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Catching Up with Coach - Part 2

Catching Up with Coach - Part 2

Nov. 8, 2006

Prior to the start of the 2006-07 season head coach Katie Meier sat down with to talk about the upcoming year. In the second installment of this two-part series, Coach Meier talks about the Hurricane roster. (HS): Amy Audibert is one of only two seniors on this team and considering fellow classmate Renee Taylor, who was a junior college transfer, has only been at UM for one season, has been at Miami longer than anyone else on the roster. That being said Audibert, who was named a team captain, is also arguably the biggest Hurricane fan team and truly loves being part of the “U.” How important is it to have a player who is as passionate about UM as Audibert is?

Katie Meier (KM): “Amy hasn’t had the amount of playing time that she has craved and she still remains a significant leader on this team. She’s still a strong voice in the huddle. She’s the one telling everyone the right way to do things and really helping the coaches when we have to make tough decisions. I think that for the rest of her life she is going to be proud she played basketball here. Unfortunately, these days that type of player is really rare. I definitely celebrate her in our program and honor her in her commitment to the program.”

HS: Considering she is only 5-foot-2, Renee Taylor is arguably one the best inch-for-inch players in the NCAA. Last season, her first at UM after transferring from Monroe Community College (N.Y.), she wasted little time making a name for her and with the departure of Tamara James, will be the focal point of most opponents this season. How well do you think she will step up the challenge of being a leader on this team?

KM: “When I talked about the improvement of our players you can look at someone like Renee. She scored more in ACC play, the best conference in America, than she did in junior college. You know at first she wanted to be a good point guard and then eventually when she understood what that took, she felt comfortable and became the scorer that she is naturally. Now a lot of those road blocks of calling the system and all of that are out of her way, I think she does open up her scoring. Obviously, last season if people had their choice, they would guard Tamara first and Renee second. This year she’s going to have another challenge and that’s why I think we need to have a second and third scoring option early to take some of the pressure off Renee. As far as style of play for Renee, this is the right system for her. The way we are playing, our mentality, really showcases her skills. She’s seeing the little things that I didn’t even bother to show her last year because it would have been too much information. I don’t think there is another first year player in the league that did as much for their team as Renee did. I do believe she was underrated last year. I don’t know that we would have won an ACC game last year without Renee.”

HS: Speaking of Monroe Community College, Taylor will be joined in the backcourt this season by former MCC teammate Maurita Reid, a 2006 NJCAA All-American who chose to come to UM over some of the top programs in the country. For fans that aren’t familiar with Reid, what kind of player she is?

KM: “I’ve never coached a player that doesn’t think about scoring, but can score as much she does. It’s not her number one agenda, not the thing she sets out to do. She just can do it. Sometimes you have to remind her that she should score more. She has one of the quickest first steps, to the point where I do get stunned by it. Yet, she can extend her range to 25 feet, beyond the three-pointer. She brings a lot of dynamic options to our offense and I think some of that perimeter shooting that we lost with Katie and Melissa.”

HS: Do you think the success both she and Taylor – combined the pair led MCC to three-straight NJCAA National Championships – had has former teammates has been rekindled at UM?

KM: “I don’t think we will know how special that combination is until our first game. I believe no matter what I see in practice, when it comes down to a big time game and us needing to win, those two have an incredible will to win and they play off each other very well. Neither one of them will let the other take a possession off. I think that will really emerge when it comes time to compete.”

HS: We’ve heard several players mention that freshman Charmaine Clark could be one of the biggest surprise players of the season. Potentially, what does she bring to the court that fans will soon find out?

KM: “I am really excited about Charmaine. I think it’s a great story how she bounced around a little bit with the military, and kind of never was consistent with her high school team, and her AAU team changed and moved. She was a real good find for us. She is a nice swing player and can play some perimeter and some post. She can fill a crucial role on our team. I think in the way that Tamara was able to score from a lot of different spots on the floor, Charmaine can do that as well. Not comparing her to Tamara in any way, but that part in our system. That middle of the floor scoring area for Charmaine is real good and she is really a good finisher around the basket. She’s one of the better finishers on our team. She has a good body and she will have a nice place with the team.”

HS: As a player who saw significant time as a starter during her freshman season and was one of the first options off the bench last season averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, Albrey Grimsley looks to have a breakout season in 2006-07. On athleticism alone, she could be one of the best players on this team, but what are some of the things she does well as a basketball player that could lead to a successful season?

KM: “What Albrey has really done is looked around at this team and realized she is the most experienced member on this team by far. That puts her in a different role with some people. I think Albreyy has been in the situation where she was a significant player as a freshman but wasn’t in a leadership role. She had great upperclassmen last year, and this year she really looks like she knows that to be good for us she needs to step up into a leadership role. Albrey is one of the smartest basketball players I’ve coached. She has a great basketball mind and she is wonderful with the scouting reports, makes great adjustments, and really talks basketball. From a coach’s point of view, we are as excited about Albrey this offseason as anybody.”

HS: LaToya Cunningham was another player who saw a lot of minutes behind a lineup full of experience seniors last season. Despite being a freshman, she proved to be a very reliable asset in the backcourt defensively and had the best assists-to-turnover ratio (1.3) on the team. After working on her offense game in the off-season, what can we expect from her this season?

KM: “LaToya is the pulse of this program and really represents us well. She had a tremendous opportunity last year playing about 20 minutes per game as a freshman. Given that role, she grew into it, and I don’t think that it is something she was ready to do when she first got here. She wasn’t ready to share the point guard but that was the opportunity she was given, but obviously that was her role so she took it. She is a very opportunistic player. She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and keeps herself on the floor. She is one of the best ball pressure defenders that we have. She’s small, quick and her mid-range pull up game is money for us. I think Toya always finds a way and that is what I would like to think about teams that I coach.”

HS: Like Clark, Eboni Sadler is another gifted freshman wing. What are some of the things that she brings to the team?

KM: “It is very rare that you find such a pretty shooter, a beautiful jump shot in somebody who is capable of being such a lockdown defender. She has such athleticism getting up to the rim at 5-foot-9. I always say that if you can shoot the three and you can defend, you are going to get the time for me. Those are two things that you don’t usually find in one player. A lot of times shooters are not great defenders. I think that I am really impressed with that and we really need her perimeter defense. She is a fun combination for a coach.”

HS: Eboni Sadler, who hails from Miami, became your first big South Florida signee. How important is it to attract the local talent in South Florida, which has produced some of the country’s best players, to UM?

KM: “I think that was a really important sign for us. If Eboni lived in Kansas we still would have recruited her but I just think it was more important for Eboni to make the statement that we are going to start a new era down here. She is going to be a part of that. I still believe that kids in South Florida grew up wanting to be Hurricanes and we’re going to give them reason to continue to want to be a Hurricane.”

HS: Last season Brittany Denson, who averaged 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, stepped into the starting lineup and was poised to have an All-Freshman-type season before going down with a knee injury. Considering the rehab, how much better has she gotten and what can we expect from her this season?

KM: “I think Brittany had a tremendous freshman year and that knee injury was as damaging to the season as anything that could have happened. We just didn’t cry about it in the papers. It was one of those things where internally we all knew what that did to the team. However, that didn’t stop our progress. In saying that, I think Brittany’s approach to the game is incredibly different now. Having her on the sidelines for the crucial stretch in the ACC and having that burning desire to be out there has really helped. I think she is ferocious; she always had that warrior mentality. She is a player in the huddle that has that confidence saying `we’ve got this, we’ve got this.’ I think that she’s come back so determined and so quickly from that injury. That it is all her desire to be good. Her balance is better and her footwork is better. A lot of the rehab stuff helped her game. She is in a lot more control of her body.”

HS: Carla Williams, a Broward Community College transfer, is another individual who the players on the team believe could be a major impact. Tell us about her game.

KM: “Carla is a very raw player in a very complimentary way. She hasn’t been playing basketball for a very long time, but she has really incredible ball skills, a nice touch and is very athletic. As a coach, when your 6-foot-4 post player is winning sprints, you feel like your in pretty good shape. She is very determined to run he floor. Her lateral movement is very impressive. We think those qualities are pretty important in our style of play. What she also brings is a lot of maturity. She and the team know that she is going to need a lot of extra work, but her demeanor is one of confidence. She gives off this feel of experience and the players really respect that.”

HS: Kathryn Hester gives the team another physical body down in the post. What do you see her role being on this team?

KM: “Kat is a very skilled player. She can trail the post, get to the block, and really extends the court with her outlet passes. She has really good range and can hit the three pretty well. She is one of our better passers. She what I love in a post player; she has really good ball skills and has good footwork. She will be one of those players who will help the flow of the game. She doesn’t shy away from contact.”

Miami opens the season and with a two-game home stand against Georgia State (Nov. 10) and 2006 NCAA Tournament participant Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Nov. 13).

Season ticket packages for the 2006-07 season start at just $75 dollars and include admission to all 15 home games. Fans can also purchase the Family Plan and receive admission to all home games for two adults and three children for just $100 dollars