Another of the nation’s top interior prospects in the 2014 class is off the board, as 6-foot-10 center Chinanu Onuaku verbally committed to attend [school] during a press conference held at Riverdale Baptist High School in Upper Marlboro, Md. Onuaku, the younger brother of former Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku, chose Louisville over Georgetown and Miami.
Onuaku averaged 8.2 points and more than ten rebounds per game as a junior last season, and his recruitment gained steam during the spring/summer due to his play with the D.C. Assault grassroots program. Louisville was the first of the three finalists to host Onuaku on an official visit, with the center taking that trip in late-August.
Riverdale Baptist head coach Lou Wilson stated earlier this week in the Washington Post that he believed Louisville was the favorite to land Onuaku, citing the factors such as academics and the program’s run of success under Rick Pitino.
Wilson reiterated his prior belief that Louisville stands as the front-runner among Onuaku’s choices, citing the school’s strong academics, prestigious coach in Rick Pitino and the Cardinals’ recent success as 2013 national champions.
“From our conversations, it seems he feels like he’ll have an opportunity to play at Louisville, get a good education and be on a winning team,” Wilson said. “He seemed to enjoy being around the coaches and players down there for his visit.”
Onuaku joins forwards Shaqquan Aaron and Jaylen Johnson in Louisville’s 2014 class, and with if players such as Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell are as successful as many believe they’re capable of being this season Onuaku would be another valuably front court option for coach Pitino to have at his disposal. Louisville also has centers Akoy Agau and Mangok Mathiang on their current roster, and they’re one of the two finalists (rival Kentucky being the other) for the services of 2014 power forward/center Trey Lyles.
Here are a few clips of Onuaku in action at this summer’s NBPA Top 100 camp in Charlottesville, Va.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.
“If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”
Those are the famous words of Deion Sanders, and while college basketball players certainly can’t be “paid” the words can be applied to the college game. Why? Shoes, that’s why. While signature shoes saw their start in the 1980s it took some time for college players to add their own personal style, with many of the nation’s top programs going with a more uniform look when it comes to footwear.
In recent years some programs have given their players more freedom to express themselves in this regard, and the results have grabbed the attention of many. One program that’s stood out in this regard is Miami, whose school colors (orange and green) tend to lend itself to more self-expression when it comes to footwear. Last year’s ACC champions displayed a wide variety of looks, catching the attention of both college basketball fans and diehard “sneakerheads.”
With the freedom to add their own personal flair, what shoes a player wears on the floor can become competitive but in a good way. Teammates can turn this into a good-natured competition of sorts, with the goal being to make sure no one’s shoe looks better than theirs.
“Definitely, especially between Shane [Larkin] and Durand [Scott],” Miami senior guard Rion Brown told NBCSports.com in a phone interview. “Of course guys like myself, Kenny [Kadji] and Erik Swoope jumped in. Every time a new shoe came out we wanted to get it before someone else got it, and we tried not to tell anybody [else] what shoe we had until the game started.”
The Hurricanes displayed some interesting footwear, and as Brown noted in the phone interview their colors (orange and green) worked well with some of the new shoes the program’s official supplier (Nike) released. Big man Julian Gamble wore the SoleFly x Jordan Spiz’ike shoe during the NCAA tournament last season, with the shoe being designed to commemorate SoleFly’s (a Miami-based sneaker boutique) two-year anniversary. As for the aforementioned Larkin, he wore volt colorways of both the LeBron X and the Spiz’ike (the special Black History Month release) during the ACC and NCAA tournaments. And among the sneakers worn by Scott last season were the Black History Month version of the Kobe 8 and the Zoom Huarache 2K4 Volt.
In regards to which players were the most creative last season, that was a tie according to Brown.
“I would probably say that was between Kenny and Shane,” said Brown. “Shane always had the most “up to date” shoes, and Kenny always picked the weirdest ones.”
Gone are the days of the old-fashioned Chuck Taylor shoe being worn on the court, much to the chagrin of some traditionalists from a style standpoint, with technology improving as well as consumers being able to practically design their own shoe (for a higher cost, of course).
That can go a variety of ways, from players creating their own designs to manufacturers designing special shoes for the programs they sponsor. One example of this would be Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour (founded by Maryland alumnus Kevin Plank). For their game against N.C. State in January the Terrapins wore a full “Maryland Pride” ensemble, complete with a pair of sneakers that featured different patterns in order to replicate the look of the Maryland state flag.
Another program that’s been one of the more creative in college basketball is Baylor, who wore those unforgettable “electricity” uniforms during their run to the Elite Eight in 2012. During the Big 12 tournament the Bears, who won the Postseason NIT, wore uniforms designed by adidas that had sleeves and their colors also led to some eye-catching footwear choices.
Is a player’s shoe choice the difference between winning and losing? Unless the player’s out on the floor playing in an uncomfortable shoe with its best feature being multiple holes in the sole the answer is obviously no. But while sneakers are clearly a billboard for the manufacturer, they also give the players an opportunity to show off some of their personality.
Some will go with the standard team issue sneakers, either because it isn’t that big of a deal to them or they play for a school that prefers that they go with a more conservative approach. And on the other end of the spectrum are the players who want to make a statement in two regards: with their play, and with their fashion sense.
As for Miami, Brown and his teammates will look to continue to wear distinct shoes despite the majority of last season’s squad moving on to the professional ranks.
“Me and Erik will definitely look to step our game up and keep it going.” said Brown, who noted that the Hurricanes’ newcomers are catching on when it comes to the footwear. “Even our three walk-ons, Justin Heller, Mike Fernandez and Steve Sorenson, have already started getting their shoes ready.”
After leading the Miami Hurricanes to their first-ever ACC title, head coach Jim Larrañaga has added another title to his resume: professor.
On Friday the school announced that Larrañaga was named Adjunct Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences, marking the second time in his coaching career that he’s been a faculty member while also serving as head coach. Larrañaga was a faculty member in George Mason’s school of management during his time in Fairfax, and he’s hopeful that his new position at Miami will have a similar impact when it comes to interacting with the students who support the team.
“I’ve always seen myself as an educator; I graduated with a degree in education and I always planned to be a teacher,” Larrañaga said in the release. “I’ve had the great pleasure of teaching young men the game of basketball, but I was also a member of the faculty in the school of management at George Mason University.
“That provided me an opportunity to interact with a large number of students and to be in a classroom environment, which I enjoy very much. Being a member of the faculty of the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development will give me the opportunity to interact with more students than ever before.”
Larrañaga won’t be required to teach his own course however, as he’ll give guest lectures throughout the semester. And while it may be rare for a college basketball coach to also be a member of the faculty, it certainly isn’t unprecedented. Temple head coach Fran Dunphy has taught a course in the school’s Fox School of Business for four-plus years, and he also taught a course during his tenure as head coach at Penn.
Miami coach Jim Larranaga has fond memories of the Verizon Center. It was the place that he notched wins in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight during George Mason’s magical run to the Final Four in 2006. He now returns with a Hurricanes team that is looking to do the same.
“Coming into this building to them it’s just another venue,” Larranaga said, as reported by CSNWashington.com. “To me and my staff it’s not because we have the memory. They don’t. They want to create those memories for themselves and for this team.”
Miami will be at a disadvantage when it takes the floor against Marquette in the Sweet 16 in Washington, D.C., as center Reggie Johnson did not make the trip with the team due to a knee injury and subsequent knee surgery. But throughout the season the Hurricanes have shown that they can win at multiple paces, often getting out in transition to match a high-scoring team or slowing it down to play possession-by-possession against a defensive-oriented team.
We’ll see if Larranaga can find the magic again at the Verizon Center this time around. If he does, his Hurricanes will likely be in the Elite Eight.
Aside from perhaps Michigan point guard Trey Burke, Miami’s Shane Larkin has proven himself to be the biggest breakout star at that position this season. Sunday night with his team’s postseason fate on the line, Larkin took a fearless step-back three-pointer with 1:04 to play and nailed it to give his team a two-point lead, only fitting for a player in the midst of the biggest season of his career.
That Larkin three and his two free throws with 15.6 seconds to play held off a pesky and talented Illinois team, 63-59, at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, to punch the Hurricanes’ ticket to the Sweet 16. He finished with 17 points.
Larkin added five assists, the beneficiary of many of those being Miami guard Rion Brown, who led the Hurricanes in scoring with 21 points off the bench.
But this win will not be without some controversy. With 42 seconds to play, the ball went out of bounds as the two teams fought for a rebound, appearing to touch Miami forward Kenny Kadji before falling to the baseline. To Illinois’ dismay, it was ruled Miami ball and is considered a non-reviewable play.
Miami showed again Sunday what it has been out to prove all season. Regardless of the pace that a team tries to play at, the Hurricanes can adapt and often find a way to win. Illinois wanted to slow the game down and play at a Big Ten pace, but Miami reverted to the same style of play that won it games in the middle of ACC play against Clemson and Virginia.
Though the Hurricanes only shot 40 percent from the floor, they were able to grab 12 offensive rebounds and score on second-chance opportunities. Miami now moves on to play Marquette, a team that has squeaked by in two close wins over Davidson and Butler. The Golden Eagles have been led by clutch performances in both by guard Vander Blue.
Miami’s run in this 2013 NCAA tournament isn’t over yet, but Saturday it added another piece to the team it will sending to the floor next season. Owens Community College forward James Kelly tweeted that he would be transferring to Coral Gables for the start of the 2013-14 season.
“Just verbally committed to @CanesHoops i will be a hurricane next season #Canes #LETSGOCANES #Miami #MiamiMadness #CanesNCAA #ACC,” Kelly tweeted.
Kelly will add size to a front line and a team that is losing five seniors, including big men Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji. On the season, Kelly averaged 18.9 points and 10.3 rebounds for OCC and is rated as a three-star forward, according to Rivals.com. He joins a recruiting class for the Hurricanes that also includes four other players.
Among those already signed is Miami-area guard Deandre Burnett, as well as New Jersey forward Davon Reed. Coach Jim Larranaga also has verbal commitments from small forward Derrick Griffin and point guard Corn Elder.
Miami returns to the floor Sunday at 8:40 p.m. ET for a Round of 32 game against Illinois.