Sam Waardenburg did not expect to immediately shine in coach Larrañaga’s program when he arrived in Coral Gables, Fla., as a three-star recruit in 2016.
But redshirting during his freshman year was the realistic approach towards what would eventually become a solid career as a role player for the Hurricanes. The 6-foot-10 forward saw an increase in playing time as a redshirt freshman, competing in 14.8 minutes per game as a redshirt freshman in the 2017-2018 season.
The Auckland, New Zealand, native rose to the occasion by his fourth year, becoming one of the team’s more experienced defenders and best rebounder while playing the fourth-most minutes (28.1) and starting 24 games. Having averaged six rebounds and almost six points per game last season, Waardenburg’s contributions and leadership will now be missed as he will be sidelined for the approximately six months due to a foot injury suffered in practice.
“He was practicing extremely well,” Larrañaga said upon the release of the news on Oct. 30. “We’re going to dramatically miss his defense, his rebounding, his experience, and just his overall demeanor on the court. He was someone who did a lot of different things for us.”
Waardenburg also proved to be one of Miami’s more prominent defenders, averaging 1.1 blocks per game. Forwards in redshirt junior Deng Gak and sophomore Anthony Walker will be primarily relied upon to fill his absence this winter.
“An injury is detrimental to any team,” said center Rodney Miller, who has also remained in the team’s frontcourt since 2016. “Thankfully we’ve faced injury before and we know how to combat it. A speedy recovery to Sam and best of luck to him. As far as the bigs, it’s next man up. We’ve got to be there, step up, play our roles, and do what we have to do.”
Miami will still remain a deep enough team in the frontcourt to contend for a spot in the upper echelon of the historically rigorous ACC. Yet losing a player like Waardenburg who has developed well for the Hurricanes will have a fairly detrimental impact on Larrañaga’s program. Waardenburg’s feathery touch from the perimeter, ability to drive to the basket off the catch, and rebounding and shot blocking has helped the Canes while their frontcourt has remained skimp over the past two seasons.
Though he would have had an additional season of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, Waardenburg will look to return strong next season with the potential of receiving a medical waiver.