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RedHawks challenge even bigger without Moore

Game notes for Miami’s men’s basketball season opener at Notre Dame had been in e-mail inboxes fewer than 40 minutes on Wednesday when they already were outdated.

The RedHawks, already facing a tremendous challenge on the road against a Fighting Irish team that returns four starters and is ranked No. 21 in this season’s Associated Press preseason poll, learned early Wednesday night that sophomore guard Willie Moore would be ineligible for the first nine games of the season because of a violation of NCAA rules he committed at Oregon.

Losing the 6-foot-3 transfer, who led Miami with 16 points in an exhibition win over Division II Northwood, won’t help against what already loomed as a tough opening month for the RedHawks, who also visit Arizona State and Xavier before their home opener on Nov. 23 against Division III Wilmington.

“When you look at the grouping, it’s certainly the Little Sisters of the Poor,” second-year Miami coach John Cooper said on Tuesday, adding that making future schedules less challenging might be an option. “We want to make sure that we challenge ourselves, but we also want to be fair to our players.”

The Redhawks, who tipoff at Notre Dame at 7 tonight, also have four starters returning from last year’s 9-22 team, including 6-7 senior forward Will Felder – a Mid-American Conference East Division preseason pick – and 6-0 senior guard Quinten Rollins, the longest-tenured player with three seasons under his belt.

“I’m more like, ’Wow, it’s my senior year,’” said the Wilmington High School graduate, who has started 75 of the 85 games in which he’s played.

Rollins anticipates a better season for the RedHawks, if only because of familiarity with Cooper.

“There’s no question that we have a better understanding of everything,” the point guard said. “Last year was an adjustment with a bunch of stuff being thrown at the team at once. We were learning a different style of play and what was expected. This year, we’ve been able to take a slower approach. We’ve taken our time. We had extra two weeks of practice, so we eased into it. That was helpful to the younger guys.”

Felder, Rollins and the other returning starters – junior guard Will Sullivan and sophomore guard Reggie Johnson – are expected to be joined in the starting lineup by 6-10 Blake McLimans, a transfer from Michigan who played on the Wolverines’ team that reached last season’s national championship game. He can play immediately because he graduated from Michigan and is a graduate student at Miami.

McLimans is one of six newcomers to the RedHawks – now down to five without Moore. Among them are 6-7 Australian freshmen Jaryd Eustace and Joshua Oswald, both of whom logged significant playing time against Northwood.

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