Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji are one step closer to realizing their NBA dream. The former University of Miami basketball players are among 61 players invited to Chicago for the NBA Combine, which begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
The NBA’s general managers and scouts will interview the players, put them through a battery of athletic tests, and measure them to determine their true heights. Larkin, who is listed as a 5-11 and 186-pound point guard, said he is eager to show any doubters that his athleticism, strength, and court sense can compensate for his lack of height.
“It’s huge to get an invitation to the combine,’’ Larkin said by phone from Bradenton, where he has been training at the IMG Academy with former UM teammates Kadji, Reggie Johnson, and Julian Gamble.
“It means I’m almost there, almost in the NBA. I’ve been working on my ball-handling and my mid-range jump shot because there are very athletic 7-footers in the NBA and you can’t get to the rim as much, so I’ll have to rely more on a pull-up, mid-range jumper than I did in college.’’
As for concerns about his size, Larkin said: “I’m small, but I can dunk easily and I’ve got to show them that I’m strong enough to handle the big men off the post. I’m excited to get there and show what I can do. I’m not nervous. Basketball is basketball.’’
Kadji said he isn’t nervous, either.
“This is something I’ve been working on my whole life, and I have an opportunity now to showcase my skills to GMs in the NBA who respected me enough to invite me to the Combine,” Kadji said. “People know about my shooting ability, so I want to focus on showing them my athleticism, my ball-handing, jumping, my running, sliding my feet. I have special gifts not all the big men have, and that versatility is important in the NBA.’’
Kadji said he has “no doubt’’ Larkin has what it takes to play in the NBA.
“He can’t do anything about his height, he was born that way, but he makes up for it with his speed, decision-making, and awareness on the court,’’ Kadji said. “I’ve played with him the past two years, and he can handle anything. He’ll be fine. Shane is strong and really quick and his basketball IQ is way up there.’’
Larkin and Kadji will fly together from Bradenton to Chicago on Wednesday morning along with a few other draft prospects who have been working out at IMG. The invitation list for the NBA Combine was compiled from votes of all 30 NBA front offices. The league sent each team a list of a few hundred draft-eligible players, and each team voted for 60 invitees.
Larkin is being projected as a first-round or early second-round pick, and Kadji as a second-round pick. The NBA Draft is June 27.