Miami Basketball: Despite their disappointing exit, Miami has plenty to look forward to

Mar 24, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Ja
Mar 24, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Ja /

The 2015-2016 season as a whole was a resounding success, but last Thursday night inside the KFC Yum! Center, it came to a screeching halt. As each Villanova three-pointer continued to fall, the dagger was pushed deeper and deeper into the hearts of the Miami Hurricanes as their Final Four hopes were dashed. It was a disappointing ending, but as those last few minutes began to wind down and the result became inevitable, every Cane could at least begin to think about what lies ahead.

For most schools outside of your blue-bloods like a Duke or a Kentucky or a Kansas, the end of the season is not that big of a worry. Just pick four of the Top 50 recruits and you are right back in title contention. For most other teams, that isn’t necessarily the case. I mean, look at Miami just two seasons ago. After a fantastic 2012-13, the Hurricanes could not come close to replacing that talent and struggled to a 17-16 record. What is so remarkable about the potential Miami roster in 2016-17 is the fact that it actually does come close to replacing that lost talent from this year’s team.

Don’t get me wrong, replacing the talent and experience of Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, Tonye Jekiri and Ivan Cruz Uceda will be no small task, but Jim Larranaga will bring back a core of solid veterans, will introduce his best recruiting class ever into the fold and has a talented transfer waiting in the wings. As I wrote Thursday night from the bowels of the KFC Yum! Center, the 2015-2016 season was one of, if not the best season in Miami’s history, but in saying that, the 2016-17 season may be just as fun.

Projected 2016-2017 Roster

PG: Ja’Quan Newton, Dejan Vasiljevic, Mike Robinson (walk-on)

SG: Rashad Muhammad, Bruce Brown

SF: Davon Reed, James Palmer, Amp Lawrence Jr., Chris Stowell (walk-on)

PF: Kamari Murphy, Dewan Huell

C: Ebuka Izundu, Rodney Miller

Note: This is not a projected depth chart (ordered by experience)

One of my first thoughts when looking at this roster is the amazing versatility that so many players on next year’s team will have. While I have these players listed in what I think is their natural position above, Larranaga and his coaching staff will have so many different lineup options depending on matchups or what the team needs at a specific time in the game.

Another interesting aspect of this roster is the combination of incoming players along with the leaders of this team who will be returning. Now of course there is a tremendous infusion of youth with guys like Huell, Brown, Miller and Vasiljevic, but there will be that guiding presence in Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy and Ja’Quan Newton. Sometimes you worry about a large recruiting class coming in and not having talented and battle-tested guys around them, but with this Hurricanes team next year, that certainly will not be the case.

When looking at the point guards for next season, we will see Ja’Quan Newton take the keys from Angel Rodriguez as Miami’s quarterback so to speak. It will be interesting to see how Newton transitions from his role as sixth man to the starting point guard next season, especially considering his struggles following his three-game suspension. I think Newton’s play down the stretch was just a blip and we will see him return to the player that we saw for the majority of the 2015-16 season.

Behind Newton is Australian guard Dejan Vasiljevic who can play at either guard position due to his explosive scoring ability. His potential as a dangerous shooting threat off the bench could be what this past season’s team missed most. Of course Newton is a fantastic scorer, but he couldn’t necessarily open up teams with his outside shooting ability like Vasiljevic has the potential to do next year.

At shooting guard, Miami will have to try and replace their best player in Sheldon McClellan. Besides the talent he possessed, the redshirt senior along with Rodriguez and Jekiri brought a wealth of experience to this team that will certainly be missed. Trying to fill that role will be two newcomers in San Jose St. transfer Rashad Muhammad and Top 30 commit Bruce Brown. Muhammad, the brother of the Minnesota Timberwolves’s Shabazz Muhammad, is another nice scoring piece Jim Larranaga can add to his arsenal. The 6’6” guard averaged 13.9 points a game in his sophomore season on an awful 2-28 San Jose State team back in 2014-15 and will hope to transition that individual success to the ACC.

Competing with Muhammad for that spot will be the incoming 6’4” guard Bruce Brown. Known for his motor and superb defense, Brown has shown often that he can score with the best of them too. Larranaga often likes to begin the year with more experienced players so he can ease freshman into the lineup, but that could be difficult with a guy like Brown. In the prestigious high school basketball tournament, the Hoophall Classic, many experts were impressed with Brown and even said he could be better than Miami’s star shooting guard from this season.

While the shooting guard position will be occupied by a few talented newcomers, the small forward position will be Miami’s position of stability. Davon Reed will return for his senior season as the driving force behind this Canes squad. With his clutch shooting and calmness on the floor, Miami will have to fall back on Reed quite a few times I imagine next season and he certainly sounds ready to lead.

The two other “small forwards” are Amp Lawrence Jr. and James Palmer, two players that can play at other positions on the court. As young players these two had inconsistent game time this season and it will be interesting to see how both grow in their second and third years respectively in Coral Gables.

At the power forward position, we could have two potential starters. Kamari Murphy is the player who will do all the little things that do not get the same recognition as scoring the basketball. He’ll defend, he’ll rebound and he’ll get tons of loose balls. With Murphy is another prized recruit snatched up by Jim Larranaga and his staff in 6’9” forward and Top 20 commit Dewan Huell. We will get to see Huell Wednesday night in the McDonald’s All-American game, but from what I have seen, the rangy forward has an impressive offensive game as he can hit the mid-range, post-up and also use his incredible athleticism in transition. After the Hurricanes lost to Villanova, the talented incoming freshman voiced his support for this year’s team and got Miami basketball fans everywhere already looking ahead.

"All canes fans just know we gone be alright…. We had a great year and going to have an even better one next year"