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Hurricanes basketball player Dewan Hernandez hires attorney to expedite NCAA clearance

University of Miami basketball player Dewan Hernandez, who has missed the first nine games of the season while the school and NCAA review his eligibility, has retained an attorney in hopes of returning to competition this season. Coach Jim Larranaga said Monday they expect to get an update very soon on Hernandez’s status.

Hernandez, a junior, hired Miami-based attorney Jason Setchen, according to a source familiar with the situation. Setchen is an advocate for student-athletes involved in NCAA matters.

The NCAA is looking into Hernandez’s involvement with possible improper benefits.

The Hurricanes could use Hernandez’s help more than ever as they have dropped four games in a row and lost backup center Deng Gak for the rest of the season with a knee injury that requires surgery. The Canes are 5-4 heading into Wednesday’s home game against Houston Baptist University.

“We lost a guy who we planned on not only being a starter, but being a double-figure scorer and double-figure rebounder, a double-double guy, and an all-conference caliber player,” Larranaga said. “Losing him has really hurt us, defensively, rebounding-wise, offensively.”

Larranaga called this “the most challenging season I’ve had in coaching.”

Hernandez, a Miami Norland grad, is still practicing with the team and remains game-ready in hopes of playing.

His teammates are eager got have him on the court. “Dewan has a really nice touch around the basket, defensively he’s 6-10, so he’s good around the paint, and this is his third year, so he adds leadership,” said sophomore point guard Chris Lykes.

Setchen is the same lawyer who helped former UM player DeQuan Jones regain his eligibility in 2011. Jones was forced to sit out the first 10 games of the 2011-12 season as the school and NCAA checked whether his eligibility was affected as part of the investigation into booster Nevin Shapiro. No wrongdoing was found, and he rejoined the team in December of that season.

“We are gathering information and are in regular communication with the NCAA staff,”UM Athletic Director Blake James said recently. “We are working to bring this to closure as soon as possible.”

Asked when or if Hernandez will be cleared to play, Larranaga recently said: “We don’t know anything. I don’t think there is a timetable. I don’t think the NCAA works that just wait until you hear back from them.”

Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.