The college basketball season is over, and March Madness turned to March Sadness. But University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga is trying to remain busy and optimistic as he self-quarantines during the coronavirus pandemic.
A numbers-cruncher even in normal offseasons, Larranaga is spending extra time dissecting the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA statistics of this past season to see what successful teams did well and what the Hurricanes need to improve on.
He is group-texting his players every day. And doing a lot of recruiting by telephone, as no campus or home visits are permitted.
“After we got back from the ACC tournament, the coronavirus thing exploded and basically almost all our players went home,” Larranaga said.
Harlond Beverly went to Detroit. Anthony Walker went to Baltimore. Isaiah Wong went to New Jersey. Kam McGusty went to Houston. Rodney Miller went to Brooklyn.
Chris Lykes, Deng Gak and Sam Waardenburg stayed because they share an apartment in Kendall. Waardenburg was planning to head back to New Zealand this week.
All the student-athletes resumed classes online Monday.
“I’ve been very busy, texting my players, my staff, recruits, doing statistical research, everything I normally do, except I can’t travel to see recruits and they can’t come visit us on campus,” he said.
The NCAA stopped recruiting visits on or off campus until April 15, and then the they will re-evaluate.
Signing day? “Who the heck knows now,” Larranaga said.
It is normally the second week in April, but it was moved to third Wednesday in April, and it might be pushed back to a later date.
Miami has oral commitments from two highly touted recruits – five-star 6-6 forward Earl Timberlake of the Washington, D.C., area and 6-7 forward Matt Cross of the Boston area, who averaged 23.3 points and 9.5 rebounds for his AAU team.
The Hurricanes lost D.J. Vasiljevic and Keith Stone to graduation, but return Lykes, McGusty, Wong, Miller, Gak, Waardenburg, Beverly, Walker, and center Nysier Brooks, who sat out last season after transferring from Cincinnati. Brooks, 6-11 and 240, is expected to be a team leader.
“He adds an entirely different dimension because he’s a combination of Tonye Jakiri and Reggie Johnson,” Larranaga said. “He can do the things defensively that Tonye could do, but he can do the things Reggie could do and so I’m looking at is as Reggie and Julian Gamble gave us a one-two punch in the post that we haven’t had since they graduated. Now, we’ll have Nysier and Miller, who made tremendous strides. If they can play together like Reggie and Julian did, we can have a heck of a post position.”
The Canes finished 15-16 overall this season and 7-13 in the ACC. Larranaga says injuries to Lykes, McGusty, Gak and Stone were really hurt.
“We never were able to develop stability because of injuries,” he said. “We were never at full strength for any length of time where you could develop a strong foundation and good substitution pattern.
“If we can keep everyone healthy, we’ll be in a much better place next season than we are right now.
“We came in with a certain philosophy and approach to building a program and we did that for seven years. Then, we had something totally out of our control impact our recruiting (the FBI investigation). We are now back to where we want to be.”