Now, though, Miami has the sixth-year redshirt senior forward back on the hardwood and he enters his final collegiate campaign after a strong summer.
“The absence of Sam Waardenburg really hurt us last year and having him back has been a huge help,” Larrañaga shared. “Hopefully, Sam will stay healthy and be able to play like he’s been practicing. If he does, that will make a huge difference in our lineup.”
Along with getting back Waardenburg and sixth-year redshirt senior center Rodney Miller Jr., from injury, Miami also has five new scholarship players on its roster.
The group includes three freshmen in Bensley Joseph, Wooga Poplar and Jakai Robinson, as well as two transfers in Charlie Moore and Jordan Miller. All five are guards and each one brings quality skills to the table.
The three freshmen are all top-125 recruits, while Moore is already a 1,200-point scorer and Miller is a reigning Third Team All-Atlantic 10 honoree. The group, despite some differentiation in abilities, brings some common denominators to the table.
“I think our new guys are a group of athletic 3-point shooters,” Larrañaga said. “They can all handle the ball, they can all shoot the ball and they’re good at finding their teammates who can shoot the three. We’re likely to shoot a lot more threes than we did last year.”
All five will see their first game action in a Miami uniform Wednesday night against Nova Southeastern, which did not play during the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19. The Sharks finished 23-6 (15-5 SSC) in 2019-20 and reached the NCAA Tournament before its cancelation.
At the helm of Nova Southeastern is a coach described by Larrañaga as “legendary.” That would be Jim Crutchfield, a multiple-time national coach of the year who has led his teams to multiple Final Fours.
When his Hurricanes and take the court against Crutchfield’s Sharks, however, Larrañaga will not be focused so much on the score or specific stats as he is about health and competitive spirit.