Former Hurricanes see promise for UM basketball amid latest difficulties

Former Canes forward Kamari Murphy (21) goes up for the dunk in a 55-50 victory over Duke Feb. 25, 2017, at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball has arguably its most talented roster in program history, featuring multiple McDonald’s All-Americans, six ESPN Top 100 recruits and two 2018 NBA Draft prospects.

However, the young Hurricanes have experienced growing pains in conference play and have fallen out of the AP Top 25.

Miami felt the triumph of beating ranked teams Minnesota and Florida State but also suffered losses to underdog opponents New Mexico State and Georgia Tech.

While this inexperienced roster has dealt with its fair share of bumps and bruises, former Canes think the adjustment period is normal.

“Around this time of the year, teams have a reality check, whether you have a good record or not,” Long Island Nets forward Kamari Murphy said. “I think this Miami team realizes its potential but has to put it to full use.”

Former Canes forward Kamari Murphy (21) goes up for the dunk in a 55-50 victory over Duke Feb. 25, 2017, at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

At one point, Miami (14-4, 3-3 ACC) was riding a 10-0 undefeated start to the season but has faltered the past few weeks. UM dropped three of its first four games to start 2018 but bounced back with a win over North Carolina State.

“In the ACC, there are going to be a lot of ups and downs,” Phoenix Suns guard Davon Reed said. “I think the biggest thing is bouncing back and being consistent with playing your team’s game.”

Former Miami guard Davon Reed (5) switches pace on two Blue Devil defenders. He finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Photo credit: Hunter Crenian

While the Hurricanes have dropped out of the rankings, the struggles might be a blessing in disguise.

“Sometimes time is the best cure for a team not playing up to their potential,” Fort Wayne Mad Ants guard Trey McKinney Jones said. “Basketball is such a mental game, and coach Larrañaga is the best in the business when it comes to supplying his players with quotes, books and mental exercises.”

With big matchups still left on the table against Virginia and North Carolina, Miami has a chance to put together a run similar to the Hurricanes team that won the ACC Championship in 2013 or the 2016 team that finished tied for No. 2 in the conference. Both teams ultimately made it to the Sweet 16.

“In order to make a run, you need complete selflessness and a commitment to winning at all costs,” now Telekom Baskets Bonn center Julian Gamble said. “We had a very heavy veteran presence and senior leadership on our championship team. We had a mentality of not caring who shot the ball or got the credit. We only cared about winning.”

The Hurricanes are starting to gel as a team and are showing clear flashes of their potential.

Sophomore Dewan Huell is averaging career-highs in points and rebounds. Freshmen standouts Lonnie Walker IV and Chris Lykes are getting better with each game. Veteran leaders Bruce Brown Jr. and Anthony Lawrence II have made big plays down the stretch to contribute to victories.

“They have what it takes: athleticism, speed and a great staff,” said Gamble, who played at UM 2008-2013. “A difficult period will not define their season, and they will grow through the trials they are facing, which will only make them stronger. I know the staff and team will not settle for anything less than their best and I know that is what they will give.”