Sunday, October 24, 1999

Redhawks dismiss low expectations




BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — Rob Mestas and Anthony Taylor don't think Miami is the 222nd best basketball team in the country that The Sporting News says it is.

        Mestas and Taylor don't think the RedHawks are the sixth-best team in the Mid-American Conference like the media say they are.

        Mestas and Taylor don't think the RedHawks are the 16th best team in the country and the best in the MAC like they were last year, either.

        They think the RedHawks will fall somewhere in between last season's high ride and this season's low expectations.

        “I think we're better than people think,” said Mestas, the senior point guard. “We don't have the same talent and you need talent to win. But we're not going out expecting to lose. We're going to still play Miami basketball. We're going to still play hard and do the things it takes to win.”

        Expectations at Miami are so low because of what the RedHawks lost, namely Wally Szczerbiak, Damon Frierson and John Estick. Szczerbiak is with the Minnesota Timberwolves, scoring nearly 20 points a night in exhibition games. Frierson will play professionally, too — with the Cincinnati Stuff. Estick was pretty much where Miami's inside scoring began and ended last year.

        But Taylor, the senior off guard, points out that Miami has some pretty good players — by MAC standards — back.

        “We've got a lot of guys who can compete with the guys in the league who are getting a lot of recognition,” he said.

        Mestas will start for the third year. He was honorable mention all-MAC last year. Four other players who started part-time return: Jason Stewart, who started 16 games, Refiloe Lethunya (11), Taylor (10) and Mike Ensminger (6).

        Jason Grunkemeyer, the 3-point specialist, also is back.

        Their roles, of course, will be different. Szczerbiak, Frierson and Estick combined to score 45.5 of the 67.6 points a game Miami scored last year.

        Taylor, for instance, must score closer to the 12.4 points a game he scored as a sophomore than the 3.8 a game he scored as a junior. He says he isn't going to make up Szczerbiak's scoring by himself.

        “I don't think it's going to be a one-man show,” Taylor said. “Everyone has to contribute. I'll do some scoring. But I'll do whatever's best for the team. The scoring has to come from everyone. That's one of the keys for us.”

        Mestas agrees.

        “We have a lot of guys who can get eight to 10 points,” Mestas said.

        Mestas points to Stewart, Taylor and Brian Edwards, the 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore who will play for the first time this year, as those eight-to-10 guys.

        Lethunya, a 6-8 senior, is another talented player. He, like Taylor, saw his scoring drop last year. Grunkemeyer is another player who can provide points. He shot 51 percent from 3-point range last year.

        But, unlike last year, Miami isn't going to be able to outscore teams.

        “We're going to have to be an outstanding defensive team,” MU coach Charlie Coles said. “We're not going to be high scoring at all.”

        Coles says one advantage this team may have over last year is quickness.

        Last year's big run has made the players at Miami aware of what it takes to be that good.

        “Guys worked hard in the weight room and on conditioning,” Taylor said. “They did things to improve their game. Expectations are low. That's good in a way. It's motivation.”

       



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