Sunday, March 21, 1999

Miami enters new (without Wally) world

Mestas and Stewart are top returners

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. LOUIS — What will basketball be like at Miami University like now that Wally Szczerbiak and Damon Frierson have ended their careers?

        Not nearly as good. Miami, after all, tied the school record for wins at 24 and won two NCAA games for the first time in history. Still, MU probably won't be as bad as some people think.

        Szczerbiak and Frierson are the Nos. 2 and 5 scorers in school history. Miami won 83 games in their four years.

        The RedHawks also lost John Estick, their best inside players.

        “That's probably the three best players this year,” Szczerbiak said. “But there's a lot of talent coming back. Jason Stewart, Jason Grunkemeyer, Rob (Mestas) and Anthony Taylor all are good players. They're capable of stepping up. Like I did two years ago.”

        Miami had nine players average at least 10 minutes a game this season — and all but the trio of seniors return. But Szczerbiak, Frierson and Estick accounted for 45 of the 68 points a game Miami scored this year. They were the focus of the offense.

        “Next year will be their chance,” Szczerbiak said. “That's the way college basketball is. It's cyclical. With us leaving, it gives new players opportunities.”

        Szczerbiak, remember, went from averaging 12.8 points as a sophomore to averaging 24.4 as a junior.

        Mestas gives Miami a reliable point guard. He isn't a great shooter, but he doesn't turn the ball over and he's a great defender.

        Miami coach Charlie Coles said Jason Stewart has the talent to be an all-Mid-American Conference type of player.

        But, on this year's Miami team, his role was strictly to shoot three-pointers.

        Now, that Szczerbiak is gone the focus offense will switch more to him.

        Stewart is a player who averaged 16.1 points a game two years ago at Furman. He averaged 6.3 points this year.

        Another player who could emerge is Anthony Taylor. Taylor was plagued by injuries this year. He ended up only shooting 20 percent from three-range and averaging 3.8 points a game. Last year, he shot 37.5 percent and averaged 12.4 points a game.

        Grunkemeyer shot 53.2 percent from three-point range, but he only took 1.7 threes per game. He'll get more shots next season.

        The biggest question is who will do the inside scoring. That wasn't a strength this year, and what Miami did get came from Szczerbiak and Estick.

        Refiloe Lethunya is 6-8 and athletic. But, like Taylor, his numbers dropped off this year. He went from averaging 5.3 points last year to 2.8 this year.

        Mike Ensminger, a 6-6 sophomore from Oak Hills, had a great year defensively. But he averaged less than one point a game. If he can hit shots like he did in the high school, he'll help a great deal.

        Miami's two other sophomores, 6-11 Jay Locklier and 6-10 Rich Allendorf, will likely get a shot at contributing.

        Brian Edwards, a 6-8 sopho more who red-shirted this season, is athletic and strong. He could take Estick's spot in the lineup.

        Miami signed three players during the early signing period: Larry Drake, a 6-5 forward from Groveport; Bryan Reed, a 6-6 forward from Terre Haute, Ind.; Doug Williams, a 6-5 guard from Piketon.

        Miami also has a scholarship open. Look for the RedHawks to bring a junior college player.

        “It's going to have to be a real good player,” Coles said.


Miami Stories
- Miami enters new (without Wally) world
Szczerbiak may go 3rd in NBA draft