University of Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga wore a pair of brightly colored zigzag socks to his postseason news conference on Thursday afternoon — a gift from assistant coach Adam Fisher.
Larrañaga was in a jovial mood and chatted about everything from Villanova’s championship run to the future of his team. The Hurricanes, who reached the Sweet 16, lose senior starters Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Tonye Jekiri.
“We’re not done recruiting; we have two scholarships to give, so to project us now is impossible,” he said. “We’re very happy with the three kids we signed and hopeful we’ll sign another one next Wednesday.”
The signees are McDonald’s All-American Dewan Huell, Bruce Brown and Rodney Miller. Dejan Vasiljevic, a guard on Australia’s youth national team, is expected to sign next week. He picked UM over Stanford and Louisville, among others.
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Larrañaga is also scouring the transfer market, where up to 700 players are expected to be available, and looking at fifth-year graduates who could contribute right away.
His biggest concern is at point guard. Asked who will replace Rodriguez, Larrañaga replied: “Are you available?”
He then said “it’s going to be a challenge” and explained that the plan is to “turn the reins over” to Ja’Quan Newton, but he said Newton needs to cut down on turnovers. “He can score and he can pass, but his assist- to-turnover ratio is 1 to 1. If he’s really going to be the kind of point guard that can lead our team, he needs to improve to 2 to 1 or 3 to 1.”
Other options include Anthony Lawrence, who played the point in high school and had a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as a UM freshman, Brown and Vasiljevic.
As to whether he’s concerned Huell could leave for the NBA after one season, Larrañaga said: “I really like senior leadership, but more than that, I like really good players.”
Dewan is a very talented young man. If you ask me, ‘Would you rather have a Dewan Huell or someone who’s staying four years for sure ’cause he ain’t that good,’ I want Dewan.”
UM women’s coach Katie Meier has also been busy, having player exit meetings after a loss to South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Although she hoped to go deeper, Meier said her first words to her staff in their postseason meeting were: “Thank you. It was a true, pure, absolute joy working with you every single day.”
She showed her team a video montage of male and female players hurting after losses. “We needed to feel the pain,” she said.
The Canes lose only one senior, Michelle Woods, and gain FAU transfer Shaneese Bailey. Bailey, a 6-1 combo guard, was FAU’s leading scorer as a sophomore and made first-team All-Conference USA. She was a celebrated high jumper in high school and is the cousin of 12-time NFL Pro Bowler Champ Bailey.
“She is a ridiculously talented young lady, very explosive, a game-changer,” Meier said of Bailey, comparing her to former UM star Riquna “Bay Bay” Williams.
The Canes are also expected to sign 6-1 guard Sarah Mortenson of Long Island (New York) Lutheran. She is a native of Denmark.