The lopsided loss to Kansas in the Elite Eight Sunday surely will sting the Miami Hurricanes for quite some time, but coach Jim Larranaga and his players took solace in knowing that their unexpected deep run in the NCAA Tournament should pay dividends for years to come.
High school recruits and college players considering transferring now are more familiar with the Hurricanes’ fast-paced, team-oriented brand of basketball and their fun-loving culture.
Images of players laughing and hugging their coach and post-game locker room dances are positive marketing tools for a program that competes against traditional college basketball powers for talent.
“I look at what we did as a new foundation for our basketball program,” said Kam McGusty, one of four sixth-year seniors who will not be back next season. “From now on, the new goal is going to be get to the Elite Eight or Final Four to beat the 2022s team record. This is a huge milestone. We’re traditionally known as a football school. Hopefully, we can start getting more recognition and it will help with recruiting.”
“I guarantee you there’s more hits on the University of Miami website than ever before,” the coach said. “People watch you play and see the excitement and say, `Oh, I want to find out about that university.’ It’s marketing. It’s branding. All our potential recruits, even transfer students, are watching us play and (thinking), `Man would I want to be part of it.’ If one of my coaches reaches out, the recruit would say, `Man, the Hurricanes! The U! Yeah, I’m very interested.’ That’s what exposure does.”
The team needs to stock up on fresh talent, as it is losing at least three of its starters, and maybe four.
Miami loses starters McGusty, Charlie Miller and Sam Waardenburg. Backup center Rodney Miller has also used up his eligibility. Deng Gak, another center who has battled injuries, is finishing his fifth year at UM but has one year of eligibility left if he chooses to return.
Starting forward Jordan Miller, a fourth-year junior who transferred in this season, is expected to come back and guard Isaiah Wong, a third-year sophomore, is a question mark. Wong entered his name in the NBA Draft last spring but opted to return to school.
Guard Harlond Beverly missed this season with a back injury and will likely be back. Point guard Bensley Joseph and forward Wooga Poplar contributed as freshmen this season and will be expected to take on bigger roles as sophomores as will 6-9 forward Anthony Walker, who will be a fourth-year junior next season.
Jakai Robinson was redshirted this season and should be a part of the guard rotation.
Larranaga and his staff will be scouring the transfer portal later this spring to find replacements for their departing starters. He has had excellent success with transfers in the past. The three Sweet 16 runs during his tenure were with transfer point guards – Shane Larkin, Angel Rodriguez and Moore.
“These days you have to recruit the transfer portal because brining in high school kids alone makes you very, very young,” Larranaga said. “Unless those are the one and done, you’re probably not going to be able to compete at a high level.”
Larranaga is also excited about his 2022 recruiting class, which was rated No. 17 in the nation by 247Sports and includes four players 6-6 or taller. The Hurricanes were undersized this season and the addition of height will help them defend opposing big men.
The four signed are Favor Aire, AJ Casey, Danilo Jovanovich and Christian Watson.
Aire is 6-10 and a native of Nigeria who attends Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md. He is the nation’s 12th ranked center.
Casey, a Chicago native, is a 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward and a unanimous four-star recruit, rated No. 55 and No. 57 overall according to Rivals and ESPN.
Jovanovich, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward from Milwaukee, comes from Whitnall High School, the alma mater of Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro.
And Watson is a 6-foot-7, 200-pound guard from the Washington DC area who picked UM over Rutgers, Marquette and Georgetown.
“We have a great foundation with returning players, and we get back to work in two weeks,” Larranaga said.
This story was originally published March 28, 2022 7:20 PM.