As we've written about before, the Miami RedHawks have had considerable roster turnover in the first two years under coach John Cooper. Part of that was intentional -- running off malcontents such as Allen Roberts -- and part of it was the natural change that happens when a new coach takes over a program. (And part of it was players seeing the writing on the wall about their chance at playing time.)
As a result of all this upheval, Miami had four scholarships to play with this offseason -- and a dire need for post players, with Will Felder, the team's only real post presence, lost to graduation.
So what did John Cooper do? Filled those spots with three forwards and a guard.
Although he's best known to the country as a YouTube sensation, Zach McCormick has another feather in his cap: according to several recruiting services, he's the top guard prospect in all of Ohio in 2014. This is the first time I can remember Miami landing the top anything in Ohio since Juby Johnson and Chet Mason, who split Mr. Basketball honors in 2000, and it really shows John Cooper's recruiting prowess.
McCormick chose Miami over a raft of mid-major offers, including Kent State, Ohio, Akron, Toledo, and Buffalo, and over Sweet 16 participant Tennessee. He was especially high on Cooper and assistant Trey Meyer, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer that he "always loved the coaching staff" and was "able to trust them." The experience of former Miami football players and fellow Turpin products Luke Kelly and Andy Cruse also helped McCormick to make his decision.
Logan McLane is a story of how injuries can affect recruiting. Before tearing his ACL as a junior, he was getting heavy interest from high-major programs. That mostly evaporated with his injury, but McLane was nonetheless one of the top power forward recruits in North Carolina, a place where they know their basketball.
He chose Miami over roughly 15 other offers, including the Big East's Seton Hall, mid-major powerhouse St. Louis, and Toledo. As with McCormick, McLane developed a close bond with the coaching staff, which has had an eye on him for several years.
Roderick Mills, a St. Xavier product, is Miami's first commit from the Greater Catholic League since the days of Josh Hausfeld and Monty St. Clair. He was drawn to the style of basketball Miami plays, the school's proximity to home, and Miami's top-notch business program. Because St. X was so senior-laden his junior year, Mills didn't see much playing time, and he flew under the radar as a result.
But in his own senior season, it was his time to shine, as Mills led the GCL in scoring (averaging over 20 points per game) and finished fourth in rebounding (at 6.7 boards per game). He committed to Miami over confirmed offers from Kennesaw State, Wright State, and Brown, as well as rumored offers from Princeton, Bucknell, Belmont, Kent State, and Toledo.
You may see that Kalif Wright is from Oak Hill and think to yourself, "Wow! Miami got a kid from Oak Hill? The school that produced Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, and Jerry Stackhouse?" And you would be wrong, for Kalif Wright is from Oak Hill, West Virginia, not Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
Wright's Oak Hill is most famous as the town where Hank Williams died. But famous or not, Miami seems to have gotten a steal in Wright, a JUCO who originally committed to Hampton out of high school before attending Kilgore College in Texas instead. He averaged 10 and 5 a game for the No. 3 junior college program in the country, which made it to the semis of the NJCAA tournament before losing. Wright chose Miami over a number of other mid-major programs, including Cleveland State and Bradley.
Evaluating the Class
Miami needs an inside presence, and it needs one now, especially with Bill Edwards' possible return up in the air. Wright should be able to provide solid minutes in the post, and his experience playing against top-flight JUCO competition bodes well for his ability to contribute immediately in the MAC. McLane also figures to see significant minutes if he proves he has the talent, as his athleticism makes him a perfect combination of wing and power forward for Cooper's system.
Mills will be more of a project player. He didn't really come into his own until his senior year in high school, and he's still getting used to his body after a sizable growth spurt. But if the staff shows the same talent developing him that it has developing Miami's guards, he may become a force to be reckoned with.
McCormick is the star of the class, but he's also coming into the most crowded field, with five guards on the squad ahead of him. This will probably prove beneficial to him: McCormick developed a reputation as someone who chirps at the refs over every single call, but if he's got to spend time learning the college game behind cooler-headed players, it should help his development.
Bottom line: expect immediate contributions from Wright and quite possibly McLane, with continued development from Mills and McCormick. These guys are a solid backbone for several years of RedHawks basketball.