When the Hurricanes raise their 2013 ACC regular season and tournament championship banners on Friday night before the home opener against the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, it will likely be Miami’s first bright moment in weeks.
The Canes host St. Francis at 10 p.m. Friday at the BankUnited Center.
After coach Jim Larranaga said at the end of September that junior guards Angel Rodriguez (knee) and Sheldon McClellan (transfer) will redshirt this season, there was more bad news announced at Wednesday’s press conference.
“I very, very sadly have to report that Deandre [Burnett] has a left wrist injury,” Larranaga said. “We don’t know how long it will take for the injury to heal, but as of this moment, we are planning to redshirt him for this season.”
This puts an already depleted Hurricanes roster in further predicaments, especially considering that Burnett got off to a hot start with 16 points in 22 minutes against Florida Tech. According to Larranaga, the injury was sustained Sunday when Burnett drove to the basket and teammate Raphael Akpeijori took charge.
It appears the Canes will have to lean even more heavily on their veterans to fill the scoring void. One option might be senior guard Rion Brown, who led the team with 20 points against Florida Tech.
“I think it was a good start personally for me, just confidence-wise, going into this year,” Brown said. “I never really start of the year shooting well, so it was definitely a confidence booster for me.”
Aside from making up for the loss of Burnett, who Larranaga describes as a “bucket getter,” the Canes will try to create matchup problems for the smaller Terriers.
“I think what we’ll take advantage of is using our height, hit the glass and things like that, being aggressive getting the boards and just being who we are,” said senior forward Donnavan Kirk.
Sophomore center Tonye Jekiri is one of the big men playing a vital role. But while the 7-footer has been described by Brown and Kirk as the most improved player, Larranaga thinks Jekiri has a lot of room to grow.
“He has ways to score,” Larranaga said. “He’s got to use them and right now, he hasn’t figured out when to use them and when not to use them. So in my mind he could be a double-figure scorer for us this year.”
There is no doubt the Canes would benefit from increased production anywhere they can find it, as their Atlantic Coast Conference competition has only gotten stronger. Five ACC teams are ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason poll.
Conference play is still a month off, and the inexperienced Miami roster has time to find its rhythm by starting the season with three home games.
“I think it’s something we needed,” Brown said. “Get those guys comfortable and just being able to play in front of a home crowd. You know, not so much pressure. Everything gets a little tense on the road so I think it’s good to have three straight home games.”