As we mentioned in our recruiting update on Monday, the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball coaching staff is in the midst of official visit season and prospects around the nation are making their trips and giving commitments. To complicate matters somewhat, today teams can begin practicing under the new NCAA rules but that won't deter the staff from filling out the rest of this class. With hyped AAU events and live coverage on ESPN, high school basketball recruiting has become big business with lots of eyeballs. Accordingly, two under-publicized areas that the most savvy of college basketball coaches mine for talent are junior colleges and overseas prospects. When you combine those two areas - a JUCO prospect who didn't play high school ball in the U.S. - you have the recipe for a real under-the-radar find, a player who isn't even listed on any of the major recruiting sites. College coaches certainly know about Iván Cruz Uceda, who is on campus in Coral Gables right now visiting the Canes this weekend.
Cruz Uceda, originally from Madrid, Spain, is a European style big man with range out to the three-point line. At 6'10" and 230 pounds, he can play either power forward or center. As a freshman at Harcum College in Pennsylvania, he averaged 16 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game, setting a school record for rebounding average in a season. Before coming to Harcum, Cruz Uceda played in the lower divisions in Spain's ranks as an amateur. For him, coming to the United States was more attractive than going pro right away, and an assistant coach at Harcum who had played professional in Spain was key.
"In Spain, it's difficult to play basketball and study at the same time," he says. "I think it's good opportunity for me to get a scholarship and a degree and play basketball at the same time."
Cruz Uceda's visit was initially scheduled for September 7, but the Miami staff wanted to see him again before using an official visit. After watching him two days later, the staff quickly rescheduled him for this weekend.
Asked what he thinks Miami coaches saw in him, Cruz Uceda points to his versatility and maturity, while noting that he needs to work on his strength and conditioning to reach his full potential.
"I can play outside and I can shoot threes, and play in the low post also," he explains. "I think I'm a really good rebounder. I think I'm a good passer. I have a good basketball IQ too. That's why they want me." He knows what he has seen from the Hurricanes that has drawn his interest.
"Miami plays my style, because the power forward can go outside and shoot threes," he says. They can run, I think I can run the floor pretty well too, so it's a really good style for me to play there."
Off the court, Cruz Uceda says Miami appeals to him as well.
"It's an international place, they talk my language, you know," he told SOTU. "I think it's a really good place, and I would be really comfortable there."
In spite of all of the positive things that Cruz Uceda told us, it's no sure thing that he becomes a Hurricane. He is being pursued by many other schools, such as St. Joseph's, Arizona State, Seton Hall, Iowa State, and Florida Atlantic, where he visited last weekend.
Fans will know soon enough, he says.
"My idea is signing in November, so I can focus on the season and get my [associate's] degree from Harcum College."
Miami coaches want to sign at least two big men in the fall, and Cruz Uceda will have his chance to be one of them. Stay tuned for his decision as we hope to bring it to you as soon as he makes a choice.
Once again a big shout out to SOTU Hoops Consigliere Josh Frank aka @JoshDaCane for helping us with this piece.