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UM commit gets go-ahead to play two sports; Golden addresses signing; Braman, Dolphins battle

The Wednesday buzz column is below, but a quick Wednesday news item, updated with an Al Golden quote and a quote from the coach of UM's newest two-sport player:

UM made a surprise addition in two sports on Wednesday, landing four-star running back Cornelius Elder, who was ranked the No. 17 running back and 203rd-best player in the Class of 2013 by ESPN.

UM said he also will be permitted to join the basketball team, which was his desire. As a basketball player, he's ranked 35th among all point guards in the 2013 Class.

"It's a great marriage for us," UM coach Al Golden said on 790 The Ticket, after Elder signed his letter of intent. "We have a need at that position [running back]. Excellent speed, lateral quickness, change of direction.

"Corn was having trouble trying to decide between going Division 1 in football or playing Division I basketball. He will have an opportunity to walk on [in basketball] and play basketball for a Top 5 program. We're excited to get him in the fold."

The UM football team showed limited interest in Elder for months before making an offer Wednesday morning. He committed a few hours later, choosing UM over Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Auburn and Vanderbilt. 

Elder, the 18th player in this UM football recruiting class, tweeted that he has always been a Hurricanes fan. So he was thrilled when the Hurricanes finally made an offer a week after National Signing Day.

Though he can also play slot receiver and cornerback, Elder will play running back for UM - a position of need because of the graduation of Mike James and the precarious health situation of Eduardo Clements. Clements has been wearing a neck brace and his status is uncertain, Golden said last week.

Elder, listed at 5-10 and 170 pounds, will join Duke Johnson, Danny Dillard, Dallas Crawford, Clements and another newcomer (Augustus Edwards) as the top backs on UM's roster, and newcomer Ray Lewis III can play running back or defensive back. Maurice Hagens returns at fullback.

During his high school career in Tennessee, Elder produced 6351 yards and 84 touchdowns. He helped lead his team to three consecutive state titles and ran for 217 yards and three touchdowns in this past season's championship game. He was Tennessee's Mr. Football in 2011 and 2012.

He also led his basketball team to state titles as a sophomore and junior and is averaging 21 points per game this season.

Though UM hadn't been recruiting Elder in basketball, UM coaches like his game and he had several major basketball offers, including from Purdue.

"If anyone can do both sports, it's him," said Ricky Bowers, his football and basketball coach at Ensworth High in Nashville. "That's because of his skill level, speed, and competitive spirit. As a running back, he's fantastic in space, rare feet, great anticipation. As a basketball player, he has great explosion."

The UM basketball team has been searching for a point guard to back up Shane Larkin next season, and Elder likely will compete for that job.

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WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

Add this to the list of obstacles the Dolphins face in procuring public money to upgrade Sun Life Stadium: Norman Braman told me Tuesday he “will have a vigorous campaign” to try to defeat the Dolphins’ proposal that Miami-Dade residents will vote on, likely in early May.

“I’m going to do whatever I possibly can,” Braman, the former Philadelphia Eagles owner, said. “I will be spending my own money.”

Despite his efforts, Braman could not derail the Marlins’ ballpark --- which never went to a public vote at the ballot box –-- but successfully led a push to recall then-Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez after he supported both the Marlins’ stadium and increased property taxes.

Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said “we believe a decision by the voters will go our way.”

Meanwhile, Braman said Dee and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross came to his office last year and unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to change his position.

“I respect Steve. He’s a good person,” Braman said. “But the man is worth over $4 billion. He can afford to do it himself. It’s welfare for billionaires. The [proposed] roof [over the stands] has nothing to do with attracting Super Bowls; they’re playing outdoors in [New Jersey] next year. The vote is a gimmick.”

The Dolphins and NFL in tandem will pay for just over half of the $400 million cost --- with the NFL potentially matching Ross' contribution --- and the Dolphins might increase their offer, according to a team source who said the Dolphins will “get their message out” by running their own aggressive ad campaign. (And you thought political ads were over for a while after last November's election.)

Even before the referendum, the Dolphins must convince the tax-averse Florida Legislature to approve changing laws so they can get a state sales tax rebate and money from an increased hotel bed tax. And some legislators from Dade remain on the fence.

The referendum might help the Dolphins’ chances in Tallahassee, but the Legislature might not know the results of the referendum before it addresses the issue.

That’s because the county needs 60 days notice for a referendum, and it can’t be scheduled yet because the Dolphins and county must hammer out language of what’s precisely on the ballot. So the vote likely will happen in early May, after or around the time the Legislative session ends May 3.

CHATTER

### For those wondering whether UM sophomore point guard Shane Larkin might turn pro, Larkin told me Monday that “it’s pretty definite I’ll be back” next season. Larkin, who patterns his game “as close to Chris Paul’s as I can can,” said North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski sought him out to tell him he’s a “great player.”

### With five roster openings to fill for next basketball season, UM is recruiting players in Europe and is a finalist (with USF and South Carolina) for Demetrius Henry (the nation’s No. 14 center) and a finalist (with USF) for high-scoring three-star guard Niem Stevenson, Henry’s teammate at Faith Baptist Christian in Brandon, Fl. They're also a top contender for Virginia-based Junior Etou, the nation's No. 14 power forward.

But former Lakers coach Mike Brown’s son, point guard Elijah, chose Butler over UM and others. Recruits keep asking UM coaches about whether the Canes will face NCAA sanctions. But Jim Larranaga believes the team's exceptional play is going to help recruiting by the time April's signing period rolls around.

### Two prominent high school coaches – Central’s Telly Lockette and Oakland Park Northeast’s Donnell Bennett – appreciated that Al Golden interviewed them for the running back coach’s job and say there are no hard feelings after Golden instead promoted Hurlie Brown to the position.

“I wished it would have worked out – it’s my goal to coach in college,” Lockette said. "Al Golden said I have a bright future," Bennett said.

Both said they haven’t talked to Golden about replacing Brown as football operations coordinator.

### While UM struck out on defensive tackles in this recruiting class, analyst Larry Blustein said they have a good chance to land the top local one in next year's class: Hollywood Chaminade Madonna's Khari Clark.

### Cleveland has emerged as somewhat of a front-runner for former Ohio State and Portland center Greg Oden, who wants to resume his career at the start of next season after recovering from last year's fifth knee surgery. But his agent said contrary to a Monday report, the Heat is still very much in it and Oden will visit with Heat officials after the All-Star break.

### One subtle change helping the Heat’s offense: Erik Spoelstra is allowing Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole to get Miami into offense a lot more – instead of having LeBron James or Dwyane Wade do it.

Chalmers said that “gets LeBron is better positions to score,” and James appreciates it, too: “You don’t want to go into a game where you handle a lot. The minutes our point guards give us when we don’t have to handle as much helps us a lot.”

No joke: the Heat outscored Portland by 41 points with Chalmers in the game Tuesday but was outscored by 28 with Cole in the game. Both both struggled defending Portland's Damian Lillard (33 points).

### The headline stat from Tuesday's win was, of course, LeBron becoming the first player in NBA history to score at least 30 points and shoot at least 60 percent in six straight games. In fact, LeBron has shot 72 percent over that stretch, while averaging 30.8 points.

This isn't as impressive as that, but it's still pretty darn amazing: By outscoring Portland 18-5 after the game was tied at 99 with five minutes left, the Heat has now outscored opponents by an absurd 94 points in the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or less (over 124 minutes).

### The Marlins haven’t pursued a trade for a center fielder because they’re comfortable with Justin Ruggiano as a stopgap and believe ace prospect Christian Yelich (.329, 12 homers, 48 RBI in Class A) could be in the majors by late 2013.

“It’s fun to watch him hit – he’s always in favorable counts,” Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said, calling Yelich and elite pitching prospect Jose Fernandez “spectacular.”

### When Fox’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted this winter that the Marlins “need a center fielder,” Ruggiano tweeted: “No we don’t. I got this.” Ruggiano explained: “I woke up at 7 and that’s the first thing I read! It seems people are forgetting what I did. I did a good job.”

### Beinfest, on Marlins fans’ pain: “I hear the frustration. It’s justified…. Fans don’t need to be patient. This is Major League Baseball. I know this guy and that guy are gone, but wait until you see this guy.”

  

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