Shane Larkin flew to New York City on Monday to begin interviewing agents, the first step in his pro basketball career. In two weeks, he heads to Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine, where he hopes to prove to naysayers that despite his 5-11 frame, he has the strength, speed and leaping ability to compete for an NBA roster spot.
The University of Miami sophomore point guard said after a month-and-a-half of agonizing, he was relieved to finally have made his decision to enter the June 27 draft. “It’s out there now,” he said. “No more back and forth.”
He is heeding the advice of his father, Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, who told him: “Either be 10 toes in, or 10 toes out.” Larkin said, “I have 10 toes in.”
His UM teammate Julian Gamble said he has “no doubt” Larkin can play at the next level.
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“Trying to guard him on a pick-and-roll is almost impossible,” Gamble said. “The things he does with the basketball, as fast as he is, and he’s very crafty, very smart. Defensively, it’s terrible, especially for a big guy. Don’t put the ball down anywhere on the ground near him or he’s going to take it. I don’t think the height thing will be an issue at all. You see guys like Ty Lawson have a lot of success. I think Shane can be that kind of player.”
The departure of Larkin, combined with the graduation of five seniors, means the Hurricanes are losing their top six scorers from the historic 2012-13 season. Rion Brown, at 6.4 points per game, is the leading scorer returning from the team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
So, why was UM Coach Jim Larrañaga smiling as Larkin bid farewell Sunday?
Because he is genuinely excited for Larkin, a kid he spotted as a scrawny 10th-grader and loved so much he was the first college coach to offer him a scholarship. He is also happy because he sees Larkin’s early departure as validation that the Hurricanes program has evolved.
Larkin is the first player in UM history to enter the draft after two seasons and could wind up being the fourth first-round pick, joining Rick Barry (1965), Tim James (1999) and John Salmons (2002).
In this age of high school players looking for a fast track to NBA millions, UM coaches plan to use Larkin’s decision as a recruiting tool.
“This is another milestone for us,” Larrañaga said. “If someone we’re recruiting says, ‘Hey, you ever had somebody go one-and-done or two-and-done? We can now say, ‘Yes, Shane Larkin did.’ ”
Larrañaga is taking the same glass-is-half-full approach to next season. Common sense says the depleted Hurricane team will struggle, but he refuses to see it that way.
“There’s no way to predict,” he said. “Last year at this time, nobody predicted we’d win the conference championships. We have a couple of interesting scenarios that could be developing.”
Point guard Angel Rodriguez is transferring from Kansas State, and UM is his first choice. The Puerto Rico native played at Miami Krop and wants to be closer to his family. Rodriguez is expected to meet with UM coaches this week.
Larrañaga spoke to UM football coach Al Golden about incoming freshmen Corn Elder and Derrick Griffin, both of whom want to play basketball. While “nothing has been solidified,” Larrañaga seemed hopeful.
Elder — a 5-11 guard who was The Tennessean Football and Basketball Player of the Year — scored 41 points with eight assists and seven steals in the D2 state final, and averaged 20 points for the season. Griffin is 6-6 and a four-star basketball recruit.
The Canes are also looking at European players and graduating seniors with eligibility left. Student-athletes who graduate with eligibility remaining can transfer to another school for grad school and play immediately. Tarik Black (Memphis), Josh Davis (Tulane), Mike Moser (UNLV) are in that situation.
“Today’s recruiting world is mind-boggling,” Larrañaga said. “Thirty years ago, it’s all about high school talent. Now, it’s high school, transfers, fifth-year graduates who can play right away, kids from overseas. It’s changed an awful lot. We’re exploring options.”