UM basketball

Miami Hurricanes basketball team has plenty of holes to fill

 

UM coach Jim Larrañaga’s mission this season is to replace six key players from last year’s Sweet 16 team.

Friday: St. Francis Brooklyn at UM men

•  When/where: 10 p.m.; BankUnited Center.

•  TV/radio: ESPN3; WQAM 560, WVUM 90.5 FM.


Friday: North Florida at UM women

•  When/where: 5 p.m.; BankUnited Center.

•  Radio: WVUM 90.5 FM.


Special to the Miami Herald

Julian Gamble is playing pro ball in France, Durand Scott is doing likewise in Spain and Shane Larkin, an NBA first-round pick, practiced with the Dallas Mavericks on Monday for the first time since breaking his ankle this past summer.

Trey McKinney Jones is playing in the NBA’s Development League, Kenny Kadji is deciding between that and Europe, and Reggie Johnson was drafted by the D-League’s Delaware 87ers.

The Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team, which makes its regular-season debut Friday at 10 p.m. against visiting St. Francis Brooklyn, will be without those six standouts, who combined to score 5,399 career points.

And as of Wednesday, freshman combo guard Deandre Burnett, who was expected to be a Canes go-to scorer, is out for the season because of a wrist injury.

What’s left?

Not much, numerically at least. The Canes have just nine available scholarship players, four under the limit, and their returners account for just 13 percent of Miami’s scoring, 14 percent in rebounding and 1 percent of assists from the season before, all ACC lows.

Canes coach Jim Larrañaga said he expects to start sophomore Tonye Jekiri at center, senior Donnavan Kirk at power forward, seniors Garius Adams and Rion Brown on the wings and freshman Manu Lecomte at point guard.

Larrañaga and a couple of his players said Jekiri — listed at 7-0 and 235 pounds — is Miami’s most improved player from last season.

“Tonye looks like a totally different person to me, body-wise,” Brown said. “He has ton more post moves than last season. Coach L just limited him to one thing last year (alley-oop dunks), and now he is broadening his game.”

Larrañaga agreed that Jekiri’s skill set has improved, but now it’s a matter of knowing when, for instance, to use his jump hook and when to go to the turnaround jumper.

“I spend a lot of time with Tonye on the court,” Larrañaga said. “Tonye is very confident in his defense and his rebounding. He is not as confident in his scoring, although if he figures one or two things out, he could be a double-figure scorer.”

Larrañaga said his other relatively novice starter, Lecomte, is a “terrific three-point shooter” who needs to be more aggressive. He needs to look for his shot more and be prepared to let it go.

For depth, the Canes will rely on 6-9 senior power forward/center Raphael Akpejiori, 6-5 senior forward Erik Swoope, 6-7 junior power forward/center James Kelly and 6-6 freshman Davon Reed, whose role will be expanded because of Burnett’s injury.

Reed, who is from Ewing, N.J., improved his bench press from 170 to 250 pounds from June to October. The 208-pounder will back up at point guard, shooting guard and small forward.

“Davon, of all our newcomers, is best prepared to play our defense,” Larrañaga said. “He is a little more aggressively defensively, which is good … but he could get in foul trouble.

“His natural position had we had Shane back and Deandre healthy would have been (small forward).”

UM women’s debut

The Canes’ women’s basketball team will make its season debut on Friday at 5 p.m. against visiting North Florida.

Canes coach Katie Meier said she expects to start senior Krystal Saunders, freshman Adrienne Motley and junior Suriya McGuire at the guards and 6-1 senior Maria Brown and 6-1 sophomore Keyona Hayes up front.

Although the team lacks the size of Miami’s recent teams and doesn’t as yet have a go-to scorer, Meier predicts 5-9 sophomore guard Caprice Dennis “is going to have a really nice season — she’s a natural scorer.”

Meier said Saunders might not average 20 points, but she will hit clutch shots, and the coach called Hayes “a big-time player.”

The coach also expects her two healthy freshmen guards — Motley and Jessica Thomas — to play large roles on the team.

Meanwhile, freshman guard Nigia Greene is out for the season because of a knee injury, and junior guard Michelle Woods (sternum) is not yet ready to return. But 6-2 junior forward Jassany Williams is back from a concussion.

Read more UM stories from the Miami Herald

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