CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The Miami Hurricanes basketball team is No. 3 in the nation coming off a big road win against rivals Florida State and don’t show any signs of slowing down.
Shane Larkin is averaging 17.6 points and 5.2 assists in his last five games.
Now at 20-3 and 11-0 in the ACC, the big reason for such a special season is their sophomore point guard Shane Larkin.
The stats might not always show it, but Larkin is one of the best point guards in the nation and is playing some of his best ball here in February.
He’s averaged 17.6 points on 61 percent shooting (53 percent from beyond the arc) and 5.2 assists in his past five games dating back to January 30th at Virginia Tech and has been the mainstay of a deep team of players who usually rotate good scoring days.
In addition to being one of Miami’s more consistent players, lately he’s begun to acquire a rapport with his teammates for being a closer, a role usually reserved for seniors Durand Scott or Reggie Johnson.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” said Julian Gamble, the team’s starting center since Johnson’s thumb injury. “He really focuses on getting other people involved but at the same time he knows he can be aggressive at any point and we want him to do that. And when the game is really on the line we know that he’s going to step up and make that big shot for us.”
This level of unselfishness rarely seen in point guards at the college level, or at any level really, has impressed Larkin’s teammates and enabled the offense to be rallied round him. Larkin has a large repertoire of offensive weapons, from his spot-up three-point shot to his ankle-breaking crossover to his fierce drive to the basket looking to dish or to sink a tough lay-up. Yet no matter how effect Larkin is on the court, he is always looking to improve.
“I didn’t shoot the smartest shots last year,” Larkin said. “I’m just a smarter player watching film with the coaches and practicing against great competition in practice. As a team, we’ve just become a lot better and it’s made my individual performance that much better. “
Final Four veteran coach Jim Larranaga echoes the praise for Larkin’s team-first mentality.
Shane Larkin is one of 12 finalists for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award
“Shane is just all about winning," Larranaga said. "He just wants to win. It doesn’t matter if he scores five points or 20 points; he’s going to do whatever the team needs him to do to win the game."
The 63-year old coach recalled the Canes’ last match-up against Florida State where the stingy Seminole defense pressured the men on the wings and Miami had a tough time playing their favorite game—the three ball. So Larkin brilliantly recognized this emphasis and began using ball-screens more often to drive to the hoop, looking for an open teammate or making the play at the rim. And this was after he was benched for not playing defense against FSU sharpshooter Michael Snaer as LarranagaL wanted him to.
“I wasn’t guarding Michael Snaer with enough intensity,” Larkin admitted. “When (Larranaga) sat me down he actually said ‘you’re guarding Michael Snaer like he’s the 10th man on a high school roster.’ I was over there just trying to be as good for my team on the bench and when I got back in I definitely picked my intensity and that’s pretty much what propelled me to have a pretty good rest of the game.”
Larkin came back in and scored 13 of his 22 points in the final 7 1-2 minutes of the game to quell any attempt at a Florida State run.
Larkin’s resiliency, attention to detail, desire to get better, and team-first approach to basketball has the Hurricanes undefeated in the ACC at 11-0 and third in the AP poll rankings with a 20-3 ranking. It is by far the best start in team history and Larranag's squad has been lauded by national media as one of the best in the country. But the team recognizes their need for continued growth. With Larkin getting better and better each week and his Bob Cousy Award resume piling, there’s no reason to believe that this wouldn’t be the case.
Larkin is someone who definitely understands his talent; his in-game confidence is evident to all those watching, especially when propelling his team to slap the floor against Duke and flipping an off-the-backboard alley-oop to Kenny Kadji against North Carolina. Yet he also realizes the support he gets from the fans, his teammates, and especially Larranaga According to him, that love is what’s made his season so special.
“I just believe that Coach L believes in me a lot and my team believes in me and that’s pretty much what’s propelled me to have a good year.” Larkin said. “When everybody believes in you, when you believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter what anybody outside says about you. And their faith in me pretty much has helped me have a good year this year.”