University of Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga and seniors Rion Brown and Erik Swoope talked to the media last Friday prior to the first practice of the 2013-14 season. Quotes are transcribed below:
What is going to be the biggest challenge in camp this year?
“Learning a whole new way of looking at the game of basketball. We have so many new players. Everybody comes from a different background. Learning the game from their high school or AAU coach and now they come to the University of Miami and they’re looking at an entirely different way of teaching and learning. It’s going to take them some time. We have to be very, very patient with them. Some kids learn faster than others. Hopefully, once they all learn what we’re teaching, we can develop into a very fine team.”
What was the transformation for Tonye Jekiri this offseason?
“When Tonye was a freshman, the very first thing you noticed was he’s got size and speed, but he didn’t have the bulk or the strength to battle against the bigger, stronger guys on our team. When he was going against Reggie, Kenny, Julian, and Raphael, they pushed him around. He has worked very, very hard at gaining strength and gaining weight. I believe he is very close to 240 pounds now. Last year he was about 215. He’s just much stronger, much more confident. He worked very hard on his shooting, so much so that he’s developed tendinitis in his shoulder from shooting too much, which I’ve never heard of before. I also think he’s a much more confident player. He gained very, very valuable experience as a freshman.”
What do you think about the new scheduling for the preseason?
“With the new format we’re able to start earlier. We’re not going to have more practice days. We’re actually going to be able to spread out the practices and give the players more rest and time to recover, which I’ve always been a great believer in. You’ve heard me talking in the past about The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People and the seventh habit is called sharpen your saw, which basically means rest and sharpen your skills. The way to sharpen your skills is to rest and get more energy so when you get out onto the floor you can play as hard as you possibly can. You’re not tired, you’re not soar because your muscles had plenty of time to recover. This weekend we’re going to practice today and tomorrow, take Sunday off, practice Monday and Tuesday, and take Wednesday off. If you can go hard for two days and then get a day to rest, the wear and tear on your body should not be as much. On the off days they’re really going to be off. Some guys will come in and shoot because that’s they’re natural routine, but for the most part what we really want them to do is rest. We want them to be sharp in practice because a lot of things we’re going to do are not just physical they’re mental. You don’t learn nearly as well when you’re fatigued.”
With athleticism, do you think we can scramble more with this group?
“Well, it’s certainly an option. Whether or not we utilize it, or if it’s a serious part of our defensive game plan? Only time can tell this because my evaluation will be based on performance. Can we actually execute the scramble and force turnovers or we will just give up easy shots?”
How have you dealt with a team that has lost so many from the previous year in the past?
“I try not to remember those teams. They have so much growth. The last time I had seven freshmen was when Luke Hancock was a freshman at George Mason and he was considered the worst recruit of the class.”
Has anybody surprised you since you have recruited them?
“No. I have only seen half or less of our workouts. It’s one of the great things about having a staff with you for a long time. I have the upmost confidence in them. They know exactly what I want done. Even when I’m not here, I’m very confident that work is being done by the coaches and by the players.”
Is Angel Rodriguez similar in a lot of ways to Shane Larkin?
“Yes, but I should let everybody know that when Angel contacted us and made the decision to transfer here, in one of our very first conversations, Angel shared with me, that he was struggling with injuries that he sustained during his two years in college. One was a wrist injury, and one was a very serious tendinitis in his knee. When we had him visit with our trainer Wes Brown. Wes felt that it was so severe that he took him to our team doctors. They did x-rays and MRI’s, and eventually shut him down the entire summer. When Angel and I talked about him for this upcoming year, the discussion was, ‘There is no sense applying for the waiver to help you be eligible when you’re not physically going to be fit enough.’ He told me at that time, he would much prefer to just sit out the year anyway, learn the new system and be 100 percent, or close to 100 percent, for his last two years. We were waiting to decide whether or not to apply for the waiver to see how he was feeling. I spoke to him the other day. We both agreed that we weren’t going to apply for the waiver, so he’s definitely going to red shirt this year with Sheldon McClellan and be available next season and the following year.”
Plan with the point guard?
“The plan is to spend the next three weeks trying to figure out who might start, who might back that person up, and who would give us the depth we need to get the point guard position. But, right now if you would ask me, I would say Manu, Deandre, and Garrius will all share that responsibility either as a starter or a sub.”
Talk about Deandre Burnett?
“His best position is really the two-guard spots because he’s got a knack for putting the ball in the basket. He still has a lot to learn. The ACC is far different from high school and prep school. He is working on his assortment of shots, moves, and when to shoot, when not to. That’s a part of the learning process that a problem that freshmen have is, at this point in the season, he wants to show how good he is. He tries to do things, but his most important responsibility is to learn what we’re trying to do. You kind of have to balance that. Should I really try to score or should I just stay with the offense? But right now, you just stay with the offense, so he learns the offense and once he knows that he’s comfortable and confident, he knows what to do, then he can be a little bit more aggressive. But if all you’re doing is attacking, and you can’t stay with the offense, we are losing. You’ll probably be sitting on the sidelines and watching someone who is a little bit more patient.”
Is there a disadvantage of having a red shirt in football in Cornelius Elder?
“I’m very pleased that Al Golden and the football program allow Corn to even consider basketball after the football season is over. Corn joined us for a few workouts this summer. He got hurt after the third one, so he didn’t get to do much more than that. But Coach Golden and I have spoken about him and Al has said that he’s a great kid, great athlete, and great energy, really demonstrates a lot of qualities that will be successful in football. They definitely correlate to the basketball court.”
Will Elder help you when he comes if he comes in January?
“Yeah, I hope so.”
How is recruiting going?
“Well, I certainly think that winning the ACC regular season and tournament, getting to the NCAA tournament, the Sweet 16, opened up the eyes of many high school coaches, AAU coaches, and high school prospects. We’ve been involved with some of the top players in the country, top 100 caliber guys, and we feel that we are going to have a really solid group of recruited players. Remember we graduated our top six scorers from last year, but we also have now five scholarship seniors, a six-men senior class with Justin Heller. We have a lot of holes to fill next year.”
What do you think about Rion Brown?
“I don’t know if you have noticed how much Rion’s body has changed from early in his career, but he’s now a man. If you look at him, he’s older, stronger, and very athletic and he shoots the three well. He’s a father. He has a son so he has matured very well throughout his college career. And very simply, in my mind, this is going to be the best year of his college career.”
Is Brown going to be a high scorer like VT's Erick Green?
“No, first of all I’m not that kind of coach that wants a guy taking that many shots because I think balance is the key to success offensively. If you have one guy, and he ends up having a bad night, you lose. Whereas if you have good balance, it feels like I have a great opportunity or I could get a hot hand for a big night. You saw last year where having Brown come in off the bench, whether it be Georgia Tech, our first game, or a conference game where he scored 20 points or the NCAA tournament where he came in off the bench and basically won the Illinois game for us with his three-point-shooting ability. But we want to have balance. We like to have five guys with double figures. I think the guys that were looking for immediately to take on a scoring load will be Brown, Adams, and Tonye Jekiri. Those three guys have a lot of experience in terms of comparing them to the other guys on the team.”
How would you describe Garrius?
“I would he’s a jack-of-all-trades. He can handle the ball, he can shoot the ball, and he can pass the basketball. My major concern for him is just keeping him healthy because he has sustained a lot of injuries throughout the course of his career.”