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24 October 2012

Canes practice for upcoming exhibitions

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Senior Reggie Johnson (left), junior Raphael Akpejiori (center) and senior Julian Gamble work out at the Canes’ first practice in the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse last Thursday. Zach Beeker // Staff Photographer 

The days until the BankUnited Center opens its doors for basketball once more are dwindling.

With eight days until the Miami basketball team’s first exhibition against St. Leo, and 15 until the season kicks off against Stetson, coach Jim Larranaga is pleased with how his team is progressing. Miami received two votes in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll, the team’s first time receiving votes in that poll since the 2008-2009 season.

Larranaga met with members of the media on Wednesday to give updates from the second week of practice.

Senior guard Garrius Adams and redshirt freshman Bishop Daniels have been unable to practice recently due to injury. Daniels suffered a pulled hamstring the second day of practice and has not participated since.

“Bishop knows what we’re doing well enough,” Larranaga said. “We don’t have to worry that he’ll be so far behind because of the injury. If he’s healthy, he’ll play the first game.”

Larranaga is high on true freshman Tonye Jekiri, a 7-foot center who is projected to pick up decent minutes this season.

“Tonye is a student of the game. He is willing to learn and get better,” he said.

The coaching staff is working with Jekiri on his jump hook – a move they want to become his go-to shot.

Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott have been very impressive in workouts. For Miami practices, the team is split into two squads – white being the starters, and green the backups.

During a scrimmage when the green unit was struggling, Larranaga moved Scott and Johnson from white to green, and noted how neither could be stopped, each helping the green team win the scrimmage.

“He’s doing so well on his post moves,” Larranaga said of Johnson. “You can’t tell whether he’s right- or left-handed on his hook shots.”

Larranaga, who had offseason hip surgery himself, joked on the status of his recovery.

“’I’ve been working on getting my 40-inch vertical back. I’m about 36 inches there,” he said. “My game is kind of like DeQuan Jones – I’m a high flier.”

Larranaga ended the press conference with some strong words that should excite everyone on campus. In a year in which expectations for Hurricane basketball are as high as they’ve ever been in Coral Gables, Larranaga realizes that this team has an opportunity to have a special season.

“Our fans need to come out early in the season and cheer our team on,” he said. “We have a veteran team that can possibly lead us to the best season in Miami history. If we’re healthy, we can compete not only with the top teams in the conference, but the country.”

Miami will open up the regular season Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. against Stetson at the BankUnited Center. Student admission, as always, is free.