University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larrañaga plans to watch Thursday’s NBA Draft from his bed, where he will be recovering from oral surgery. Despite the discomfort, he said he will force himself to smile as at least two former Hurricanes — point guard Shane Larkin and forward Kenny Kadji — are expected to be drafted.
Larkin is considered such a lock he was invited to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the draft ceremony, where he will be sitting in the audience with his family.
The last time two UM players were picked in the NBA Draft was 1970, and they were selected in the 10th round (Don Curnutt) and the 15th round (Wayne Canady). This time, Larkin is projected to go in the first round — somewhere between No. 13 and No. 21 — and Kadji in the middle to late second round.
Their UM teammates, Durand Scott, Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson and Trey McKinney Jones, probably will go undrafted and have to latch on to an NBA summer league team or go overseas. All the UM players have spent the past few weeks working out and interviewing with NBA teams. Kadji worked out for 13 teams, and Larkin more than that.
Larkin’s size (5-11) and Kadji’s age (25) are of concern to some teams, but both have impressed on and off the court. Larkin, who opted for the draft after his sophomore season at UM, tested off the charts at the NBA Combine with a 44-inch vertical leap — second-best of all-time at the Combine. His charisma and pedigree are also plusses.
A few of the most popular mock drafts have Larkin going No. 14 to the Utah Jazz, No. 15 to the Milwaukee Bucks, or No. 16 to the Boston Celtics, where Larrañaga’s son, Jay, is an assistant and being considered for the head coaching job after the departure of Doc Rivers, who knew Larkin as a youth in Orlando. If he drops past No. 20, the Jazz might take him at No. 21, or he could wind up with Indiana at No.23.
“From what I’m hearing, Shane will probably go 15 to 20, but he could fall to 25 and the only reason is his size,” said one NBA scout, who did not want to be named. “Some people just don’t like small point guards, and he’s not going to grow. But the majority of teams like him. He did great at the Combine, and the thing that makes him different is because of his dad [baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin], he grew up used to the bright lights and the big moments.”
ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said: “Larkin is really talented. If only he were a couple inches taller. It’s not only height he lacks, but length. His wing span measured 5-10, and in the last decade we haven’t seen many point guards with that wing span. But he’s a great pick-and-roll player, shooter, one of the best athletes out there, so some team will take a chance on him.”
Larkin reportedly had a good workout with the Jazz.
“It was good that I had to go out and play with bigger players. I’ve seen people say that, ‘His height, he can’t play defense, da da da,’ so I went out to prove that I can,” he told Utah reporters.
Jazz head scout Walt Perrin said: “Shane’s 44 vertical is unbelievable for a point guard. It was eye-popping seeing those kind of numbers. If a guy can play, it doesn’t matter what his size is. We think he can play. How well he plays on this level is something we have to evaluate.”
Kadji is 6-11 and a good perimeter shooter, making him a coveted “stretch 4” player.
“Some teams will see his age and ask, ‘What’s his upside? Can we get a younger guy as good as him?’ ” another NBA scout said. “But he’s a good pick-and-pop player and there’s value in that.”
Said his Washington-based agent, David Bauman: “The flip side of being older is Kenny won’t make the mistakes 19-year-olds sometimes make, on the road with money, clubbing, women, drinking. He’s not going to do that. He’s a man. His maturity showed in all his interviews.”
Assuming they get drafted, Larrañaga said Larkin and Kadji will leave behind “a legacy” for the program, which will help with recruiting in years to come.
“Prospects always ask, ‘Who you got in the NBA?’ We’ll be able to say DeQuan Jones, Shane, Kenny, maybe Durand,” Larrañaga said. “Shane was not considered one of the top-20 high school prospects and now is a first-round pick. He improved at UM. We want that message sent and clearly understood.”