Miami’s historic season was partly fueled by sophomores Wooga Poplar and Bensley Joseph. Poplar established himself as a reliable starter and one of the breakout players in the ACC, while Joseph was the leader of UM’s bench and brought defensive intensity on a nightly basis.
Both players made a leap from their freshman to sophomore campaigns, and returnees AJ Casey and Christian Watson are candidates to do the same, according to a couple of their veteran teammates.
Casey played sparingly in his first year. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 0.9 points and one rebound in 6.3 minutes per game over 29 appearances. He did play in three of UM’s four NCAA Tournament games, and Norchad Omier thinks that this experience was valuable for Casey’s development.
“AJ’s a great player. You know he’s a freshman, a little bit timid. I see the glimpses. I know he’s gonna come up with more hunger. He experienced a Final Four his freshman year,” Omier told reporters on Monday. “I know he’s gonna want to be better and prove he’s gonna work hard over the summer. He has a high ceiling and I’m excited to see him grow.”
Watson played even less, appearing in only 11 games. He scored a total of 17 points, but fifth-year senior Jordan Miller thinks that the 6-foot-7 guard has a lot of room to grow on offense.
“Chris in particular, he can really score the ball. Obviously, there’s some kinks that need to get worked out but he was a freshman,” Miller said. “It’s gonna get real scary when the game slows down for him. He didn’t get a lot of court burn this year, very little, so next year with getting game minutes, whenever he starts to feel comfortable, I think you guys are going to see a very, very, very high-octane scorer.”
Miller also harped on the importance of the offseason for players between their freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I think this offseason’s a very big offseason for him. I always feel like that freshman to sophomore year offseason is very important. And how he chooses to work this offseason, which I have no doubt he’s gonna put the work in, I think will be the deciding factor on how he does next year.”
With prominent rotation players Anthony Walker and Harlond Beverly having entered the transfer portal, Casey and Watson could be thrust into larger roles next season.
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