Playing in the NBA is a dream for many youngsters. Former Hurricane basketball stars Kenny Kadji and Shane Larkin are one step closer towards fulfilling their childhood dreams by receiving invitations to the NBA Combine. This week, they will be tested both mentally and physically, as their skills and abilities will be compared to 59 other prospective draft picks. Both have much to prove. Kadji, standing at 6’11 and weighing 242 pounds, will have to prove to scouts that he can bruise inside with the big men in the NBA. Although Kadji has the height to be an effective defensive player, questions remain about his lateral quickness and weight. Kadji’s best asset is his jump shot. Multiple teams in the NBA are looking to go small and Kadji would fit perfectly as a small-ball five. Even as a traditional four, Kadji would wreck havoc due to his ability to spread the floor and create space for his guards, which is part of the reason why both Larkin and Durand Scott were so effective last season at getting to the bucket. Kadji should focus on displaying his outside game to woo scouts during the combine in order to solidify a spot in the middle of the second round.
As for Larkin, the biggest knock on him is his height. On a generous scale, Larkin stands at 5’11, weighing around 185 pounds. What Larkin lacks in height, he makes up with gifted athletic ability and a high basketball IQ, both of which he will have to show off to NBA scouts to remove any doubts about whether or not he can play with the big boys. Larkin has two other things working in his favor: his perimeter jump shot and his leadership ability, both of which he proved this past season. Shane should look at Ty Lawson for inspiration, whose height was also questioned before the 2009 NBA Draft. Today, Lawson is the starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets and is able to excel because of his quickness and consistency from the perimeter, skills that Shane also shares. Look for Larkin to impress scouts both on and off the court during the week of the combine and improve his draft stock.
Just two weeks after ACC Player of the Year Shane Larkin committed for the NBA, Miami Hurricanes basketball welcomes two new members: former Arizona St. point guard Angel Rodriguez and Belgian point guard Emmanuel Lecomte. Angel Rodriguez was the starting point guard for the Wildcats this past season, averaging 12 points and five assists. He stands as 5’11, similar to Larkin’s height. He only shot 37 percent from the field but shot a solid 35 percent from the three-point line and 83 percent from the free throw line. Rodriguez could be a solid replacement for Larkin, provided that he improves his field goal percentage.
In addition to Rodriguez, Belgian point guard Emmanuel Lecomte (or Manu) will also help the Canes replace Larkin’s production. Lecomte currently plays on a reserve team in the Ethias League in Belgium, where he averages 20 points and five assists. Also 5’11, Lecomte’s strengths include his court vision and his ability to shoot well from long range, both much-needed qualities for any solid point guard. However, Manu is only 165 pounds and acknowledges that he needs to bulk up in order to be a successful point guard in the ACC.
Although the Canes will certainly miss Larkin, Coach Jim Larranaga has two solid options at the point guard position, both of whom have a bright future in orange and green. The only problem with these two players is that they are both around the same size (and are undersized), meaning that it will be difficult for Larranaga to play them both at the same time, they way he did with Durand Scott and Shane Larkin. Although Scott played the two-guard last season for Miami, he originally had played the one with former Miami guard Malcolm Grant playing the two. Scott was able to transition to the shooting guard position because he is around 6’4 and is able to defend multiple positions.
Together, Durand Scott and Shane Larkin were the best defensive backcourt in the ACC, finishing first and second, respectively, in ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting. Although Angel Rodriguez made the all Big-12 Second Team, he isn’t exactly known for being a lockdown defender. Lecomte also isn’t known for being a defensive stopper and it is also unclear how his game will transition to Division 1 college basketball. Both players will have to work on their game defensively to adequately fill the void that Larkin’s departure has created.
Provided that Rodriguez can be cleared to play his first season, look for him to be the starting point guard for Miami with the young Lecomte initially playing a back up role.
If you don’t already know, starting point guard for the Miami Hurricanes Shane Larkin has declared for the NBA. The son of MLB Hall of Famer Barry Larkin is projected as a mid-to-late first rounder or early second rounder. With his combination of tremendous speed, incredible court vision, and lights-out jump shot, Larkin is going to be a much-needed asset for some NBA team. The question still remains though of where the former ACC Player of the Year will end up. Let’s analyze which NBA teams could land Larkin based on their needs and position in the draft.
New York Knicks, Pick Number 24
The Knicks thought that they had their point guard problem solved with the addition of Raymond Felton. However, if you’ve followed the Knicks the last couple of years, you know that Felton’s play has been inconsistent at best and that he has been plagued by injuries. The Knicks added Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni to add depth to the point guard position, but both players are slow and have trouble creating their own shot, forcing Carmelo Anthony in numerous isolation situations. Larkin would add some much needed speed to a slow and injury-prone backcourt. He fits well into the Knicks’ current system under Mike Woodson because of his quickness and ability to hit the long-range jumper. Also, being the defensive minded coach that he is, Mike Woodson would not mind adding the second best defender in the ACC alongside of lockdown perimeter defender Iman Shumpert. Don’t be surprised if Larkin is playing at Madison Square next season if he drops this far in the draft.
Utah Jazz, Picks Number 14 and 21
With the solid frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Utah Jazz barely missed the NBA Playoffs this past season. The Jazz struggled at the point guard position all season, mainly using Randy Foye and Moe Williams, both of whom are better playing the two-guard. The Jazz have no true point guards signed on their roster for next season. Larkin has a great chance to excel in Salt Lake City because the roster has a similar make up to his Miami Hurricanes team of a year ago. The combination of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors is similar to the trio that Larkin had in Miami in the form of Reggie Johnson, Julian Gamble, and Kenny Kadji. Gordon Hayward, Jeremy Evans, and Moe Williams (provided that he resigns) resemble Larkin’s wing players, Durand Scott, Rion Brown, and Trey McKinney Jones. The Jazz will probably look to add two guards with their two first round picks and it is highly probable that Larkin could be one of them.
San Antonio Spurs, Pick Number 28
Everyone knows that the San Antonio Spurs have an All-Star starting point guard in Tony Parker. However, the Spurs have a clear deficit at the back-up point guard position, and it was exposed this past season with Parker’s injury. The Spurs mainly used players such as Nando de Colo, Gary Neal, and Manu Ginobili to run the point during Parker’s absence, all of whom are at their best playing off the ball. Greg Popovich could use a player like Larkin to relieve Parker from playing heavy minutes. Nothing could be better for Larkin than to play for the Spurs because of Pop’s unmatched ability to highlight the strengths of his players. Larkin also fits in well into the Spurs’ system because of his focus on defense and his ability to shoot the three. Although Larkin may not be happy being a back up initially, he has plenty of time to learn and grow under the guidance of Tony Parker and could eventually take over the ropes as the floor general for the Spurs.
I only focused on the Jazz, Knicks, and Spurs because they have an apparent need for a point-guard and are optimally placed in the draft to take Larkin. Wherever Larkin ends up, there’s no doubt that he is going to be a positive contributor for his team in one-way or another.
It was a disappointing night for the Miami Hurricanes. The Canes shot an abysmal 35 percent including 8-26 from the three-point line en route to 71-61 loss to Marquette. The score does not justify how badly the Canes played and how well the Golden Eagles played. After being down 4-2 in the first couple of minutes, Marquette never looked back, getting to the basket at will and stifling the Canes on defense. Marquette looked especially prepared for Miami’s high-ball screen, showing high on Shane Larkin to ensure he did not gain momentum heading towards the basket and running three-point shooters off the line to keep them off balance. It also did not help Miami’s cause that they shot one for twelve in the first half from the three-point line, some of which were good looks and had fell all season for the Canes. Meanwhile, on the other end, Miami had no answer for Marquette’s big men. Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson, and Chris Otule all scored in double figures, giving the Golden Eagles a huge advantage for points in the paint. In addition to the paint play, Marquette also hit three of six from the three-point line, including two in the first half. Vander Blue’s jump shot with three seconds left gave Marquette a thirteen-point lead at the break.
The Canes shooting percentage could only go up in the second half considering that they shot less than 30 percent in the first twenty minutes. Unfortunately for Miami, Marquette started the second half on fire, making eight of their first nine shots. Every time it looked that the Canes were gaining some momentum, Marquette would answer with a lay up on the other end or the Canes would shoot themselves in the foot with a turnover. The Canes never got closer than 14 for most of the second half. Marquette did a phenomenal job breaking down the Canes’ pressure by passing over the top and getting lay-ups for Gardner or Otule. By the time the Canes were able cut the lead under 14, it was too little too late.
Almost everyone underperformed for Miami, starting with Durand Scott who had his second poor shooting performance, making only three out of his thirteen shot attempts. Trey McKinney Jones and Rion Brown, normally known as sharpshooters, missed seven and ten shots respectively. On paper, Shane Larkin had a decent game with fourteen points and four assists. However, anyone who watched the game knows that Larkin did not have the type of impact that he normally does. Marquette did a great job containing him, which prevented Larkin from penetrating and setting up himself or his teammates with good looks. In terms of the big men, Kenny Kadji was the most effective for the Canes tonight, scoring six out Miami’s first seven points. The Canes needed much more from him as well as from Julian Gamble considering that the perimeter players were playing so poorly.
Despite how tonight ended, these Miami Hurricanes have plenty to be proud of this season, as does their head coach Jim Larranaga. Though he fell short of reaching the Final Four, as he did with his 2006 George Mason team, Larranaga still led Miami to arguably its best college basketball season ever. With Jim Larranaga as head coach and Shane Larkin leading on the court, the Canes have plenty to look forward to next season.
It’s been a season of first for the Miami Hurricanes basketball team: first 13-0 start to ACC play, first time beating a number one overall team, first time winning the ACC regular season, and so on. The Canes added to their impressive resume by finishing the ACC Tournament on top, defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 87-77 at Greensboro Coliseum. The Canes got an early scare when ACC Defensive Player of the Year Durand Scott walked off the court during the first thirty seconds of the game due to a strained back. The Canes missed Scott’s presence, especially on defense as the Tar Heels started off the game on fire. P.J Hairston and Reggie Bullock kept the Tar Heels in the game with their pinpoint shooting from long distance. Instead of slowing the game down as they normally do, the Canes tried beating the Tar Heels at their own game, with Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones matching the Tar Heels shot for shot. The Canes were able to garner a little momentum after Shane Larkin’s floater in the lane with two seconds left put Miami up three going in the half.
Miami hoped that the Tar Heels’ hot shooting from the perimeter was a fluke and that Hairston would cool down after the break. Instead of cooling down, both P.J Hairston and Reggie Bullock heated up even more, giving the Tar Heels the lead for a good portion of the second half. James Michael McAdoo also had some big baskets in the paint for UNC. Yesterday, it was Durand Scott who held off the Wolfpack’s run with his prolific scoring. This time, it was Shane Larkin who willed the Canes back into the lead by doing whatever was asked of him. He hit a big three that cut the Tar Heels’ lead to one late in the second half. Larkin then used his quickness to make the defense collapse and kicked the ball out to Trey McKinney Jones for wide-open three pointers. Larkin helped McKinney Jones score a career-high twenty points on six of nine shooting from the three-point line. When the Tar Heels switched to man, Larkin blew by his defensive assignment for uncontested lay ups or set up Julian Gamble with easy dunks. Finally, Larkin iced the game for Miami, making all eight of his free throw attempts.
Canes Nation was disappointed when the committee passed up Shane Larkin for ACC Player of the Year, instead giving to Virginia Tech senior Erick Green. Larkin made his case again today, finishing the game with a career high 28 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. Shane’s father, hall of fame shortstop Barry Larkin, looked on proudly as his son earned ACC Tournament MVP honors. Barry still wishes his son followed his footsteps and played baseball but everyone else in Miami is grateful to have Shane leading the Canes as they prepare for the NCAA Tournament.
Miami Hurricanes’ head coach Jim Larranaga refers to shooting guard Durand Scott as the “heart and soul” of the team. Scott displayed his leadership again today, this time by scoring a career high 32 points against a normally stingy Wolfpack defense. The Canes needed every one of his baskets prevent the predicted ACC champion in the preseason from upsetting the number one seed. The Canes came storming out of the gate, jumping out to a quick 16-5 lead in the first ten minutes of the game. Scott helped Miami extend its lead to nineteen with three minutes left in the first half by scoring nineteen first-half points. The Wolfpack rallied back with a run of their own at the end of the first half, led by senior Scott Wood. Wood hit two threes at the end of the first half and shifted momentum towards the Wolfpack as the two teams headed towards the locker room for halftime.
The second half began with the two teams exchanging blows. The Canes had trouble pulling away while the Wolfpack had trouble making a game-changing run. North Carolina State was able to end the stalemate by cutting the Canes’ lead to six. Once again, Scott Wood inspired the Wolfpack run with his pinpoint three-point shooting. It also did not help the Canes’ cause that they were being careless with the basketball and not getting back in transition. Durand Scott came to the rescue again by hitting a big three that shifted momentum back towards the Canes. Backcourt teammate Shane Larkin followed Scott’s lead and scored critical baskets for Miami when they needed it the most. Together, Scott and Larkin combined for 55 of Miami’s 81 points, accounting for 68 percent of the total offense. Not only did Miami’s backcourt get it done on offense, but the two best perimeter defenders in the ACC also led the way on defense, creating five steals between them. Scott and Larkin also forced Scott Wood and Lorenzo Brown into tough shots, making it difficult for NC State to stay in the game.
With less than three minutes left in the game, Durand Scott fouled out. He received a standing ovation from the limited Miami supporters at Greensboro Coliseum. The Wolfpack looked to make another run, cutting the lead to eight with less than two minutes to go. This time, Shane Larkin silenced the crowd with his lightning quick handles, smart decision-making, and clutch free throws. Larkin dribbled the ball at the end of the game, as the Canes celebrated making their first ever ACC Championship game. The Hurricanes will play the North Carolina Tar Heels tomorrow, whom they have already defeated twice this season. They will be favored to win again and take home their first ever ACC Championship.