Some more info on UM's underclassmen contemplating draft...

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Artie Burns, Corn Elder, Stacy Coley and Al-Quadin Muhammad (pictured above on right, next to linebacker Juwon Young) are the four Miami Hurricane underclassmen contemplating turning pro. Click here for story in today's Miami Herald.

Cornerbacks Artie and Corn and receiver Stacy all talked to us yesterday. 

Outside linebacker Al-Quadin Muhammad declined to discuss the subject after UM's win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.

So, last night I checked, used by As I said in my story none of the four Canes are listed among 41 underclassmen listed by

As for individual rankings by position, the site had  Burns rated 19th among junior cornerbacks in the draft class of 2017 (following the 2016 season),  Elder ranked 38th, Coley ranked 14th among wide receivers in that class and Muhammad ranked 18th among projected defensive ends in the 2018 draft class (Unless something bad happens, no way he'll last until 2018 draft).

Not sure how accurate those rankings are, but I do know that Burns is considered the most NFL-ready. And goodness knows you can understand if he declares for the 2016 NFL Draft, considering the recent death of his mom and that he's father to a 1-year-old boy and has two younger brothers still in school.

With Brad Kaaya as quarterback, I think Coley should definitely stay another season and keep improving and increasing his draft stock.He could have huge numbers next season. I most strongly think Muhammad should stay, because he could go from anything but a sure thing to a really dominant player next season (as well as proving he's mature enough not to make bad decisions outside of football). Corn has so much talent, but I feel his stock will increase also. He's just not physically imposing, although he is a phenomenal athlete. Another strong season would help him.

Here's some of what defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said yesterday about Muhammad: 

"Think about some of the great players that have come through here and then count how many starts they had before they left. He’s got seven starts. Who doesn’t need more than seven starts? You need to have in the 30s if you want to be a really truly great player that leaves here with accolades and is able to be in high regard at the next level I think you need to do it for quite a while. He’s done a good job. He’s had a good year and he’s continuing to improve. But I think he understands he’s got quite a ways to go.

"Every part of his game he knows he needs to improve on. He’s a hard worker. He invests hard every week. He studies tape. He does the things that he has to do to go play well. He’s been pretty consistent with that since he had an opportunity to start. To me that’s it. At the end of the day there’s only one way to continue to improve, that’s work hard on the field and study the game off the field. There’s no shortcut."

 That said, the risk of injury is always present. But UM does a good job of taking care of these kids physically, and risk always is present when you play football.

I wish them all the right decision, whatever that may be. This Canes team could be really good if they all return next season, but I'm thinking at least two leave. We'll see.



November 23, 2015

UM hoops No. 9 in CBS poll

The UM men's basketball team made a major statement with nationally-televised back-to-back double-digit victories over preseason Top 25 teams at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.

The Hurricanes won the tournament title after crushing Mississippi St. 105-79 and then knocking off No. 16 Utah 90-66 and No. 22 Butler 85-75. Miami improved to 5-0 and surely will break into the AP Top 25 -- possibly the Top 15 -- on Monday afternoon.

UM is ranked No. 9 in the latest CBSSports poll.

ESPN college hoops guru Andy Katz said during the UM-Butler broadcast: "If they hold on here, they're not just going to be in the Top 25, they could be in the Top 10. Right now, it's how you look, and they look great.''

ESPN commentator LaPhonso Ellis, who was working the game, said: "I think they're a Top 10 team. I've seen almost all the Top 10 teams in action, and Miami is deeper and more balanced and has so many scoring threats. How many teams can go to their bench and not have any drop-off?''

Where will the Canes land in the latest AP poll? We'll find out soon.

This could be a very interesting year for UM basketball (women are 4-0 and also receiving votes). Wonder if those 5,400 season-ticket holders will show up Friday at 4 for the game against Northeastern?

See you at the BUC  -- Michelle Kaufman.

November 17, 2015

Huell expected to sign with UM

Wednesday could be a huge day for UM men's basketball. While the Hurricanes are in Puerto Rico preparing for Thursday's opener of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 5-star recruit Dewan Huell of Miami Norland High is expected to announce his college of choice. And word from a few sources is that the 6-9, 220-pound power forward will pick Miami over South Carolina. FSU was also in the mix, but he apparently eliminated the Seminoles from his list in the past few days.

Huell had a big summer impressing scouts, and is rated anywhere from No. 20 to No. 25 nationally depending on the recruiting site.

If you've never seen him play, here's a preview...


posted by Michelle Kaufman. See you at the BUC.

November 13, 2015

Kamari Murphy suspended

By Michelle Kaufman

The University of Miami men’s basketball season got started with bad news two hours before tipoff Friday.

Junior forward Kamari Murphy, an Oklahoma State transfer expected to be a major contributor, was suspended for the first three games for a violation of team rules, the school announced as the Hurricanes prepared to host University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley at the BankUnited Center.

Murphy will return to the team Nov. 20 for the second-round game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Murphy sat out last season per transfer rules, and entered this year with high expectations. He is a tenacious rebounder and defender, and a vocal leader. Teammates and coaches raved about him in the past few weeks.

Teammate Sheldon McClellan called Murphy “a junkyard dog,’’ a tireless worker and among the team’s most respected leaders.

“Love him,’’ UM coach Jim Larranaga said of Murphy a few weeks ago. “Last year, I thought there were two areas we needed to improve and give attention to. Kamari Murphy does both very well. He is an outstanding defender and rebounder. He can guard one through five. That’s how quick he is…Once he’s settled in, maybe 10 games in, he’s going to be really, really good.’’

Added Angel Rodriguez: “Kamari brings what this team needed – somebody else to be very vocal, what I call a dog. He not only gets himself going, he gets everybody going.’’

November 12, 2015

UM hoops signs 6-11 center

Some basketball news on the eve of season-opener (7 p.m. Friday vs. University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley)

Rodney Miller, Jr., a 6-11 center, signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball for the University of Miami, Head Coach Jim Larrañaga announced Wednesday.

Miller is a native of Laurelton, N.Y., and plays for Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He is considered a four-star recruit, and is ranked No. 15 among centers by ESPN. He chose UM over Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Seton Hall.

“Rodney Miller, Jr., impressed us from the very first time we saw him play with his size, rebounding and shot-blocking ability,” Larrañaga said. “He has a lot of raw potential and we expect that he will improve dramatically in our program. He has learned to compete at the highest level in high school by playing for one of the very best college prep schools in the country.”

See you at the BUC -- Michelle Kaufman

October 23, 2015

New Unis for UM hoops...

In case you don't follow me on Twitter (shame on you!..just kidding...but you may want to add me to your list if you care about Canes hoops)...

The men's and women's teams had a Medium-Sized Reveal party last night, attended by UM basketball's biggest boosters. It wasn't quite the extravaganza at LIV that the football team got, but it was a nice affair -- with plenty of lovely appetizers.

Here is what the Canes will be wearing this season....


Be on the lookout early next week for my preview stories on the men's and women's teams.

It should be an interesting season with nearly everyone back, the addition of Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy, and a leaner, quicker Ivan Cruz Uceda (he dropped 20 lbs and went from 24 percent body fat to 9 percent..I want to use his trainer!!)

The schedule has lots of big home games -- Dec. 1 vs. Nebraska, Dec. 8 vs. the Florida Gators, Dec. 29 vs. Princeton, Jan. 2 vs. Syracuse, Jan. 9 vs Florida State Seminoles, Jan. 25 vs. Duke, Feb. 3 vs. Notre Dame, Feb. 22 vs. Virginia and Feb. 27 vs. Louisville.

On the women's team, the Hurricanes are very excited (read: giddy) about the addition of "Double Dutch'' freshmen Laura Cornelius and Emese Hof. They are both members of the Netherlands youth national team, played in the U19 World Championship, and word is they are picking things up really quickly and poised to make an instant impact.

See you at the BUC!

---Michelle Kaufman

October 05, 2015

UM hoops update...

Hey there UM hoops fans...the season is right around the corner.

Coach Jim Larranaga met with the media today to fill us in on what's up, and here's what you need to know:

1. Ivan Cruz Uceda is a new man! Last season he weighed 237 and had 24 percent body fat. Today he is a svelt 217 lbs and only 9 percent body fat! "He is faster, quicker, stronger and will be a better Ivan than he was last year.'' (Writer's sidenote: I need to go see trainer Steve Felde!!)

2. Angel Rodriguez missed a week of training after getting his wisdom teeth out, but he's fine now, ready to go.

3. Asked about Oklahoma St transfer Kamari Murphy, Larranaga replied: "Love him!'' He went on to heap praise on Murphy's defensive skills, rebounding and ability to learn.

4. Where does he see UM among ACC competiton? "The league is very deep. We're not above the crowd, but we're in the mix.''

5. Davon Reed? "Getting better and better at everything.''

6. JaQuan Newton? "Has really improved his free throw shooting.''

7. James Palmer? "Will be competing for a lot of playing time. I see him more as a 2 or 3.''

March 12, 2015

Pre-game scene @ACC Tourney

About 40 minutes 'til tipoff for the ACC Tournament quarterfinal between UM and No. 11 Notre Dame. Canes are the sixth seed, Irish the third.

A few pre-game scenes...

Ran across this super fan in the parking lot!


Her name is B.J. Abolt, a retired auto tag agency owner who drove up with a friend from LaBelle, Fla., near Fort Myers.

They came up in a motor coach for the women’s basketball tournament and stayed for the men’s. Her brother and sister-in-law went to UM, and she adopted their team. She travels all over the country for UM sporting events. The license tag on her car back home is “CANES,’’ and the tag on her motor coach and Jeep is “2 4 U.’’

Why does she love the basketball teams so much?

“I grew up in Indiana with a basketball in my hand,’’ said Abolt. “I’m a big football fan, but now we have such terrific coaches that we’re involved with the basketball programs and it’s fun. This team, if they’re on, they can beat anybody here. Anybody.’’

She went on to rave about UM women's coach Katie Meier and men's coach Jim Larranaga, saying both are great teachers who make their players better.

A little while later, in the arena hallway, the Canes took over the hallway for some pre-game calisthenics.


Good news for us reporters writing on tight deadline tonight...Duke is crushing NC State 77-51 with 2 minutes to go, which means the UM game should start earlier than last night's 9:43 p.m. tipoff.

Enjoy the game -- Michelle Kaufman

February 02, 2015

Coach L on Angel, Louisville, etc...

Checking in with a very hoarse UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga Monday morning as he prepares team for Tuesday night game vs. No. 10 Louisville. The 23rd-ranked Canes lost back-to-back games to Georgia Tech and FSU, and will probably fall back out of the Top 25 after rejoining the rankings last week. Here's what he had to say on the ACC teleconference:

On the week: "It's been a rough week for our team.''

On the team mood: “Kids are pretty resilient. They bounce back pretty quickly. I think it’s harder on the coaches. But it’s hard on everybody. Nobody likes to lose. Everybody wants to win.’’

On inconsistency: “The whole key is consistency and we’ve been a team that’s very, very capable on some night, but because of our inconsistency, some nights we don’t play well at all.’’

On Angel Rodriguez shooting 33 percent overall and 29 percent in ACC games: “Some of it is shot selection. Some of it is he’s got too much responsibility. He needs his teammates to step up and play a little better themselves so he doesn’t end up having to take and make every big shot. One of our problems is we don’t have an inside presence, like most of the teams in our league have. Tonye Jekiri is a very good defender and rebounder, but he’s not someone we can just throw the ball to and he’s going to score with his back to basket. In fact, we don’t have a back to the basket player. So defenses are able to extend and put more pressure on us on our 3-pt shooting. We haven’t shot the three particularly well, neither Sheldon nor Angel. Defenses are now playing them a little differently than earlier in the season.’’

More on Rodriguez: “He needs help form his teammates. What made him so successful early is Sheldon was also playing great, and so was Manu, making all kinds of shots. What opens it up for Angel is when Manu’s on one wing making threes, and Sheldon’s on the other wing making threes. That opens it up for Angel to do his thing. We’ve gone thought a stretch where we’re not making threes, and it puts pressure on all of them, not just Angel, but Sheldon, Manu and Davon, too.’

On who can step up and make big shots at crunch time: “Some teams you absolutely know which guys are going to get the ball at the end of games. We don’t really have that. Angel is 5-11. It’s not so easy for him. Even if he beats his man, it’s hard to score over the big guys.’’

On facing No. 10 Louisville Tuesday: “They’ve very different. They press. They have four or five different presses. They play zone, man to man. What’s hard on us, we only have this one day to prepare. I’d like to have 2-3 days to go over what we want to do.’’

On whether he uses Snapchat in recruiting:  “My assistant coaches do. I don’t use it myself. My communication is through texting and phone calls.’’

By Michelle Kaufman


January 26, 2015

UM back in Top 25

They're baaaaaaaaack. In the Top 25.

By Michelle Kaufman

The 31,000 fans at the Carrier Dome apparently weren’t the only ones paying attention as the University of Miami men’s basketball team knocked off Syracuse Saturday afternoon. Voters in the Associated Press and USA Today polls put the Hurricanes back into the Top 25 on Monday. They are ranked No. 23 in both polls.

UM had broken into the Top 25 on Nov. 24, got as high as No. 15, slipped to No. 18 on Dec. 15 and then dropped out after losing to Eastern Kentucky. But ever since the ACC season started, the Canes have been gaining respect. They had big wins at Duke and at Syracuse, home wins over Boston College and North Carolina State and their two losses were in double-overtime to undefeated No. 2 Virginia (19-0) and by five points to then-No. 12 (now No. 8) Notre Dame.

The Canes (14-5, 4-2 ACC) face Georgia Tech at home Wednesday at 9 p.m. Coach Jim Larranaga said re-entering the Top 25 doesn’t change the team’s approach to the game. He does not want his players wrapped up in rankings. But he recognizes that being a Top 25 team has long-range benefits.

“(It’s significant) as far as getting name recognition out there, having others think we’re good,’’ he said. “We’re always going to think we’re good. But it’s earning respect from other people that’s always been important. It helps in recruiting to have high school players and coaches think you have a good program, and the way they judge that is, `Who’d you beat?’’’



January 23, 2015

UM apologizes for fan shoving NC St. player

During Miami's 65-60 win over NC State Thursday night, a UM fan shoved Wolfpack player Anthony Barber. It was captured on video. UM athletic director Blake James released this statement:

After tonight’s game I was made aware of an incident involving one of our fans and a North Carolina State University student-athlete. First I want to apologize to the student-athlete involved, Coach Mark Gottfried and North Carolina State University.  This type of behavior is not representative of the University of Miami or our athletic program, and will not be tolerated. We will review the video and discuss with the ACC the appropriate actions in addressing this issue. 


January 21, 2015

Coach L kicks players out of practice

Most interesting nuggets out of Wednesday afternoon presser with Coach L and Sheldon McClellan:

1. Coach L did not like the energy of some players at yesterday's practice, so he made them run and then he kicked the entire team out of the gym and told them to go home. "He was pretty angry,'' McClellan said. "Rarely have I seen him like that. It wasn't the first time he was mad at us, but it was the first time we've been sent home.'' They plan to show up hungrier today because "We don't want to make coach mad.''

2. Coach L said fans should expect to see more of 6-10 Spaniard Ivan Cruz Uceda against NC State Thursday night than they saw of him vs. Notre Dame. The Wolfpack pack some heavy players in the paint, so Jekiri, Uceda, Sherman and Thomas will play a big role.

3. The Canes have had trouble guarding the perimeter, and they will be tested big time against NC State guards Trevor Lacey (17.1 ppg) and Ralston Turner (13.7), whom Coach L called a "Ray Allen kind of player'' who looks for a moment of daylight and launches threes.

4. Coach L said NC State (which beat Duke, as did UM) is "Maybe the most talented, athletic team in the league. Their backcourt is as hard to guard as any in the country.''

5. Coach L on Angel Rodriguez's 1-for-10 shooting against the Irish: "Some nights you have the juice, sometimes you don't.''

BY Michelle Kaufman

January 15, 2015

On second thought, Elder and Jones stick to football

UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga, tickled to see a crowded interview room after the Canes' huge road upset over No. 4 Duke, opened by announcing that, upon further review, football players Corn Elder and D'Mauri Jones decided to stick to football and not play for the basketball team.

"Despite how excited myself and my staff were about having Corn Elder and D’Mauri Jones join us, those guys realized the amount of work they have to do academically and still with football, and the time commitment was just going to be way too much, so neither will be with us any further. Corn was with us two practices, D’Mauri just watched, and realized, `Well, maybe I need to just concentrate on the football.'’’

(My translation: Perhaps they realized just how serious college basketball is, how skilled the players are, how hard the practicees are, and it would be hard to just dabble in it. It requires a bigger commitment than they have time or energy to give)

--Michelle Kaufman

January 12, 2015

"Money Mot'' named Natl Player of Week

UM guard Adrienne Motley, nicknamed "Money Mot'', was definitely on the money last week, and it didn't go unnoticed. She was named ESPN-W National Player of the Week after scoring a career-high 32 points against No. 4 Notre Dame and 22 against Virginia Tech. She shot 68 percent against the Irish and had eight rebounds against the Hokies.

The Canes are 13-3, 3-0 ACC, and surely will break into the Top 25 today. Now, if only they could get more fans -- and students -- to show up at their games.

--Michelle Kaufman

January 09, 2015

Catching up with Coach L...

It’s always fun to attend Coach Jim Larranaga’s press conferences because he is loquacious, has great perspective, loves to teach basketball to anyone who cares to listen, and often goes off on interesting tangents.

Here are some snippets from Friday’s media gathering, as the Canes (10-4), coming off a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Virginia, prepare to face Boston College (7-6) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

On the starting lineup for Saturday’s game: “We’ll change the lineup.’’ For 13 games, the starters were Angel Rodriguez, Manu Lecomte, Sheldon McClellan, Joe Thomas and Tonye Jekiri. Against Providence, Omar Sherman started instead of Thomas. Coach L mentioned that during the Virginia game, he liked the lineup of Rodriguez, McClellan, Jekiri, DeAndre Burnett and Omar Sherman. Will he go with those 5? Stay tuned.

On Katie Meier, whose UM women’s team stunned No. 4 Notre Dame 78-63 Thursday night, the first time in 62 games the Irish lost to an unranked team: “Katie Meier was the second person I spoke to at UM when I took the job. (Athletic director) Shawn Eichorst was the first. I said I’d like to speak to Katie Meier. She was National Coach of the Year, already led UM to an ACC title. She has a great understanding of what a coach has to do in every category from relationship-building on campus to relationships with high school and AAU coaches, basketball strategy, recruiting, public relations. She is very, very well-thought of. Everybody that is familiar with the women’s side of the game is familiar with Katie Meier and the incredible job she has done here.’’

Asked to switch gears to his team, he broke into a smile and joked:  “Can’t we stay on the women’s team?’’

On overcoming the Virginia loss: “It was very painful after the game Saturday night. It was painful all day Sunday. By the time we practiced on Monday, the pain had changed to anger. I was angry, not at our players, not at my coaches or myself, just angry we lost. I wanted to use that angriness to fuel myself and my team.’’

On the new partnership between UM and Adidas: “It creates some excitement coaches are sharing with the players. (Kids asked how they will benefit) Instead of just white, green, orange, black uniforms, we’re gonna have retro uniforms, gray uniforms. We’re gonna outfit you, more travel outfits…because players, just like all of us, like gear.

“My wife has 500 pairs of shoes, not as many as my players have in sneakers.

On how the Adidas deal affects recruiting: “How do we take that announcement and put that to good use and create an advantage for ourselves in the recruiting process? One thing I’ve shared with our point guard recruits is take a look at the NBA, who’s wearing Adidas, three of the best -- Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and John Wall. They’re in Adidas. We’ve had Shane (Larkin), Angel (Rodriguez) and now Sheldon (McClellan), great guards. If Adidas is good enough for them, there’s no reason you can’t come to UM and have that same kind of success.’’

On when the obsession with sports branding began: “It started around 1967. Almost every college basketball team was in canvas Converse. First school I can remember not wearing canvas Converse was UCLA, and they were winning national championships wearing Adidas. Those shoes became very popular and kids started buying them. Shoes of champions. Nike took that idea and said, `Hey’ let’s get some college kids in our Nikes. They created an advisory board of college coaches and paid them and provided their universities with product. Free shoes. The AD was benefiting, coach was hugely benefiting, lining his pockets with cash, players were benefiting with free multiple shoes.

“When I was in college, you bought your canvas Converse. No one gave them to you. You had one pair all season. Now kids wear a pair for a week.''

By Michelle Kaufman

November 25, 2014

November 24, 2014

July 03, 2014

Six former Canes to compete in NBA Summer League; Perryman on CFPA watch list

According to UM's sports information staff, six former Miami Hurricanes are slated to suit up for NBA teams in the 2014 Samsung NBA Summer League, which tips off this weekend in Orlando, Fla., then will continue in Las Vegas, beginning July 11.

They are: Rion Brown (Charlotte Hornets), DeQuan Jones (Indiana Pacers), Kenny Kadji (Milwaukee Bucks), Shane Larkin (New York Knicks), Trey McKinney Jones (Miami Heat) and Durand Scott (San Antonio Spurs).

Brown recently completed his senior season with the Hurricanes, posting 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while hitting 1.9 shots per game from the 3-point line in his final season in Coral Gables.

Jones will be participating in his third NBA summer league season after spending the 2013-14 campaign playing for the Reno Bighorns. He spent the 2013 summer with the Sacramento Kings and earned a spot on the 2012-13 Orlando Magic after an impressive showing on their 2012 summer league squad.

Kadji is playing in his second summer league after spending his first summer with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. Kadji played for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League in 2014, after starting the season with the NY Phantom Braunschweig in Germany.

Larkin, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, was traded to the New York Knicks on June 26. He appeared in 48 games as a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks a year ago. Now Larkin will look to show the Knicks what he can do as he prepares for the 2014-15 season.

McKinney Jones, who was named to the 2014 All-NBA Development League All-Rookie Third Team, averaged 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals for the 2014 D-League champion Ft. Wayne Mad Ants this season. He was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks training camp roster a year ago before starring in the D-League.

Scott was with the Spurs in the 2013 summer league and went on to play the 2013-14 season abroad with Obradoiro CAB of the Spanish ACB League. He will return to the Spurs this summer and the reigning NBA champions will take another close look at the talented and versatile guard.

From July 5-11 the Orlando Magic will host the 25 games of the Orlando League at their Amway Center practice court. The Las Vegas League will consist of 67 games between the dates of July 11 and July 21, which will be held at both the Thomas & Mack Center and the COX Pavilion on the campus of the University of Las Vegas. All games will be broadcast on NBA TV,, and on the NBA Game Time app.


You can go ahead Hurricanes senior Denzel Perryman to another watch list. Wednesday he was named one of 40 FBS linebackers selected to the 2014 College Football Performance Awards Linebacker Trophy Watch List.

He joins teammates Ladarius Gunter and Anthony Chickillo on the CFPA watch list at their respective positions. Miami is one of only five FBS programs with a player named to all three defensive player watch lists.

An All-ACC First Team selection in 2013, Perryman started all 13 games at outside linebacker for the Hurricanes, registering a team-leading 108 total tackles including 69 solo stops. In addition to earning All-America, Honorable Mention honors from, Perryman was the recipient of the Hurricanes 2013 Hard Hitter Award and Defensive MVP award.

June 27, 2014

Former Krop standout, Niagra forward Joe Thomas signs financial aid agreement to play for Canes

Joe Thomas, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward, has signed a financial aid agreement to play for the Hurricanes, coach Jim Larrañaga announced Friday.
"Joe joins us at the perfect time," Larrañaga said in a statement released by the school. "We needed a front court player with experience and a fifth-year senior was exactly what my staff and I hoped for. He provides us with some size and strength and rebounding toughness."
Thomas, a fifth-year transfer from Niagara University,  will have one year of eligibility with the Hurricanes, beginning immediately. At UM, Thomas will be reunited with former Miami Krop High  teammate and point guard Angel Rodriguez.
Thomas averaged 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 30 games last year during his redshirt junior season at Niagara. He led the Purple Eagles in blocks, and his 54.8 field goal percentage was second-best on the squad.  

As a prep player at Krop, Thomas averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists as a senior. He and Rodriguez led the Lightning to a 26-6 record and its first trip to the Class 6A state Final Four.

Thomas joins eight new players on Miami’s 2014-15 roster. Five are recruits: Kamari Murphy, Ja’Quan Newton, James Palmer, Omar Sherman and Ivan Cruz Uceda. Two are Big 12 Conference transfers –  Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan. Redshirt freshman Deandre Burnett sat out last season with an injury.

> Earlier this week, UM announced the team had an accepted an invitation to participate in the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational hosted by the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Monday, Dec. 22. The Canes will take on Providence.

February 18, 2014

Season of challenges continues for UM, Larranaga

After winning the school's first ACC title and making a run to the Sweet 16 last March, it's been a rough up and down season for coach Jim Larranaga and the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team.

With six ACC games left on the regular season slate, the Hurricanes (12-13, 3-9 ACC) have yet to win an ACC game at home and now will be without one of their key rotation players at forward in junior James Kelly, who was suspended "indefinitely" for a violation of team rules according to UM. A source close to the team told The Miami Herald the suspension was expected to last three games.

Still, as tough as it has been to replace the entire starting lineup and have four key backcourt players sit out the season because of injury (freshman guards Deandre Burnett, Corn Elder) or transfer rules (Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan), the Hurricanes have only been run off the court once in ACC action, a 67-46 loss to Duke back on Jan. 22. 

Larranaga, a man who has coached man-to-man press defense for the bulk of his career, switched to a zone this year and slowed the game down (UM ranks last in Division I basketball in offensive possessions) so his team could remain in games despite the lack of offensive firepower. It's pretty much worked as UM has been in many games late including against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Syracuse twice.

"These first three years – next year included – it’s the most variety of challenges that I’ve ever had," Larranaga said Monday during his weekly press conference with reporters. "It comes in so many different fashions. The first year it was with injuries to Reggie Johnson, to Julian Gamble, the NCAA investigation, the suspensions of Reggie and Durand [Scott] during the season. We had all of that going on. The next year we had almost everything in place all season long except a thumb injury to Reggie. While that was going on we also had to deal with recruiting during the investigation. That created a whole series of challenges for this staff.

"Now this year, with a whole new starting lineup, new guys trying to learn their position, very, very, very challenging. Now, next year chances are we’ll have a whole new starting lineup again because we’re ending the season with starting five seniors. Having to make so many changes offensively and defensively, it's been difficult."

Playing at such a slow tempo (UM is averaging 60.1 possessions a game, 351st out of 351 teams according to isn't the way Larranaga or his players wanted to play. 

"Once we got into games it became very, very clear we could not be an up-tempo team," Larranaga said. "We had lost one of our guards so our perimeter game was really hurt by the loss of Deandre Burnett. We had originally five guys that could rotate in and out -- three starters and two subs. Now, it’s a whole lot different. As the season has progressed I’ve had to move Erik Swoope back there. His natural position is more of a four man, an undersized four, just so we have an additional body we can play at the three."

Players like freshman wing Davon Reed, who has had to play point guard at times because of injuries, would be having a much more explosive season if UM had someone to penetrate and dish him the ball, Larranaga said. But the Canes simply don't have the personnel to play otherwise, and the players believe in the slow-paced system Larranaga has in place because they've been in so many close games.

"We don’t want to get into a run and shoot contest with the teams in our league right now," Larranaga said. "We don’t have the firepower to do that.”

Is there a temptation to cut players loose and let them play in the fast-paced offense they prefer?

"I remember doing that with one of our teams at George Mason," Larranaga said. "They were very much a half court team. They said coach we want to press and run. I said fine, we’ll do that the next game. We lost to Northeastern by 25. Then we had to play them in the tournament the very next game and we beat them playing smart.

"Every kid thinks he’s the best fast break player in America and he’s best when he’s in the open court. But what you don’t understand as a player is you might be pretty good at that, but look at the opponent and tell me 'Is our team better than their team in that?' It’s not about one individual. It’s, ‘Are we going to be able to keep up with the pace an up tempo game creates.’

"Now last year I wanted the game to be as many possessions as possible, for it to be as fast possible. We played Duke and Carolina – two of the fastest teams in the league – and we scored 90. The reason is we had a lot of offensive talent... I don’t care how much space we give Tonye [Jekiri] and [Rafael Raphael Akpejiori], they’re not scorers. And our guards have limited experience."

> Larranaga said players like Jekiri, who had a season-high 15 points at FSU but went scoreless at Virginia Tech, can't really spend time during the season trying to create new ways to score because it will throw their games off.

"You really get better during the offseason," Larranaga said. "You have to work so hard between April and September and then that package of new skills you’ve developed – that growth can continue through the season.

"During the year, when you’re trying to improve its really the things you’re already good at. Because if you start messing with the things you’re not really good at to improve them, guys will start doing them in games. And they’re not very good at it.

"Shane Larkin was one of those guys. As a freshman he didn’t have those high arching layups where he could score over big guys. In the off-season we worked on it and he became a terrific high speed layup maker who could score over big guys. But you don’t start working on those during the season. You just aren’t there yet, haven’t had enough quantity. Tonye needs to spend a lot of time on his scoring ability."

> Even though he's at UM on football scholarship, don't underestimate the loss of freshman guard Corn Elder to the basketball team.

"Huge loss because Corn Elder was someone who could play man-to-man defense and guard the dribbler very, very well and handle the ball," Larranaga said. "Then we could have two natural point guards – Manu and Corn Elder sharing the point guard position and leave everybody else at their natural spots."

> New NBA commissioner Adam Silver looks like he's going to make a strong push to raise the age minimum for players to enter the NBA to 20. Larranaga is definitely a fan of that. He also would like to see the number of scholarships in men's basketball (reduced from 15 to 13 back in 1994) return to 15.

"It’s one of the things that has been a problem in men’s college basketball when scholarships were cut from 15 to 13 and in addition to that when the NBA started taking players at a much younger age," Larranaga said. "Teams from the ACC have far more adjusting to do year after year after year than mid majors do. That’s why you see so many mid-majors doing well in the NCAA tournament. Their continuity is much better. 

"The one thing about the NBA is they’re taking kids so early. You look at the No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, he’s in the D-League. The number of first round draft choices going to the D-League. From an ACC, high-major standpoint, the rules are now drastically impacting the level of performance. So many players going early so you’re replacing them with rookies – whether it’s a junior college kid or transfer, he’s still a first year player in your program. I’d like to see that corrected."

> Why does Larranaga think the Canes are struggling so much at home?

"Our lack of success at home can really be attributed to our lack of consistency throughout the year," he said. "We just don’t play the same way on a regular basis -– the individual player. A lot of that is guys playing out of position. We don’t have a clear 1-2-3-4-5 man. Garrius [Adams] has been playing the point the last three games exclusively. If you were to tell me before the season what’s his best position I would tell you the three [small forward]. He’s our third best ball handler. Our big guys are limited in their scoring ability. Tonye and Raf don’t score a lot at the five. So that’s puts pressure on the other guys to deliver and that allows the opponent to focus on the guys who shoot. And we’ve played very good teams here at home. Syracuse, Duke, N.C. State. We’d like to play a whole lot better Wednesday night.”

Forward James Kelly suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules

Jim Larrañaga's basketball team -- already short on talent and bodies this season because of injuries and transfer rules -- will be down another scholarship player.

"At this time James Kelly has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules," Larrañaga announced Tuesday. "James is a fine young man but we need him to have a clear focus on what is expected of a student-athlete at the University of Miami."

A source close to the team told The Miami Herald Tuesday that Kelly (6-7, 246) will be out for three games, meaning he won't return until March 1st at the earlier when the Hurricanes play at N.C. State.

UM (12-13, 3-9 ACC) will play its next two games at home -- Wednesday night versus Notre Dame (14-12, 5-8) and Saturday at noon against Boston College (6-19, 2-10) -- before hitting the road to close out the month of February at Virginia (21-5, 12-1 ACC) on Feb. 26.

Kelly, who hasn't started since Jan. 8 at North Carolina, had nine points and five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench in UM's loss at Virginia Tech Saturday. He ranks fifth on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and rebounding (4.0) and is one of nine scholarship players who see the majority of playing time in UM's rotation.

> UM also announced walk-on guard Steve Sorenson has left the team to focus on academics.