Wanted: gym rats and quarterbacks.
Eleven games into the season, University of Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga said he wishes more of his players spent their free time in the gym, and that somebody would “be a quarterback, calling out plays and barking out orders.”
The Hurricanes (6-5) are coming off a 68-51 road win at Savannah State, and although Larrañaga was happy with the victory, he wants to see more passion from his players. Last year, guards Shane Larkin and Durand Scott and fifth-year senior Julian Gamble were the vocal leaders, the ones who rallied the troops whenever things got tense.
This year, freshman guards Davon Reed and Manu Lecomte are starting to get comfortable with that role, but their inexperience shows. Fifth-year guard Garrius Adams has plenty of experience, but he’s a quiet guy. And senior Rion Brown is still evolving as an on-court leader.
Larrañaga said when UM’s lead was cut from 24 points to 12 against Savannah State, he saw the opposing players huddle, but his players were each walking around alone. “Each guy was probably thinking, ‘Oh, I made a mistake.’ They are in their own mind, rather than pulling together at that time.”
He also thinks many of the players are not spending enough time honing their skills before and after practice. He told the story of former Providence and NBA player Ernie DiGregorio, who lived in the gym, and even paid kids 10 cents to try and guard him.
“Until a player makes a total and unconditional commitment to being the best that he can be, it’s very hard to improve as much as you would like because it takes hours and hours and hours,” Larrañaga said. “The players I’ve coached in the past that have enjoyed the greatest success are the gym rats, the guys who are always in the gym, love being in there.”
He said he has a few players who fit that mold, but they are ineligible this year, likely referring to transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan. He said Rodriguez has shown great leadership skills from the sideline, and is mentoring Lecomte.
He said one player who is giving his all — and then some — is freshman walk-on guard Michael Fernandez, a Belen graduate. The coach uses him as an example.
“My message to the team was we need to play as a team the way Michael’s practicing, with great effort and enthusiasm. It’s amazing the results you get when you do.”