Miami basketball has depth to absorb Sam Waardenburg season ending injury

Feb 29, 2020; Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2020; Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Miami basketball program will be able to absorb the season-ending injury to forward Sam Waardenburg with additions made to the frontcourt in the offseason.

The season-ending injury to senior forward Sam Waardenburg is not as hindering to the Miami basketball program as it would have been in recent seasons with the additions the Hurricanes made in the offseason. The combination of veterans, younger players and newcomers help the Miami frontcourt.

The return of senior center Rodney Miller, redshirt junior center-forward Deng Gak, sophomore forward Anthony Walker and additions of senior transfer Nysier Brooks and freshman Matt Cross are critical. Waardenburg suffered a left foot injury according to Christopher Stock of Inside the U.

In 30 games in 2019-20, 24 starts, Waardenburg averaged 7.2 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and led the Miami basketball team with 33 blocked shots. Brooks seems the most likely to replace Waardenburg as a starter. Brooks is a graduate transfer from Cincinnati where he averaged 4.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG and nearly one block.

Walker, Gak and Cross should challenge for significant minutes with Waardenburg out for the season. Miami head coach Jim Larranaga will also have the option to use four perimeter players. Gak has only played 15 games in the last two seasons because of injuries. Walker played in 25 games last season.

An athletic presence upfront, Walker averaged 3.3 PPG and 2.1 RPG playing an average of 12.3 minutes. Walker should see a significant rise in his minutes this season. Miller is the most experienced returning player for Miami on the front line. Miler started 28 out of 30 games for Miami last season.

The only seven-footer on the Miami roster, Miller averaged 7.2 PPG and 5.5 RPG last season. Cross is the wildcard. At 6’7, Cross will be able to give Miami minutes at the four and three. Cross can be a stretch four similar to Waardenburg but a bit undersized. Freshman Earl Timberlake is another player to watch up front.

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Timberlake is more of a wing but at 6’6 215 has the size to play small forward. In the Larranaga preferred perimeter-oriented lineups Timberlake seems more likely to play the three for Miami than shooting guard where he is listed coming out of high school. With six potential players on the frontline, Miami should absorb Waardenburg’s loss.