The University of Miami men’s basketball team could put together a pretty good starting lineup comprised of UM players who are, for various reasons, unavailable to coach Jim Larrañaga.
Junior guards Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas) have to sit out this season because of NCAA transfer rules. Freshman guard Deandre Burnett (surgery on left wrist) is redshirting. Freshman guard Corn Elder was injured playing football this season, and forward Derrick Griffin is reportedly at a prep school for academic reasons.
How good are those five?
Rodriguez made All-Big 12 second team as a sophomore; McClellan averaged 13.5 points as a sophomore; Burnett averaged 30-plus points in prep school; Elder won two consecutive state titles and was named the Player of the Year by The Tennessean newspaper; and Griffin had 26 points and 13 rebounds in the final to lead his team to a Texas state title.
Next season, assuming those five players are all available, the Canes’ talent would get a major boost.
Rodriguez, McClellan and Burnett would seem to the front-runners to start in a deep and talented three-guard lineup. Then there’s Elder and current freshmen Manu Lecomte and Davon Reed and incoming recruits Ja’Quan Newton from Philadelphia and James Palmer of Washington, D.C.
Of those guards, the highest rated by Rivals.com are four-star players Burnett, Newton and Reed.
Meanwhile, Lecomte, who opened this season as the Canes’ starting point guard, is now coming off the bench.
Larrañaga, though, said he does not view it as a demotion.
“What happened was that our man-to-man defense has not been as good as it needed to be, and we had to switch to a zone,” he said. “Davon is bigger. So we went with Davon at the point to give us a better chance of defending.”
Lecomte is averaging 7.0 points and is making only 38.5 percent of his field goals. Reed is averaging 9.0 points on 36.9 shooting.
Another Canes player who lost his starting job this season is 7-0 sophomore center Tonye Jekiri. In the preseason, a few Canes mentioned him as the team’s most improved player.
So far, though, Jekiri is averaging just 3.0 points and 4.2 rebounds on .350 shooting, which is especially low for a big man.
Larrañaga said the early hype regarding Jekiri was justified because of how well he played in the preseason.
“But when we got into games, things changed,” Larrañaga said. “The way people [defended him changed].”
Jekiri, who was replaced in the lineup by James Kelly, has struggled with his shooting.
“[Missing shots] weighs heavily on your confidence,” Larrañaga said. “And right now, he is not as confident a player as we’d like him to be.”
Senior point guard Jessica Russi last week set a school record with 15 assists in a win over Florida Southern. She took just one shot in an unselfish performance that included only one turnover.