It is officially March. Miami Hurricanes basketball has exceeded expectations this season and should be a tournament team. Good stuff. There have been many entertaining UM players over the years, including some future NBA guys. I want to focus on my favorite former Hurricane basketball players who did not have careers in the NBA, but balled hard while playing for The U. Let’s go in descending order to build the suspense!
5. Durand Scott
Durand Scott came in after winning the 2009 state championship with Rice High School in New York City, the year after Kemba Walker left for UConn. Scott immediately had an impact on the Hurricanes, making the 2010 ACC All-Rookie Team and ACC All-Tournament First Team. His game steadily improved and his senior year was something to remember: 2013 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, ACC All-Tournament first team for the ACC Champion Canes, and made it to the Sweet 16. Not a bad way to go out. I always loved watching Durand; he busted his ass on defense, was a streaky shooter, and made a million acrobatic lay-ups over his four years. The kid from the Bronx was a true Miami Hurricane.
4. Anthony Lawrence II
The St. Petersburg native known as “Ant” was the swiss army knife of Miami basketball during his time. Guard the other team’s best player? Sure. Play point guard when Chris Lykes misses multiple games? No problem. Ant was a constant, making the perfect basketball play almost every time. Watching him sometimes lose his calm demeanor and go nuts after making a big play or an and-1 would always get the team fired up. I would get fired up, and I was a lazy bum on my couch having a beer. Ant forever.
3. Tonye Jekiri
Big T is the most successful Miami Hurricane player in many years, winning the 2013 regular season and ACC Tournament Championships and going to two Sweet 16s: 2013 and 2016. He was the defensive anchor for his last three seasons. Watching Tonye block and alter shots all game was awesome. On offense, he had a solid post game and a nice stroke from the free throw line. What I loved most about Tonye was how he impacted games in multiple ways. He could get a bucket when needed, was a willing passer, and always crashed the boards. It makes sense he would have the most team success as he was an unselfish player and a true leader on his Hurricane squads.
2. Guillermo Diaz
One of my best friends went to FSU and was fraternity brothers with Andrew Wilson, the former sixth-man for the Seminoles. Wilson was a senior in 2006, Diaz’s third and last season with the Canes. Wilson told my friend that out of all the guys he guarded during his time in college, Diaz was the toughest cover. Wilson played a lot and had to guard other top ACC players: Rashad McCants, J.J. Redick, Anthony Morrow, and Jared Dudley. All those guys played in the NBA. That shows how athletic and unpredictable Diaz was. He did make Second Team All-ACC his last two seasons. That said, I truly believe Diaz was underappreciated, he was a conference player of the year type guy. Also, he was unstoppable in NCAA Basketball 2005 on Sony Playstation. I would play as Miami and beat my UNC loving buddies by scoring with just Robert Hite and the one and only Guillermo Diaz.
1. Jack McClinton
I know my picture at the top spoiled it, but J-Mac is the most entertaining Miami Hurricane basketball player of the 21st century. Even though he began his college career at Siena, he became a UM legend on the hardwood. A two-time First Team All-ACC selection, we were never out of a game with Jack. He was a one man comeback. His shot from three was on point, averaging 44% for his three years at Miami and a career-high 45.3% his senior year. Not to mention being automatic from the free throw line: 90% while at Miami, leading the ACC in both 2008 and 2009. Whether it was hitting two three pointers in the final two minutes to upset Virginia, making the game winning shot against Maryland, or scoring his career-high in his first NCAA tournament game vs. Saint Mary’s, Jack came up big for the Canes time after time. Let’s hope this year’s team can find some of his magic this March.