Atlantic Coast Conference Operation Basketball

Wednesday October 26, 2016

Jim Larranaga

Miami Hurricanes

JIM LARRANAGA: Thank you, everybody, and it's exciting to be here to talk about the upcoming season, but I'd like to first take a look back on last year, where we had a real veteran team led by four seniors -- Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, Tonye Jekiri and Ivan Cruz Uceda. Those guys were able to lead us to a tremendous run during the ACC regular season. We were tied with Carolina for the league regular season championship with a game to play, ended up losing that game and tying Virginia for second place. Those guys have graduated and moved on, but not before they led us to the Sweet 16.

Now we have an uphill battle because we have a very young team. We only have 10 scholarship players on the roster that are available to us. We only have five players returning. But they're five very good players, and I like them very much, led by Ja’Quan Newton, our point guard, Davon Reed, our shooting guard, and Kamari Murphy, one of our forwards. I think those guys have plenty of experience and know-how.

They're joined by two other returning players in Anthony Lawrence, Jr., and Ebuka Izundu. And the nice thing about those five veteran players, they each play a different position -- Ja’Quan Newton at the 1, Davon Reed at the 2, Anthony Lawrence at the 3, Kamari Murphy at the 4, and Ebuka Izundu at the 5. Interestingly enough, coming in off the bench are four freshmen and a transfer, and they each play a different position. We've got Bruce Brown, DJ Vasiljevic, Rashad Muhammad, a transfer student from San Jose State, Dewan Huell and Rodney Miller.

So the challenge for us this year is going to be to combine those veterans and the experience they have and somehow, some way bring our young kids along.

The freshmen are going to definitely get substantial playing time. We're going to count on them a lot. But during the time when they're making their adjustment and transition to the college game, we know they're going to make a considerable number of mistakes.

We're excited because I think the talent level is good enough, but our front court in particular is very weak physically. Kamari Murphy and Anthony Lawrence are strong, but Rodney Miller and Dewan Huell are just beginning to lift weights and become stronger, and it's going to take them a while to adjust to the physicality of college basketball, especially at the ACC level, where so many teams we play have big guys who are not just tall and long and fast and quick, but very, very strong and heavy, you know, 250 pounds or more. Our young guys have not faced that kind of competition day in and day out for the course of a whole season.

We're excited, but the ACC is the best basketball conference in America. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I read a stat that said the ACC has won something like 631 NCAA Tournament games, and the next nearest conference is almost 200 fewer wins, like 178 fewer wins. That says an awful lot about the strength of our league, and I think this may be the year that we get double-digit teams into the NCAA Tournament.

There are really no bottom teams in this conference. It is so strong from top to bottom. There are just some teams that are a little bit younger. And youth, unless you have the great talent, the one-and-done guys, being young in this league is normally a formula for disaster.

We're happy where we are, got some kids who work very, very diligently each day, but we do have a lot of work ahead of us to be able to compete with the best teams in this conference.

Q. Heading into your sixth season, you've built quite the culture there in Coral Gables, both with the programs with the student-athletes but also with the fan base, tough place to market and promote. Seems like your efforts have really moved the needle down there.
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, when we first arrived in Coral Gables at the University of Miami five seasons ago, everybody told me you'll never draw a good crowd, and my staff and I and the players were bound and determined to draw consistently on a game-by-game basis a good crowd. And the support we've been given from the community, from the city of Miami and Coral Gables has been absolutely awesome. We are now sold out for every game throughout the season. We are totally sold out for every game last year, we're going to be sold out again this season.

The culture has changed. The support for our program, the administration at Miami has been very supportive, the student body has been very supportive, alumni and our fan base have been fantastic, and we're heading in the right direction. We may not be quite where we want to be this year, but we have the potential if the young guys come along to be able to compete with the best teams, and every night there's going to be a packed house at the new Watsco Center.

Q. Ja'Quan Newton and Davon Reed have at times shown the ability to be sort of explosive offensively. Is that the sort of thing you're going to be looking for while you bring the rest of the very young players along?
JIM LARRANAGA: Yeah, Ja'Quan and Davon are going to be our leading scorers. They are in practice every day. They're very, very different, but they work very well together. They're a tremendous complement. They're roommates. They're best friends. They get along very well on the court and off the court, and they both are stepping up into new roles. Ja'Quan Newton was our sixth man. Dick Vitale called him the best sixth man in college basketball last year. He moves into the starting role and leadership role as our point guard.

Davon Reed was our -- I think our third leading scorer. He now is responsible for taking over that job by Sheldon McClellan, and between Ja'Quan Newton and Sheldon McClellan, we've got to get 30 or more points. If those guys are able to do that on a consistent basis, it takes the pressure off some of our young guys, yet we're going to count on some of those young guys to be double-figure scorers.

DJ Vasiljevic is a shooting guard, can really shoot, the three, and we're hoping he'll be able to provide some points. Bruce Brown is an outstanding athlete. We hope that he'll be able to score, especially in the open court, and Dewan Huell at 6'10", very, very athletic big man, he has his days in practice where he scores the ball very, very well. But we know freshmen are somewhat inconsistent. It's just the nature of the beast. But we're counting on them.

And then a key player for us -- actually the two sophomores are going to be huge keys. Anthony Lawrence, whose nickname is Amp, and Ebuka Izundu. We need both of them to score a bunch at the offensive end. If they can each get to double figures, that would really make us tough.

Q. The last time you had a mass exodus of seniors after that Sweet 16 season, you managed to have a good season after that, but right around .500. This time you lose a couple of seniors and you're still chosen in a couple of top 25 polls. How satisfying is that for you to know you've built the program to the point where you lose a good amount of leadership, you're not going to have to rebuild as much as you did?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, one of the things we said years ago when I took the job at George Mason and then again repeated it when we arrived at Miami, that we did not want to build a good team, we wanted to build a great program. And the difference is I think anybody can get hot in a given season and things just click for you. But to have a great program, you've got to do it on a annual basis, year in and year out.

In our case, because Miami is not a household name in terms of basketball, it's really our football and baseball programs that have garnered all the national attention. Football program won five National Championships, our baseball team has won four national titles and has been in the NCAA Tournament something like 44 consecutive years. What we're trying to do is catch up with those programs who are perennially strong, and it's taken us a while, but this is the start of our sixth season. We've won one ACC regular season in tournament championship. We've been to two Sweet 16s. We've been ranked now in the top ten two different seasons. We want to try to keep that ball rolling.

We're happy where we are, but we know by playing in the ACC you can't take a day off or a season off because someone else is nipping at your heels.

Q. Last year we wrapped up by asking you about how you were mistaken for writer and comedian Larry David. This year we want to wrap up by asking about the sweet tooth that has come to light that you had in elementary school.
JIM LARRANAGA: It was high school.

Q. High school, sorry.
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, what he's referring to is I had some terrible eating habits as a youngster. My mom gave me 50 cents to go to school, high school, at Archbishop Molloy, and that 50 cents was to buy like a hot dog or a hamburger and a drink. And instead of spending it on good, nutritious food, I bought 10 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And I did that every day for four years. And it's something that my high school coach was asked by my wife, do you know what my husband ate for lunch? And he said, yeah, 10 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Everybody knew. So I'm not proud of that. I hope my players are eating better than I did, but I do have a sweet tooth, even today.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #166 at 2016-10-26 21:50:00 GMT

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