What’s next for UM basketball? Here’s who’s back, who’s leaving, & top recruits

UM Basketball — Courtesy: Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports

The loss to Kansas in the Elite Eight Sunday will surely sting the University of Miami Hurricanes for quite some time, but coach Jim Larranaga and his team felt comfort in knowing that their unexpected run in the NCAA Tournament should support dividends for years to come.

College players and high school recruits considering transferring are now more familiar with the Hurricanes’ team-oriented brand of basketball and their fun-loving culture. 

Images of players hugging and laughing with their coach and post-game locker room dances are great marketing tools for a strong program that competes against traditional college basketball powers for talent.

“I look at what we did as a new foundation for our basketball program,” said Kam McGusty, one of four sixth-year seniors who will not be back next season. “From now on, the new goal is going to be to get to the Elite Eight or Final Four to beat the 2022s team record. This is a huge milestone. We’re traditionally known as a football school. Hopefully, we can start getting more recognition and it will help with recruiting.”

Larranaga agreed.

“I guarantee you there are more hits on the University of Miami website than ever before,” the coach said. “People watch you play and see the excitement and say, `Oh, I want to find out about that university.’ It’s marketing. It’s branding. All our potential recruits, even transfer students, are watching us play and (thinking), `Man would I want to be part of it.’ If one of my coaches reaches out, the recruit would say, `Man, the Hurricanes! The U! UM basketball! Yeah, I’m very interested.’ That’s what exposure does.”

The team needs to load up on fresh talent as it is losing at least three of its starters, maybe even four.

Miami will lose starters Charlie Miller, McGusty, and Sam Waardenburg. Backup center Rodney Miller has also used his eligibility. Deng Gak, another center who fought through his injuries, is finishing his fifth year at the University of Miami but has one year of eligibility left if he chooses to return to the program.

Starting forward, Jordan Miller, a fourth-year junior who transferred this season, is expected to return, and guard Isaiah Wong, a third-year sophomore, is in question. Wong entered his name into the NBA Draft last spring but opted to come back to school.

Guard Harlond Beverly was out this season with a back injury and will likely return. Forward Wooga Poplar and point guard Bensley Joseph contributed as freshmen this season and will be expected to take on larger responsibilities as sophomores. This also applied to 6-9 forward Anthony Walker, who will be a fourth-year junior next season.

Jakai Robinson was redshirted this season and is expected to be a part of the guard rotation.

Larranaga and his staff will be going through the transfer portal later this spring to find replacements for their departing starters. He has had great success with transfers in the past. 

“These days you have to recruit the transfer portal because bringing in high school kids alone makes you very, very young,” Larranaga said. “Unless those are the one and dones, you’re probably not going to be able to compete at a high level.”

Larranaga is also thrilled about his 2022 recruiting class, which was rated No. 17 in the country by 247Sports and includes four players who are 6’6” or taller. The UM basketball team was undersized this season and the addition of height will help them defend any opposing big men.

The four signees are Favour Aire, AJ Casey, Danilo Jovanovich, and Christian Watson.

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