UM Men’s Basketball

Amid Duke win revelry, University of Miami men’s basketball program has challenges ahead

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Recruiting likely got a little easier for the University of Miami men’s basketball program.

Then again, help is needed.

The team’s victory against Duke on Wednesday had to impress recruits. The Hurricanes beat a No. 1 team for the first time in program history. And they improved to 5-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time.

But five Hurricanes will have exhausted their college eligibility at season’s end, and all of them rank among the Canes’ top six scorers.

That does not bode well for next season, especially because UM’s Jim Larranaga, an early front-runner for ACC Coach of the Year, signed only two recruits in November, when most of the nation’s top prospects pick their schools.

That means the Canes will sign most of their recruits — five roster spots are available — in the April “late” period, when highly ranked prospects are not as abundant. Of the top 150 prospects on Rival.com’s list, only nine have yet to sign with a school.

“We wanted to sign a few more [in November],” Larranaga said, “but some decided to wait [until April], and some decided to go elsewhere.”

Larranaga acknowledged that the expected NCAA sanctions against the Canes’ basketball and football programs scared away some potential signees.

Still, Larranaga is excited about bringing in new recruits in April. NCAA rules forbid coaches from talking about specific recruits until they have signed, but Larranaga did speak in general terms about what Canes fans can expect:

• On junior college players, he said he rarely went that route during his long tenure at George Mason but is looking that way now because they might provide a more immediate lift. “There is a possibility we may recruit a junior college player or two,” he said.

• On whether most of the good players have already been signed: “There are plenty of good players out there,” he said. “We just have to find the ones who fit our program best.”

• On international players: “We are investigating some kids from Europe and putting out feelers in South America,” he said. “We expect those efforts will bear fruit, if not this year, in the future.”

With only point guard Shane Larkin set to return to next season’s starting lineup, key roles will be readily available.

One could envision current roster members Rion Brown and Garrius Adams — who is injured and redshirting this season — capably filling starting jobs on the perimeter.

But the falloff might be steepest in the frontcourt, where the Canes will lose Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble. Holdovers Tonye Jekiri, Raphael Akpejiori and Erik Swoope have done little so far.

Then there are the two recruits who signed in November: 6-1, 190-pound combo guard Deandre Burnett and 6-6, 195-pound wing Davon Reed.

According to Rivals.com, the Canes are in the running for four-star recruit Demetrius Henry, a 6-9 center from Brandon; three-star recruit Harold Givens, a 6-7 forward from Winston Salem, N.C.; and three-star recruit Junior Etou, a 6-8 forward from Arlington, Va. But Etou has seven other schools he is considering, Henry has 11 and Givens has 13.

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