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Miami’s Senior Class Helped Establish a Winning Culture for the Hurricanes

The Hurricanes have become a fixture in the NCAA Tournament thanks to their senior class.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Miami-Florida at Notre Dame
Miami Hurricanes forward Keyanna Harris (0) dribbles in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

On the surface, there was nothing special about the Miami Hurricane’s 2014 recruiting class. They didn’t have any blue-chip recruits. Nobody had any truly outstanding qualities.

“I’ve had higher rating recruiting classes,” head coach Katie Meier said. “None of them were Top-50 recruits. It wasn’t our highest-rated class.”

But fast forward four years later and those players have left a mark on the program, standing as the only senior class in the Miami basketball history — men’s or women’s — to reach the NCAA Tournament all four years of their careers. However, the players are quick to deflect the credit to their head coach and the culture she has established.

“I credit Coach Meier tremendously for instilling a will in us,” senior Erykah Davenport said. “Miami is not always ranked top-10 so she’s just always made us feel like we were the better team no matter who we were up against. This program has evolved into a winning program because of her.”

Another major factor in the Hurricanes’ success is the way Meier has developed the players she has, making those who weren’t highly-coveted out of high school into some of the best in the conference.

“It’s not about what you’re ranked coming in, it’s about what you do once you’re here,” senior Keyanna Harris said. “Coach does a great job of taking ‘average’ players and making them look like they’re All-Americans.”

While the players were quick to praise their coach, Meier could only mold them because they stuck it out through adversity, despite what some people might have suggested.

“[The seniors] didn’t play a ton their freshman years and every single one of them had someone that said, ‘Maybe you should leave,’ but their families said ‘No, stay, You’ll grow from this.’”

Not only did each player grow on the court, they each developed into integral parts of the community, a fact Coach Meier takes great pride in.

“That’s the best story ever. They’re the college experience. They are what you talk about. They are what we celebrate nationally in women’s basketball,” she said. “Faces on your campus that lead. They are out in the community doing community service like you’ve never seen and they’re successful and they have great GPAs.”

As an 8-seed in the tournament with top-ranked UConn waiting for them if they reach the second round, Miami’s seniors will likely only be able to set the foundation of success for future programs. The Hurricanes are still trying to get over the hump in the postseason as they’ve yet to reach a Sweet 16 in school history.

For a program looking to take the next step, there’s no better place to be sent than Storrs, CT, where the Huskies’ success is unmatched. Playing somewhere such a lengthy history of success gives Miami a goal to build towards.

“Just being in their facility, playing on their hardwood and just being in the ambiance of such a winning program is such a privilege,” Davenport said.

“This is the place you grow up looking up to so to hear that it’s happening and to experience all of this is an honor,” junior Emese Hof said. “You see what other schools have and you say, ‘We want to reach that, we want to get up to that,’ and try even harder. I think it’s only making us better right now.”

Even though the seniors’ journey is likely to end this weekend, their impact is certain to last for a long time in Miami.

“The growth that they’ve had in four years as people and as players, you can never take that away from the University of Miami,” Meier said. “We raised them as a community and they deserve every ounce of success that they’ve had. They are very special.”