Yes, we are still smack dab in the middle of football season.
So I won’t stray too far from the gridiron, but Miami Basketball’s season is just around the corner.
And while this year’s team will look far different than last season’s Sweet 16 bunch, they still have a chance to be very, very good.
Let’s take a look at some key things to watch, as Coach L’s team prepares for the coming year.
#1 Make no mistake about it, this is junior PG Ja’Quan Newton’s team now. Is he ready?
“The thing I’ve noticed more than anything is how much higher he is jumping, he’s actually becoming a better athlete. He’s got the ball in his hands constantly. As much as Shane Larkin did. As much as Angel Rodriguez did. As we have developed as a team I have seen him take on more of a leadership role.” - Coach Larranaga during this week’s presser, on the development of Newton.
Coach also said that Newton was elevated to captain alongside Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy (a pair of seniors).
Newton is no longer a 6th man. He’s the lead G on this team. Watching Larkin and Rodriguez during UM’s 2 Sweet 16 runs, we know vital that role is. And it sounds like Newton is ready for the challenge. We know he can score off drives and on the break, and we also know he is a feisty defender. His jump shot and distribution skills as well as aforementioned leadership, are the keys to the season. UM has plenty of scorers, Newton needs to get his talented teammates involved and be the stir that straws the drink. Listening to Coach L rave about his early progress bodes well for this team.
#2 Are there enough shots for the plethora of scorers on this team?
Davon Reed is likely your #1 option at the 2/3. And Reed is an accomplished shooter/finisher. Can he take his game to the next level? How many touches are enough for Reed?
San Jose State transfer Rashad Muhammad is also a known scorer. He averaged over 13 a game in his last stop (albeit on a terrible team). Is he the new sixth man? Can be follow suit of another former transfer in Sheldon McClellan and be a more efficient as well as explosive scorer.
Freshman Bruce Brown is too good not get his. Coach L and others have compared his game to that of Russell Westbrook. He might end up leading this team in scoring.
Dewan Huell comes to Coral Gables with even more hype than Brown. The three time State Champion from Norland H.S. is 6’10, but with a versatile skill set. He could be a Top 3 scorer by season’s end.
What about Dejan Vasiljevic? He’s a natural shooter, who is likely going to have to learn on the fly as the team’s back up PG? But he too will be most natural putting the ball in the bucket as he develops.
Anthony Lawrence Jr. has also earned the chance to see the ball more. Something tells me his unselfish game will fit well with the other players around him. But he will have hot nights too, where he could go for 20.
That’s a lot of firepower.
But this group needs to find a way to work together, and settle into roles.
Not everyone can be the Alpha Dog.
#3 What might be the starting line-up/rotation?
Coach all said right now with the 10 scholarship players, the team is broken down like this.
#1 Returners - Newton at the point, Reed at the 2, Lawrence at the 3, Kamari Murphy at the 4 spot, and Ebuka Izundu at the C.
#2 Newcomers - Dejan and Bruce interchangeable at the G spots, Muhammad at the 3, Huell at PF and Rodney Miller at the pivot.
But that is not necessarily your UM starting line-up/bench.
Newton is set at the point. That’s a given.
Reed too, will start.
I like Lawrence as the 3. He can do a little of everything, and has the unselfish game to compliment the scorers.
But if Brown is too good to come off the bench, Lawrence’s unselfish nature might be tested as he becomes a reserve, and Reed slides to the 3.
Murphy because of his experience, is probably your starting PF. He needs to improve his consistency on the glass.
At the 5, I like Huell. But Izundu is probably a better defender at this stage of the game. So this could go either way.
Muhammad and/or Brown are your 6th man candidates.
That’s a lot of talent on the bench.
The only player who I think may redshirt is Miller.
Coach L has a lot of interesting decisions to make about this team/rotation.
If this team gels it could be good enough to contend in the ACC and beyond.
Stay tuned ‘Canes fans.
The Hurricanes open the season with an exhibition game Nov. 2 against Barry, then host Western Carolina on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. for the regular season opener at the Watsco Center.