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Shorthanded Hurricanes lose senior center Miller for season ahead of second ACC game

Miami has already been plagued by a handful of injuries through barely a month of hardwood action, but the team will have to soldier on without Rodney Miller and win games after an ACC loss to Pittsburgh.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Miami-Florida
Hurricanes center Rodney Miller attempts to block the shot of Purdue center Zach Edey during the first half of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 8, 2020 at the Watsco Center (Coral Gables, Fla.).
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball program has lost yet another scholarship player due to injury just six games through the 2020-2021 season.

This time the arrow points to redshirt senior center Rodney Miller Jr., who started in 28 of the team’s 31 games last season while averaging 7.2 points and five and a half rebounds per game. The Oak Hill Academy (Va.) graduate was looking to have a sound impact from a leadership standpoint this season, despite relinquishing his starting center role to Cincinnati transfer center Nysier Brooks.

“We’re disappointed for Rodney, who has worked so hard, both on and off the court, to improve his game over the past few seasons,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “He’s in good hands with our medical staff and we look forward to seeing him make a full recovery.”

Miller has remained one of five players to have missed one or more games this season, despite Miami (4-2) having played six games total with only one of them against an ACC opponent (Pittsburgh). The team has also lost redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg, their leading rebounder from last year (six rebounds per game), during the preseason due to a foot injury suffered in practice.

“Right now, we’re just beat up,” said Larrañaga prior to the team’s current, nine-day layoff. “We’re shorthanded and it’s hard to prepare when you don’t have enough guys to really practice correctly.”

The hobbled Hurricanes have also been without starting guards Chris Lykes (ankle sprain) and Kameron McGusty (leg), two of their three leading scorers from last season. UM’s 10-year head coach hopes to see his seasoned backcourt duo return sooner or later, as the program takes their first road trip of the season to Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.) on Tuesday.

With another frontcourt contributor absent, Larrañaga and the team will have to rely heavily on Brooks, the team’s rebounding leader with seven per game, as well as redshirt junior Deng Gak, in order to pass a critical test against the No. 24 Hokies (7-1, 1-0 ACC).

“We’ve always approached every game exactly the same way, whether we’re home or away,” Larrañaga said. “We don’t put much credence into that [being] different. You need to be prepared. The most important thing is to put together a really good game plan and be able to execute it. The players have to know the game plan, understand the game plan, and execute the game plan as well as possible, whether you’re at home or away.”

Miami defeated Virginia Tech for the 14th time under Larrañaga on Feb. 19, 2020, after a triple-overtime duel in which the Canes scored 102 points. Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong, who had then just begun to see his first glimpses of consistent action, willed his team on an 11-2 run to force the game into overtime. Lykes and McGusty combined for 44 points, as they seek to get back on track at Cassell Coliseum.

Miami and Virginia Tech’s matchup will be broadcasted on the ACC Network at 6:00 p.m on Tuesday.