The biggest difference for Miami in 2013-14 was the fact that six of the top seven players from a team that won the ACC in 2012-13 were gone, and one area in which Jim Larrañaga’s team was affected was on the backboards. After ranking second in the ACC in rebounding margin in 2012-13 the Hurricanes were a middle of the pack team in that regard last season, ranking seventh in the conference in rebounding margin, offensive and defensive rebounding percentage (conference games only).
With Miami’s depth improving the expectation is that the Hurricanes will be a better team in 2014-15, but most of the attention has been paid to the perimeter with Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez eligible and talented freshman JaQuan Newton joining the program. Yet through the first two games of their tour of Spain, it’s become quite obvious that there’s a front court addition worth paying attention to as well.
His name: Ivan Cruz Uceda, who’s enjoying a homecoming of sorts given the fact that the 6-foot-10 power forward is a native of Madrid. Cruz Uceda played at Harcum College in Pennsylvania last season, and he’s put up some impressive rebounding numbers for the Hurricanes this week.
In Miami’s 77-66 win over Albacete on Sunday, McClellan led the way offensively with 24 points with Cruz Uceda managing to corral 13 rebounds to go along with eight points, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals. The 13 rebound performance comes on the heels of Cruz Uceda’s 17-rebound performance in Miami’s win over Eurocolegio Casvi on Friday night, and if he can continue to hit the boards hard when the regular season begins that would provide Miami with a much-needed boost.
At the end of last season the Hurricanes bid farewell to three of their top four rebounders, with junior Tonye Jekiri (5.5 rpg in 2013-14) being their leading returnee in that department. With that being the case Cruz Uceda and freshman Omar Sherman, who’s averaging 6.5 rebounds per game on the trip, are important figures moving forward.
Miami has more options after needing to slow things down to account for their lack of depth, and that should lead to a better 2014-15 for Larrañaga’s Hurricanes.