Shane Larkin continues to prove he has a great head on his shoulders as the Miami (FL) Hurricanes guard recently told the media he intends to return for his junior season.
The sophomore who plays like a senior would have the potential to be the best player in the ACC next season, especially considering he finished second in conference player of the year voting for this season.
Larkin’s draft stock isn’t severely high at the moment, with some scouts viewing him as a last first round pick or second rounder. That means little at this stage because a strong NCAA Tournament could easily skyrocket him into the lottery discussion like it does for multiple guards every year.
The real impact on Larkin’s decision to stay becomes what it means for the senior-filled Hurricanes roster. Miami will see key members Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji, Trey McKinney-Jones, Julian Gamble and Durand Scott all depart the school after finishing up their senior years. It’s a scary factor considering the void left by the five players will be immense. However, in the immediate future it’ll be great motivation for the team to compete hard every night in the post-season tournaments, as their time on a college basketball court is quickly running out.
A significant NCAA Tournament run would only put more experience under Larkin’s belt heading into next year, when he’d be looked at as the unquestioned leader of the team. Larkin and current junior Rion Brown would likely be the team’s backcourt, and given the flashes of scoring displays Brown has put up this season, Miami could once again have one of the best backcourts in the conference next season.
The one worrisome factor of Larkin’s return could be the Michael Snaer-effect and what the talented senior had to endure with the Florida State Seminoles this season. Snaer returned for his senior year after Florida State lost numerous key members from last year’s ACC Tournament Championship roster. The year was a struggle for he and the Seminoles as the freshmen-filled team was inconsistent and defenses put as much pressure as possible on him game in and game out. As a result, his performance struggled as he no longer had the same talented teammates to lean on and take defensive pressure off like he did a year ago.
The same thing could happen to Larkin next year as he won’t have the five seniors he currently has to take a lot of defensive pressure off of him, freeing him up to do other things on the court. He led the ACC in steals this year, but did so knowing if the steal attempt didn’t work out, he still had quality shot blockers behind him. He finished fourth in the conference in assists, but did so because he was surrounded by talented senior scorers. The same luxuries that made him the player he is today won’t exist next season.
Now it’s not fair to compare Larkin and Snaer as players, considering Larkin is capable of impacting a game in multiple ways whereas Snaer is mostly just a one-dimensional scorer. However, their team situations are very similar when comparing last year’s Seminoles and this year’s Hurricanes. Nobody knows better than Snaer what the impact of losing quality players is like and watching the defensive focus get ramped up against you.
Larkin’s decision to hang around for his junior year might be an intelligent one in terms of his education and development as a basketball player. It gives him a chance to grow into his body more. At only 5-foot-11 and 175lbs, no pro scout will look at him and believe he can be effective at the next level. However, losing all those quality teammates is going to make life on a basketball court much more difficult next year for him.
At the same time, another year in the gym, another year honing his skills and another year of college basketball could be exactly what he needs to truly advance at the pro level–especially if he proves he can be ‘the guy’ when every defense is focused in on him.