Barry Jackson

UM draft prospects at head of class; UM-Notre Dame chatter

Miami Hurricanes defensive end Jonathan Garvin is shown knocking the ball loose from Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson, who played last year at Hard Rock Stadium. The two teams meet again Saturday in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Miami Hurricanes defensive end Jonathan Garvin is shown knocking the ball loose from Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson, who played last year at Hard Rock Stadium. The two teams meet again Saturday in Blacksburg, Virginia. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday night:

• It would be impressive enough for the Canes basketball program to have the nation’s top draft prospect at any position. But ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, doing draft analysis for the network after ESPN dropped Chad Ford, said UM actually has the NBA’s top two 2018 shooting guard prospects in sophomore Bruce Brown and freshman Lonnie Walker, in that order.

Both last week were non-committal about whether they will turn pro next year.

Here’s what Schmitz had to say on the 6-5 Brown: “The 21-year-old Miami sophomore headlines this crop of shooting guards, thanks to his physical tools, killer mentality, defensive versatility, intangibles and improved offensive game. An RSCI top-30 recruit out of high school, Brown had an excellent freshman season under Jim Larranaga, starting 29 of 33 games with signature performances against North Carolina (30 points on 13 shots) and Duke (25 points on 18 shots). Brown's two-way impact, willingness to do the little things and ability to score or make plays when called upon made him a very valuable piece of a Miami team that finished near the middle of the ACC.

“An unskilled energy athlete early in his high school career, Brown looked like every bit of a lottery pick this summer at Adidas Nations, defending up to three positions, making shots off the dribble and the catch and showing the ability to play on the ball for brief stretches. With the addition of explosive freshman guard Lonnie Walker, Miami will be one of the more dynamic teams in the ACC. The mature Boston product figures to take on more of a leadership role, likely becoming one of the more touted guards in the 2018 draft in the process.”

On the 6-4 Walker, Schmitz said: “This freshman is one of the most physically gifted 2-guards in the draft at 6-foot-4, with a wingspan of 6-foot-10½, a tremendous 206-pound frame and explosive leaping ability. From a tools perspective, he has similarities to Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell at the same age.

“Walker's skill level and overall feel for the game are still a work in progress. He suffered a torn meniscus in mid-July but has been cleared to play and should be at full strength to start the season. Walker's immediate impact will likely be felt on the defensive end, as he has the ability to check at least three positions at the collegiate level when fully engaged. His offensive game is fairly basic, predicated on transition runouts, catch-and-shoot 3s, one dribble pullups and straight-line drives. He can stand to improve as a decision-maker, and he also has a tendency to blend in for long stretches on both ends, with a very quiet demeanor on the floor. If Walker can stay healthy all season, shoot it with consistency and find a way to play with regular intensity, he has all the ingredients to be a lottery pick come June.”

• I asked Walker who was the hardest coach to say no to in recruiting. He mentioned Villanova’s Jay Wright. So did four-star freshman point guard Chris Lykes, for that matter.

“To see the type of person he is, I always thought, I can’t say no to Villanova,” Walker said. “But when I woke up and had that gut feeling in my stomach that Miami is the place to be, that was definitely one of the hardest phone calls to make.”

Walker said Kentucky’s John Calipari even went to Walker’s barber shop on Calipari’s recruiting trip to Walker’s hometown.

• UM hasn’t yet confirmed the forced departure of receiver Dionte Mullins but hasn’t denied it either. Herald contributor Peter Ariz of Caneinsight.com reported Mullins is gone from UM’s roster.

And Mullins, who had only four catches for 53 yards, can blame himself for venting on Twitter on Sunday.

“It’s crazy how this man can’t give me no legit reason why he not playing me,” Mullins tweeted, apparently talking about receivers coach Ron Dugans.

Mullins then tweeted: “When you tell a coach about himself, he tells you to leave.” That was followed by a “facepalm” emoji.

Mullins isn’t a big loss, because UM will deep at receiver next season with Ahmmon Richards, Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley, Deejay Dallas (if he moves back from running back), Darrell Langham, Dayall Harris, Lawrence Cager and high-end oral commitments Mark Pope and Brian Hightower. A third receiver, Daquris Wiggins, is also orally committed.

• Mark Richt explained on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline on Monday night why Notre Dame is so imposing: “We’re not in position to physically impose our will on people. But that’s what they’re doing. Their line is mauling people. They are physically whipping people. And that will be our greatest challenge defensively, to slow down that running game.

“Probably the greatest challenge of the season for our defense. They sign four, five star guys every year and they know how to develop them. Last year they were 4-8 and we couldn’t beat them when they were struggling. Now we’re going to try to beat them when they’re hitting on all cylinders.”

• UM has made a ton of big plays but that will be more difficult on Saturday than in any game this year.

Richt said Notre Dame “isn’t used to giving up the big plays. They’re used to playing zone and try to knock the ball out and punish guys. They say... you’re not going to get a big shot.”

Asked how his players will handle a week when the spotlight will be especially glaring, Richt said on Hurricane Hotline: “You can’t put them in a bubble. They get to hear from fellow students and professors. [They will see things] on social media. I talked about it with the team in our meeting on Sunday; these are the things that are going to happen and teams that have been there for the first time in a long time historically struggle with these exterior things. What are you guys going to do? You can focus on your job and school and you can focus on what do I do on this play [or that play].”

• UM said former UM and NFL standpoint receiver Reggie Wayne addressed players the night before the Virginia Tech game and former UM great and NFL All Pro safety Ed Reed gets the assignment Friday night, on the eve of the Notre Dame game.

“Ed is so powerful when he speaks,” Richt told WQAM’s Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. “He gets the attention of everyone when he speaks. Passionate man and a passionate player.”

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