With his team readying for the official start of practice the next day, University of Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga sat down Friday with area media representatives to talk about prospects for the 2013-14 season.
Either through exhaustion of eligibility (Durand Scott, Julian Gamble, Trey McKinney-Jones, Kenny Kadji, and Reggie Johnson) or an early move to the NBA (Shane Larkin), the Hurricanes lose their top six scorers from a team that won the regular-season and tournament titles of the Atlantic Coast Conference this past season, set a school record for wins (29), and advanced to the NCAA tourney regional semifinals.
Only one player who played in all 36 games, Rion Brown, returns. Brown, a senior guard, averaged 6.4 points in 22.2 minutes an appearance and made six starts.
“Last year at this time I was confident that we had the talent and experience, the skills, to compete for a national championship and an ACC championship,” Larranaga said. “Going into this season, there are just a lot of unknowns.
“I just don’t know my team well enough because we have so many new faces. Before I can project how we’re going to do or how we’re going to play, I’ve got basically to watch us for two or three weeks or even into November.”
Other returning veterans in addition to Brown include senior Erik Swoope, who had no starts in 27 appearances last season, and sophomore Tonye Jekiri, who has added about 25 pounds to his 7-foot frame since reporting as a slender freshman a year ago . He now weighs in at about 240 pounds and won’t be as easily pushed around as he was at times.
Graduate guard Garrius Adams, who has had injury problems throughout his career and sat out all of last year, also is a returnee with some experience. He played in 19 games as a junior in 2011-12 after making 68 appearances his first two years.
One of the more pressing priorities will be finding a point guard to take over for Larkin. The Hurricanes don’t need his successor to be the scorer Larkin was last season (a team-best 14.5 points a game), but do need someone to run the offense and generally take command.
Adams is the most experienced hand in the mix, but freshmen Manu Lecomte from Belgium and freshman Deandre Burnett from Miami also have the opportunity share in the responsibility.
Burnett’s best position, however, may be as a “2 guard” or scorer, Larranaga said.
“He’s got a knack for putting the ball in the basket,” Larranaga said.
Lecomte, who is only 5-9, drew the coach’s praise.
“You’ll see him a lot during the season, either as a starter or someone coming off the bench,” Larranaga said of Lecomte. “But he’s going to earn a lot of playing time.”
There was some thought to applying to the NCAA for immediate eligibility for guard Angel Rodriguez, who had 173 assists at Kansas State last season, but Rodriguez is contending with injuries and has expressed the desire to sit out the 2013-14 season. He will join another transfer guard, Sheldon McClellan from Texas, as a redshirt this time around.