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2 posts from July 6, 2013

July 06, 2013

Heat loses recuit Monday; Updating UM's 2014 recruiting and local class; Dolphins, Marlins

Two quick notes:

1) Monday 3 p.m. Derrick Griffin, a top UM commitment as a wide receiver and as a basketball forward, told stateoftheu.com that he's enrolling at prep school for three months but plans to enroll at UM in December and play basketball this season.

But Griffin still needs to improve his ACT score, so the basketball staff can't be certain he will enroll in December. If Griffin gets into UM this winter, he plans to play football, as well, beginning in the 2014 season.

2) Rookie forward James Ennis, acquired by the Heat on draft night, and well-regarded point guard Myck Kabongo struggled in the Heat's 69-59 loss to Utah in Miami's opener at the Orlando Summer League on Sunday. Ennis (11 points) shot 2 for 7 and said he was nervous early - which was obvious when he shot an airball on a three-pointer to start the game. Kabongo (3 points) shot 0 for 4 but played well defensively.
Center Jarvis Varnado scored 10 points, on 4 for 11 shooting, making a 19-foot jumper but had difficulty finishing in the basket area at times. He added six rebounds and was a presence defensively, with four blocks. Former Belmont guard Ian Clark led Miami with 15 points, including three three-pointers, and will play for Golden State in the Las Vegas Summer League. The Heat next plays Brooklyn at 5 p.m. Monday on NBA TV.



With college coaches circling South Florida, hoping to snag gems from a talent-rich Miami-Dade/Broward 2014 recruiting class, here’s a request: No more absurd drama, please.

Whether it was Alex Collins’ mother taking his unsigned letter of intent and running away with it (briefly), or the Matthew Thomas fiasco, or Denver Kirkland stringing UM along, UM rescinding his offer and then making another one that was rejected, South Florida recruiting has served up more soap operas than daytime television this year.

The peculiar recruiting tale of Collins -- who signed with Arkansas against the wishes of his mother, who preferred he attend UM -- quietly ended for good recently, when the attorney hired by his mother to investigate Arkansas’ recruitment of her son was unable to find any wrongdoing.

“I have no evidence,” attorney Jack Paris said. He said the mother planned to file a complaint with the Broward School Board but decided against it.

Thomas, the nation’s No. 2 linebacker prospect, signed with FSU but said in April he would not report and wanted to attend Georgia or USC instead. But FSU coach Jimbo Fisher wouldn’t grant his release, USC’s calls went unreturned by FSU, and Thomas agreed to remain a Seminole.

A UM official said Thomas told UM he would sign with Miami on National Signing Day, so changing his mind was nothing new for him.

UM coach Al Golden said the 2014 South Florida recruiting class is outstanding, and UM is capitalizing: Ten of the Hurricanes' 20 oral commitments so far are from Miami-Dade and Broward.

Four of those 10 are especially highly rated: Central's Joseph Yearby (rivals.com's No. 7 running back); Central’s Trevor Darling (the No. 17 offensive tackle prospect); Hialeah Champgnat's Travonte Valentine (rated the fourth, 11th or 20th best defensive tackle, depending on whether you believe 347sports.com, ESPN or Rivals); and Northwestern’s Mike Smith (18 sacks last season/No. 21 ranked defensive end by rivals.com).

UM's other non-binding pledges from Dade or Broward: Hialeah three-star quarterback Alin Edouard (his coach said UM has told him it wants him, and he remains committed for now, but I wouldn't bet the mortgage)… St. Thomas Aquinas’ Nick Linder (brother of UM’s Brandon and the No. 10 center)…

Carol City’s Trayone Gray, who runs 4.4 in the 40 and figures to end up at receiver at UM, though he is set to play quarterback this season…. Booker T. Washington’s Demetrius Jackson, who has never played in a high-school football game (he was focusing on basketball) but had five sacks in a spring scrimmage and drew interest from Arkansas and others… And finally, two under-the-radar cornerbacks: Dillard’s Dennis Turner and Miami Northwestern’s Ryan Mayes (formerly of Krop).

So far, ESPN rates UM’s 2014 class 11th overall (FSU is fifth, UF 8th), and Miami’s top four commitments are from South Florida: Yearby (20th among all prospects), Wellington offensive tackle Kc McDermott (45th), Darling (133rd) and Valentine (150th). The UM class also has a few players that didn't receive offers from other major BCS-level schools, but the Canes coaching staff felt they were worth taking a chance on. Only time will tell whether those were good evaluations.

And there’s still work to be done for UM. Here’s the buzz on recruiting analyst Larry Blustein’s top half dozen Dade/Broward recruits – and others – and where UM stands:

1. Plantation American Heritage running back Sonny Michel. Picked Georgia over UM, but UM hasn’t given up on landing a player who spent considerable time around the Miami campus the past few years.

2. Homestead receiver Ermon Lane. He previously told rivals.com (which ranks him second among all receivers) that UM is his “dream school.” But he said last week: “It’s real frustrating. I don’t have a leader.” Alabama and UF are also major contenders for him.

3. Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook. Told rivals.com (which ranks him sixth among running backs) that his oral commitment to UF “is pretty solid – 90 percent - but I’ll let everyone recruit me.” UM is making a hard push; his brother is UM freshman basketball player DeAndre Burnett.

4. Central’s Yearby. He switched from FSU to UM in March and said a few weeks ago: “I’m pretty solid to Miami, but I’ll keep USF in mind” because his former high school coach, Telly Lockette, is now running backs coach there.

UM “tells me I’m not the only [running back] they’re bringing in,” Yearby said. “They always try to keep it straight. That’s what I like about Al Golden and his staff.”

Yearby is trying to get Cook to join him at UM, while Cook is trying to lure Yearby to UF. One associate told me he expects Yearby to end at UM. But asked recently by rivals.com how much he’s listening to other schools, Yearby said: “A lot.”

5. Hollywood Chaminade Madonna’s Khairi Clark -- ranked ninth among defensive tackles – orally committed to UF. And UF also beat out UM, so far, for St. Thomas Aquinas’ Anthony Moten, the nation’s No. 12 defensive tackle. But Moten said he hasn’t ruled out Miami, and UM will continue efforts to flip both. Valentine's commitment somewhat reduces UM's disappointment of losing out on Clark and Moten. But Valentine is no sure thing to qualify, so UM must keep pushing for high-end defensive tackles.

6. Booker T. Washington’s Treon Harris. UM has some interest in Harris as a defensive back (he’s rated the No. 4 athlete by rivals.com) but not as a quarterback. Harris, brother of former UM standout Brandon Harris, told rivals.com he wants to visit UM but prefers to play quarterback. He threw for 25 touchdowns and ran for 15 in 2012.

### Elsewhere: Booker T. Washington’s Chad Thomas, the nation’s No. 11 defensive end who held his own against McDermott at a recent camp, said UM has a “decent” shot…. Curiously, UM has not offered two four-star Fort Lauderdale University School players: cornerback Quincy Wilson (Gators, USC among 40-plus offers) and linebacker Richard Yeargin III (UF, Clemson among 30-plus offers). Wilson told me they’re very surprised by that.

### An associate expects the decision for Plantation’s Chris Lammons (the 26th ranked corner) to come down to UM, UF or South Carolina. “I know I could go [to UM] and start as a freshman, looking at the corners they have,” Lammons told rivals.com. “That’s a big thing I want.”… Booker T. cornerback Nigel Bethel II, the No. 28 cornerback, said he will pick soon from among UM, FSU, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky and Texas Tech.

### Two Miami-Dade receivers that are orally committed to FSU say they haven’t ruled out UM: Northwestern’s JoJo Robinson and South Dade’s C.J. Worton. And North Miami Beach three-star receiver Steve Ishmael said he’s also considering UM.

### Here are UM’s 10 oral commitments that aren’t from Dade or Broward: Wellington’s McDermott (UM center Shane’s brother and the No. 5 offensive tackle prospect); St. Petersburg four-star offensive tackle Reilly Gibbons (rated 216th among all prospects by ESPN); California-based four-star quarterback Brad Kaaya (rated 253rd overall by ESPN); and Alabama three-star QB Malik Rosier

Georgia-based two-star tight end Christopher Herndon; Orange Park linebacker Darrion Owens (a rising prospect still being pursued by Georgia, Michigan and others); Georgia three-star linebacker Juwon Young (stops short of saying he's 100 percent committed to UM)...

Rangy 6-5 Lantana receiver Darrell Langham (rated 289th overall in ESPN's top 300); and defensive tackles Courtel Jenkins (11 sacks last season at a New Jersey high school; chose UM over Maryland and Pittsburgh) and Dalvon Stuckey, a former FSU commit who had 15 sacks at Pearl River Community College last season. Stuckey will arrive in January and should help immediately at a huge position of need. 


### During the holiday weekend, Golden told syndicated radio host Bill King that UM expects "closure" on the NCAA case "within a month." It could stretch many months longer if UM appeals its sanctions, which is possible if UM deems them unreasonable.... Golden said incoming freshman Corn Elder, who was Mr. Tennessee as a running back the past two years, will be used as a cornerback initially because of need but also will have the option of playing some at slot receiver and could end up there eventually if he chooses.

### A critical summer for center Jarvis Varnado begins Sunday in the Orlando Summer League, with the NCAA’s all-time leading shot-blocker conceding he must show the Heat that he can shoot a 15-footer “consistently and be a Birdman, an energy guy. If I’m active, I’ll be in this league a long time.” As for the more pressing matter of Andersen, a decision is expected shortly; he has been weighing offers from the Heat and other teams.

### Dolphins No. 2 quarterback Matt Moore conceded during a quiet moment recently: “Some might think it’s shocking I didn’t leave for a starting job. A lot of people find that confusing. But I didn’t feel good with the situations” where he could have competed to start. Plus, “I have a nice home here, friends, a great organization. I believe I’m a key component here.”

### Odd story of the holiday weekend: Pictures of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wearing a Dolphins hat surfaced on the Internet, creating a minor stir. Kaepernick, irritated by the reaction, posted an Instragram picture of himself holding the Dolphins cap with this message: "This is the hat y'all mad at? I'm going to wear what I want regardless of what you think. All you need to worry about is that I grind for my teammates and the 49ers....#ridiculous #ya'll must be bored."

### The three pitching prospects that the Marlins got from the Dodgers for Ricky Nolasco are marginal: starter Angel Sanchez (2-7, 4.88 ERA but 70 strikeouts in 72 innings in low-level A ball); Triple A reliever Steve Ames (2-2, 3.67 ERA but .317 batting average against), and Triple A reliever Josh Wall (1-2, 5.60 ERA, three saves, .270 average against at Triple A). Wall has had two short stints with the Dodgers the past two years and allowed 17 runs in 12 2/3 innings. Yikes!

### Though his defense has been outstanding and his bat has picked up a bit recently, the Marlins expected shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to hit better than this (.223), considering he batted .273 in the minors and .254 in 41 games for Toronto. “He can hit .250, but he has to make his swing shorter,” Marlins executive Andre Dawson said.

### Marlins officials were told that like FIU and Sun Life Stadium, Marlins Park also will be considered by David Beckham if he picks Miami for an MLS expansion team. Beckham has visited FIU and Sun Life but not Marlins Park and his people have not given the local contenders an update on this thinking.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Saturday notes: Ennis, Kabongo among those worth watching in Heat summer league

With very few roster spots available, the Heat will search for fresh young talent worth developing when it begins summer league play Sunday against Utah in Orlando (1 p.m., NBA TV). And among the 23 players set to play for the Heat in either Orlando or Las Vegas or both, forward James Ennis and point guard Myck Kabongo bear careful monitoring, with each possessing an appealing skill set.

Kabongo, who went undrafted, was considered a possible first-round pick out of Texas before last season's 23-game NCAA suspension.

Ennis, selected 50th by Atlanta and traded to the Heat on draft night, offers the type of athleticism and position versatility that the Heat likes.

“When we watched James on film, he jumped off the screen with his athleticism and length,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “He’s long, has a defensive background. He’s got very good potential in terms of his three-point shooting, especially from the corners. These things all need to be developed. You never know when you get into the second round. You’re just trying to find somebody that fits your philosophy.”

Ennis, 6-7, averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks at Long Beach State last season but struggled with his floor game (99 turnovers, 70 assists). He said he’s best suited to play small forward but also can play shooting guard.

When Spoelstra called him at 8 in the morning the day after the draft, “I was surprised. I didn’t recognize his voice. He said, ‘Congratulations and give it your all.’”

Ennis, who said he had no idea the Heat was interested in him before the draft, said he needs to “work on ball-handling and getting my shot off faster.”

Center Jarvis Varnado, the only Heat veteran participating in summer league, said Ennis “is going to be a good player. Coach likes the long, wiry guys. He defends, he’s a slasher, gets into the lane.”

Meanwhile, Spoelstra said the 6-1 Kabongo “has big upside. Our organization has a history of uncovering guys that needed the right fit.”

He piqued the interest of scouts with a dynamic freshman season at Texas (9.6 points, 5.2 assists, 1.3 steals).

But last fall, he began his sophomore season on suspension after the NCAA ruled he accepted personal training instruction from Jerry Powell, a trainer for Rich Paul, who represents LeBron James and now Kabongo, among others.

The NCAA also punished Kabongo for accepting airfare from Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson to attend that workout and also said Kabongo provided “false and misleading information” during two interviews with university officials. Kabongo was forced to repay the airfare.

“It was a minor setback,” Kabongo said Saturday. “The whole thing was me just trying to be a better player. It was never to break any rules.”

He returned for the final 11 games, averaging 14.6 points, 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals and shooting 41.8 percent before deciding to turn pro.

He said not being drafted was “a blessing in disguise. For me to be here in a great organization, they do everything in a first class way. I’m happy to be around something like that.”

Kabongo, a skilled defender who is considered especially effective off the dribble, said he has a “great basketball IQ, can pass pretty well.  I can affect the game at both ends of the court, and I’m a leader. I know I’m not a polished player. I’m going to get there one day.”

He said he has known James since high school and “we’ve been close ever since. He’s always been there for me.”  

LeBron’s only message to his friend after going undrafted? “To work hard wherever you go.”

### Spoelstra said Udonis Haslem will undergo knee surgery on his torn meniscus in the next two weeks and likely will be available for the start of training camp. Haslem played with the injury since February, and Spoelstra said he also played through shoulder, hip and ankle problems.

“The thing about U.D. is he will never, ever talk about it,” Spoelstra said. “It shows you his level of toughness and commitment.”

### The Heat, still awaiting a decision from free agent center Chris Andersen, will have a seven-day window to use the one-time amnesty provision beginning July 11. If it’s used, the likely candidates would be Mike Miller, due $12.8 million over the next two seasons, or Joel Anthony, due $7.6 million over the next two.

The Heat would be required to pay an amnestied player’s salary, but it would not count against Miami’s cap or luxury tax obligations. If the Heat decides to part ways with Miller or Anthony, a better scenario financially would be finding a team willing to absorb either player’s contract in a trade.

### Center Justin Hamilton, the Heat’s 2012 second-round pick, is doing light shooting with the team but isn’t playing in the summer leagues because of a hamstring injury.

### Check back later for the Sunday buzz with Canes, Dolphins, Marlins and Heat.