot of potential that will keep growing and maturing over the next few years.

As the team heads into the postseason, many of the newest players have already left an impression on the team as a whole.

One player to look out for is first-year Reece Potter, the seven-foot-one guard who started off this year injured. Missing eight games and two months of practice is extremely hard for a first-year, but he has bounced back and really shown his resilience this season. 

Across 25 games, Potter has put up 152 points, 76 rebounds, 27 assists and 12 blocks. His height gives him a significant advantage, but his speed and mobility is also a huge asset for the team, Steele says. 

First-year guard Evan Ipsaro has also had a stand-out season in Steele’s eyes. 

“He just has that ‘it factor,’” Steele said. “It's weird, because I didn't realize it until the games, and then all of a sudden … You just felt him. He was grabbing guys in huddles, and you can't teach that, only certain guys have that.”

Across 28 games, Ipsaro contributed 187 points, 55 rebounds and 75 assists, third-highest on the roster.

Another first-year that fans should keep an eye out for is wing Eian Elmer, who is fourth on the team in points (218). Across 31 games, he has also put up 135 rebounds and 29 steals. He put up a season-high 23 points against Eastern Michigan University in January, the most in one game by any player on the team.

Despite the challenges faced this season, the RedHawks have grown from its mistakes and have come together to put out some really great wins. Steele attributes this all to their mindset.

“Our biggest opponent is ourselves,” Steele said. “Just having the right mindset. I think nowadays people are just thinking about … whatever's next. They're just worrying about that, [rather than] just being focused solely on the task, which is now, for us, our next game.”

Both Hunter and Steele expressed the same goal going into the MAC championship: hanging a banner up in Millett. Their hopes for the postseason are high and if they keep playing as a team and building on their chemistry, hopefully we will see a new banner up in Millett this spring.