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‘Canes Hoops 2022: A Bleak Outlook to Contention

After losing three starters to the NBA, 2022 looked bleak for the Miami Hurricanes. Now, the ‘Canes have one of the best and experienced Big 3s in the NCAA, and should be in contention for the ACC Championship and NCAA Tournament.

Transfer Nijel Pack averaged 17.4 points per game in 2021 as a member of the Kansas State Wildcats.

After an amazing run to the Elite Eight that ended with a harsh loss to the eventual champions, the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team was losing three of their starters to the NBA guaranteed, and the other two were possibly on their way out. For a team that played a five-man rotation, these subtractions made 2022 look like a wasteland. Despite that, Coach Jim Larrañaga has turned that bleak outlook into hope for an ACC title and contention for the NCAA Tournament. How did it look Miami’s outlook look at one point, and how does it look now?

The Subtractions

After the 2021 season ended, Miami is undoubtedly losing Kam McGusty, Charlie Moore and Sam Waardenburg guaranteed. McGusty was the ‘Canes leading scorer (17.8 PPG), Moore stretched the floor for Miami and quarterbacked the offense (12.4 PPG) and Waardenburg was the main big-man for the team (8.5 PPG). The three seniors accounted for 48.4% of the team’s scoring. Clearly, these three are big losses, ones that couldn’t be replaced with players on the current roster.

After the tournament ended, it was unclear if Isaiah Wong (15.3 PPG) and Jordan Miller (10 PPG) would be returning to school. The full starting five could have possibly departed from the school. Luckily, both players announced that they were returning to Miami for another season during the off-season.

A Bleak Outlook

Let’s recap how 2022 was looking for Miami before Wong and Miller announced their intentions.

Miami is losing 48.4% of their offense in McGusty, Moore and Waardenburg. Then, the status of Wong and Miller are up in the air. If Wong and Miller’s contributions were taken into account, that’s 82.2% of all points scored for Miami in 2021. Behind these five, the team lacked experience.

All five starters played at least 30 minutes per game, with just two players behind them averaging more than 10 minutes per game in sophomore forward Anthony Walker (14.0 MPG) and freshman guard Bensley Joseph (13.3 MPG) in 2021. Neither of Walker or Joseph averaged more than 4.9 points per game. Freshman guard Wooga Poplar didn’t contribute much, playing just 8.6 minutes per game. Harlond Beverly missed almost all of 2021, but he was contributor in 2019 and 2020.

While Miami’s youth does look promising in terms of rankings, not many of these players have had the opportunity to shine just yet, or have been relatively unimpressive in their time. Miami relied on five players all season, and now, it looked like all of them could be gone.

An Off-Season Haul

Seeing the roster and the state it was in, Coach L and Miami brought in two of the best transfer players in the nation and the 24th ranked class in the nation according to 247Sports. Guard Nijel Pack (No. 4) and forward Norchad Omier (No. 30) make their way to town with multiple years of eligibility remaining. They instantly slot into the starting lineup aside Wong and Miller.

The 24th ranked recruiting class has multiple players that can possibly contribute right away. The recruiting class brings in four players, with two of them attaining a four-star rating. All four players are at least 6’6, bringing size to what was a once undersized team. AJ Casey (☆☆☆☆, No. 71 overall), Favour Aire (☆☆☆☆, No. 111 overall), Christian Watson (☆☆☆, No. 137 overall) and Danilo Jovanovich (☆☆☆, No. 185 overall) come to Miami as the ‘Canes best recruiting class since 2017.

Casey and Aire bring much needed size to the ‘Canes and can get easy points in the paint. Watson is a true three-level scorer that knows how to get a bucket. Jovanovich brings size and shooting to Miami, something it lacked off the bench. These four players should make a great impact for a ‘Canes team that has almost no proven talent behind it’s top four players.

An Exciting Look Ahead

Miami’s 2022 team looked like they were going to be a team full of inexperience. A rotation of Joseph, Robinson, Beverly, Poplar, Walker and the freshmen wouldn’t have expectations of making it far. Instead, the ‘Canes now look primed for another year of being in the NCAA Tournament, led by a strong group of players. Pack, Wong, Omier, Miller combined with the bench presences of Robinson, Walker and others will make the ‘Canes a difficult team to beat. With how the roster looks now, the ‘Canes should be playing in March.