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Big Man Search: Canes Hoops On the Hunt for Size

The University of Miami men’s basketball roster currently stands at 10 for the 2014-15 season following the departure of forward James Kelly. With the scholarship reduction stemming from the former staff's NCAA violations, the Hurricanes have two remaining spots to fill. The coaching staff has been vigorously working the transfer market, as well as keeping an eye on high school and international players, to find frontcourt help for what is an already deep backcourt.

The Miami Hurricanes are in the final 2 for forward Kamari Murphy who is transferring from Oklahoma State
The Miami Hurricanes are in the final 2 for forward Kamari Murphy who is transferring from Oklahoma State
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Miami ended up the runner up for sought after transfer forwards MJ Rhett and TaShawn Thomas, both of whom ended up at high-major schools in "familiar" territory of the SEC and Big 12, respectively.  Miami also flirted with Campbell transfer Darius Leonard, who told SOTU that the Canes didn't have an official visit for him, and who pulled the trigger on another offer rather than waiting for the coaching staff to shuffle the deck with other possibilities.  Geography ultimately won out, as the Raleigh big man elected to transfer to nearby Wake Forest after already transferring to Campbell earlier in his college career in order to be close to home.  With the dearth of capable big men and the lack of an obvious return candidate such as Donnovan Kirk, it has become harder for Miami to fill its remaining slots with heavily recruited graduate transfers.

One thing that has become abundantly clear is that Miami is geographically handicapped against other teams. With very few Florida players at the top of the rankings, and most of them either prep school attendees from out of state or natives of "upstate" areas such as Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville, there is very little chance of getting a top player to be able to visit Coral Gables unofficially on his own dime, especially as highly recruited graduate transfers. With only twelve official visits per class and the inability to "shift" visits across the recruiting board depending on need and class size. it can be a struggle for any team, especially one as geographically disadvantaged as Miami, to fill classes of four or more players as the Canes must do this year. The Hurricanes look to be using what may be their final official visit on Kamari Murphy, a 6-foot -8 inch power forward from Oklahoma State, who will have two years of eligibility remaining. The Brooklyn native, who was heavily recruited by Miami out of high school, has the Hurricanes in his top two along with South Florida, and will visit both schools in early June.   Murphy is expected to sit out a year after transferring, but would give the comfort with the staff knowing they have the services of a capable big man already in place for 2015-16 and 2016-17.

According to ESPN, there are still 14 graduate transfers on the market at the time of this writing - but most have played sparingly, and only three are east of the Rockies, meaning they are likely not fits for Miami.  Expect more names to pop up soon on the transfer market, however. The Hurricanes picked up a late transfer from Donnovan Kirk in the middle of June last year, and of course, Shane Larkin joined the Hurricanes in August 2011, both after moving on from DePaul. Though it is frustrating for sure, Canes fans should be patient and let the process play out - there is no guarantee that the roster in November will look as it does in May.

Editorial note: Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, and others in the media have called the recent spate of transfers an "epidemic", with the number of transfers more than tripling in the past decade.  Though Miami has been a beneficiary of this trend, we personally couldn't agree more that this has become a major problem.  While there are always legitimate reasons to transfer, varying from homesickness, coaching changes, and the like, the instant gratification culture has led to far more transfers for players who do not immediately start, get enough touches, or who feel they might now be recruited at a higher level than they were out of high school. Basketball players are recruited early, with middle school rankings and early offers in abundance, and can sign a binding letter of intent in November of their senior year. Unlike in football, the culture is such that coaches do not openly try to "flip" recruits, and a player who commits in the middle of his sophomore year may find a very different situation awaiting him when he arrives for his freshman year of college - to include a coach who has turned on him for another shiny new toy in that time. While we have our own reservations about football's "Wild West" atmosphere, it certainly provides more exposure to the different opportunities available to the recruits, and perhaps limits the chance of buyer's remorse that runs rampant in college hoops.

As always a special tip o' the hat to SOTU hoops Consigliere Josh Frank aka @JoshDaCane for his valuable input and grammatical expertise in crafting this piece.