Saturday, March 13, 1999

MIAMI NOTEBOOK


Assistant helps stop 7-foot center

BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW ORLEANS — James Whitford never played college basketball, but Wally Szczerbiak said Whitford deserves an assist in Miami's 59-58 victory over Washington Friday.

        Whitford, a 25-year old former team manager who is Miami's top assistant, drew up the plan that limited Washington's 7-foot center Todd MacCulloch to 11 total points and no field goals in the last 29 minutes of the game.

        “He did a great job getting us ready,” Szczerbiak said.

        Whitford drew a box on the floor at Millett Hall and had Miami work on not letting players mimicking MacCulloch catch the ball in that area.

        “We tried to limit his touches inside that area,” Whitford said. “You saw what happens when he gets the ball inside.”

        MacCulloch only got two shots in the second half and missed both.

        Whitford played to Miami's advantages. The players who guarded MacCulloch, Mike Ensminger and John Estick, were quicker.

        “They also had a leverage advantage,” Whitford said. “So, even though he's 280 pounds, they were able to push him around.”

        Whitford was Miami's manager under coach Herb Sendek. Coles has promoted him twice, and he is now MU's top assistant.

        “I saw what he did under Herb,” Coles said. “He had a lot of prerequisites to be a coach. You hire people you know.”

Damon does it
        No play was bigger in Friday's game than when Damon Frierson drove into the lane, turned in midair and delivered the ball to Szczerbiak, who hit a wide-open three from the top of the key.

        The field goal restored Miami's lead to five at 57-52 and was its only field goal in a six-minute span.

        “The ball slipped out of my hands,” Frierson said. “He was right behind me. It was a big basket.”

        Frierson had 12 points, four assists, two steals and no turnovers.

        The two steals Friday gave him 173 for his career, second on Miami's all-time list behind Ron Harper's 287.

Grunk plays
        Jason Grunkemeyer played five minutes Friday, his first action since the last regular-season finale two weeks ago.

        He didn't score — in fact, he didn't even shoot. But he helped forced Washington out of the zone that was troubling Miami.

Not slighted
        Szczerbiak certainly looked like one of the best five players in the country Friday afternoon, but he isn't upset that he was named second-team All-America by the Associated Press.

        “I don't feel slighted,” he said. “I was first team in Sports Illustrated. I'm happy with second team. The players that are seen all the time are always going to get the most consideration.”


       



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MARCH MADNESS PAGE