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Rising RedHawks: A season of promise for Miami men’s basketball

Anderson Mirambeaux was second on the RedHawks in scoring with 293 (12.7 per game), earning him honorable mention all-MAC honors.
Anderson Mirambeaux was second on the RedHawks in scoring with 293 (12.7 per game), earning him honorable mention all-MAC honors.

The Miami University RedHawks men’s basketball team finished the 2023-24 season last month with a 15-17 overall record (9-10 in MAC play), good for seventh in the conference. 

A preseason poll had Miami finishing sixth in the conference this year after their 12-20 campaign in the 2022-23 season. However, the team still had its sights on a MAC championship.

“Expectation-wise, for us, we are always going into the year with the goal to win the MAC championship and make it to the NCAA tournament,” Assistant Coach Jonathan Holmes said. “That’s the expectation level, especially when you think about the history of this program. That’s our motivation and our goal every year.”

After losing nine players last year to the transfer portal and graduation, including star guard and lead-scorer Mekhi Lairy, the RedHawks’ roster was young this season. With seven first year students making up the 15-man roster and three new transfers, there was bound to be some bumps in the road.

For Holmes, having a new and young roster is a common issue in basketball.

“We had a lot of new guys, some younger, some older from the portal, and also our returning guys, so we kind of had a mixture of some youth and experience, but that’s college basketball,” Holmes said.

The season started off slow, with Miami dropping six of their first 10 games, including an 84-64 loss to The Ohio State University Buckeyes.

However, the RedHawks bounced back, going 4-2 over their next six games. 

A key win over the Kent State University Golden Flashes and a thrilling victory over the University of Akron Zips put the team over .500 for the first time on the season at 11-10 overall, before they would hit another three-game skid, including a 78-69 loss to the Ohio University Bobcats in the “Battle of the Bricks” in Athens.

Miami won four of their next five, including a dominant 88-60 win over the Central Michigan University Chippewas, before dropping their final two regular season games against the University of Toledo Rockets and once again to the Bobcats.

The season drew to a close in the opening round of the MAC tournament against Akron, with the Zips coming out on top 75-63. 

Despite not making a deep postseason push, the RedHawks feel positively about their performance this year. Holmes acknowledged that the youth of the roster and the new coaching staff showed strong promise this year. 

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“… I do think we made some significant progress in year two as a team and program, which is really exciting, and that should give us a pretty good springboard into year three,” Holmes said.

On offense, senior guard Darweshi Hunter and senior center Anderson Mirambeaux led the RedHawks in scoring with 380 (11.9 per game) and 293 (12.7 per game) respectively. Both players earned honorable mention all-MAC honors. 

Senior forward Bryce Bultman led the team in rebounds with 153 (4.8 per game), and first-year guard Mekhi Cooper led the team in assists with 81 (2.6 per game).

Photo by Kethan Babu | The Miami Student
Mekhi Cooper led the team in assists with 81 and played the third most minutes at 775

As a team, Miami averaged 70.6 points, 33.1 rebounds, 14.4 assists, 6.3 steals, 3.1 blocks and 11.7 turnovers per game. The team shot 44.3% overall, 70.6% from the free throw line and 36.1% from three.

The first-years played a crucial role in the RedHawks’ success. Cooper and guard Evan Ipsaro played the third and fourth most minutes respectively (775 and 704), both averaging over 20 minutes on the court each game. Ipsaro made the second-most free throws on the team (60) and had the third-most assists at 75.

For Ipsaro, increased speed characterized his transition into college basketball. When Ipsaro gets the ball, he knows that he only has seconds to make a decision.

“Confidence in my shooting was probably my biggest improvement,” Ipsaro said. “Just catching to shoot, not catching to pass for others, because a lot of times in college basketball, if you get one good shot that’s probably the best one you’re gonna get. A big part of that was also maintaining my composure.”

First-year guard Eian Elmer also made his presence felt with 223 points, fifth-most on the team and first among first-years. He was named to the MAC All-Freshman Team after averaging seven points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Elmer was also fifth in the entire conference in field goal percentage (52.8%).

Photo by Kethan Babu | The Miami Student
Eian Elmer (left) made his presence felt with 223 points, fifth-most on the team and first among first-years

For Elmer, the transition  into college ball wasn’t always smooth.

“The transition was actually a lot harder than people may think,” Elmer said. “Going into the summer, there was a point where I thought I probably wasn’t even going to play, so even starting is something I’m very grateful for, but overall it was a hard transition for me because it’s a whole new system, and the game is a lot faster than it is in high school.”

Elmer also learned about the importance of taking care of himself off the court.

“The biggest change to my approach was just taking better care of my body, because there’s a lot more practice and games than in high school along with higher intensity, so also being more devoted to the game and my body was important.”

Ipsaro added on the different approaches one must take from high school basketball to college basketball.

“In high school, basketball was still the number one thing that I put all my time into,” Ipsaro said. “But when you come to college, instead of just putting in two to three hours [of practice] a day like in high school, here you probably put in four to six hours a day, but they’re way more precise, like you have to do it exactly how they are telling you to do it, and attention to detail is a big piece of that.”

Also contributing amongst the first-years was Reece Potter. The 7-foot-1-inch center was fourth on the team in blocks (21), fourth in offensive rebounds (22) and third in three-point percentage (45.5%) while contributing 156 points. 

The performance from the first-years was a major key to the team’s success, and they were able to show up in big games when they were needed.

“With their maturity and their talent level, [the first-years] were able to come in and bring a lot to our team, not just from a talent perspective, but also their energy and being two-way players,” Holmes said. “If you look at some of our best wins this year, our freshmen guys were a big part of those.” 

As of now, the RedHawks have lost three players to the transfer portal: Dean, Morris and sophomore guard Ryan Mabrey. However, they are gaining two new first-years in guard Luke Skaljac from Brecksville, Ohio, and forward Brant Byers from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

The RedHawks also gained former Xavier University Musketeer Kam Craft from the transfer portal. Craft is a former four-star recruit out of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, who ranked 65th in the 2022 class.

With the RedHawks’ young team gaining more experience, as well as the improvements shown this past year, Miami is looking for improvements over the coming years.