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.
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.