Shane Larkin, looking NBA-chic in a light blue polka-dotted bow tie, punctuated his storybook sophomore season Thursday night by becoming the highest University of Miami draft pick in 48 years.
The electrifying point guard was selected 18th overall in the NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, who then traded Larkin to Dallas, where he will play for Rick Carlisle, who played under UM coach Jim Larrañaga at Virginia in the early 1980s.
Larkin is UM’s second-highest draft pick ever, and the highest since Rick Barry was taken No. 2 in the 1965 draft. Larkin was the highest pick among UM players since John Salmons, who went 26th in 2002.
He was at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and watched the event with his baseball Hall of Fame father Barry Larkin, his mother, Lisa, and his sisters. After putting on a Hawks cap and shaking hands with NBA commissioner David Stern, he was interviewed by another Miami Shane — Heat star Shane Battier, who was moonlighting as an ESPN sideline reporter.
“I’ve been watching this guy all year long, he had a heck of a year,” Battier said.
Larkin, who is 5-11 in sneakers, continues his quest to prove wrong doubters who say he is too small to make it in a big man’s sport. He led the Hurricanes to their first Atlantic Coast Conference title, their highest ranking ever (No. 2) and their second Sweet 16 appearance. He wowed scouts at the NBA Combine last month, and tested off the charts with a 44-inch vertical leap — the second-best ever at the Combine.
“It’s a great feeling working your whole life to get to this position,” Larkin said. “To just actually be here walking across the stage to shake David Stern’s hand was an amazing feeling. Now, I just can’t wait to get to whatever city I’m going to and start playing.”
Larkin said he hopes for the kind of professional career his father had.
“He’s my role model, played 19 years for the same team,” the younger Larkin said. “He is well-respected in Cincinnati, always been a humble guy, so I just want to have that same type of career that he had in [Major League Baseball].”
Barry Larkin admitted he never figured his son would get this far as a basketball player.
“I don’t know if I ever thought he had the potential to make the NBA,” he said. “This is absolutely incredible. He always was a good player, always vertically challenged, but always the most aggressive one on the court. I saw him continue to progress in high school and when he got to UM. He’s a very smart kid, and expects to be successful.”
The Mavericks moved down from the No. 13 pick to No. 16 in exchange for two second-round picks from the Boston Celtics. They then traded their 16th pick (Lucas Nogueira of Brazil) and last year’s draft pick Jared Cunningham to the Hawks for the 18th pick (Larkin) and the 44th pick in the second round.
“We are very excited for Shane and his family,” Larrañaga said. “He is going to make his coach very happy. Shane is a great competitor. He loves to win and has all the physical and mental skills to succeed in the NBA.”
His size was much discussed leading into the draft, but an undersized guard could be a perfect fit with Dallas big man Dirk Nowitzki, who draws defenders and opens up space for a guard such as Larkin to get to the paint.
Larkin’s UM teammate Kenny Kadji was expected to be drafted in the middle to late portion of the second round. UM hasn’t had two players selected in the NBA Draft since Wayne Canady and Don Curnutt were chosen in the 10th and 15th rounds in 1970.
Kadji’s Washington-based agent, David Bauman, advised him to stay “low key” on draft night, and not get too discouraged if his name wasn’t called. He told him about another client, guard Gary Neal, who went undrafted in 2007, played in Turkey, Spain and Italy, and wound up with the San Antonio Spurs in 2010. The next season, he made first-team All-Rookie.
“I told Kenny no matter what happens on draft night, he’ll be in the NBA,” Bauman said. “There are two ways to get in the league, through the front door and the back door.”
UM teammates Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott, Julian Gamble and Trey McKinney Jones will likely have to take the back-door route. Gamble knew he was “a long shot” to get drafted, but is enjoying the experience.
“It was really great to travel around, meet team officials, see the facilities, and work out with other high Division I players,” Gamble said. “All it takes is one team to really like you and invite you to their summer league. All I want is an opportunity.”