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Canes Hoops: Chris Lykes Looks to Leap into his Junior Season

Lykes was arguably Miami’s best overall player a season ago. In spite of the point guard’s small stature, he’ll continue to have a big role in 2019-20.

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

“If he were 6-5 or 6-6, he’d be Michael Jordan,” said coach Jim Larrañaga two seasons ago. But Larrañaga wasn’t referring to either of his two future NBA draftees in Lonnie Walker or Bruce Brown. Nor was he referencing any of his past players who have gone on to play professional basketball.

The player he was talking about was none other than Chris Lykes, all five feet and seven inches of him, then just a freshman and playing behind then-PG Ja’Quan Newton.

“It doesn’t matter your height,” Larrañaga continued, a month into the 2017-18 season. “What matters is the size of your heart.”

But it’s been about far more than heart for the Mitchellville, Maryland native. Even in an otherwise disappointing season last year, Lykes’ numbers were beyond impressive, ranking sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in points per game, with 16.2. He scored in double-figures in all but five games a season ago. The guard also scored 20 or more points in 10 games, including a career-high 28 points on January 3 against North Carolina State.

But for Lykes, it’s now about more than just stats.

“Proving that I do belong in the ACC,” said Lykes about what last year meant for him. With a thin roster a season ago, “It was tough playing with seven guys, but I feel like we were in every game. I scored pretty well, but I could do a little better with efficiency, but I think that was the biggest jump.”

When it comes to fear, Lykes prefers to turn what casual observers may believe to be is a negative into a positive.

When asked about his size being a positive instead of a liability, the point guard concurred with the assessment. “I always think [like] that. At my size, even if I don’t believe that [on a given night], it’s good mentally to believe that. Coach {Larrañaga] was the first major coach to tell me it was an advantage.”

In terms of role, better depth of the post positions can play into the hands of Lykes at the top of the lineup, so long as the bigs do their job.

“Coach [Larrañaga] has made it an emphasis, he wants us to get in the paint, and kick out to find shooters,” Lykes said prior in the offseason. “That’s the best and easiest we have a lot of guys that can do that.”

As a sophomore, the guard averaged over 16 points across every game all of last season. With another offseason of development and a roster upgrade, things are looking up for Lykes in Coral Gables.