Hurricanes ride Shane Larkin to easy win vs. Pacific

AUSTIN, Texas -- Shane Larkin would play five AAU games in one long day, and after his physical toil was complete, Larkin, his father, and his uncle would get settled on the couch and watch the game film. All five games. All in an effort to make Shane, just entering his teenage years, a premier point guard.

His father, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, played basketball in high school and probably could have played in college as well. He coached Shane in AAU, so he knew what to tell his son. His uncle, Byron Larkin -- who scored 2,696 points in his college career while at Xavier in the mid-1980s and who holds the No. 21 spot on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list -- could provide the experience and point out the subtleties that hardly anybody else could see.

Barry and Byron would dissect the film, and Shane, holding ice bags on his knees, would soak it in.

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The Shane Larkin you see today -- the Miami sophomore guard who led his talented team in scoring this year, the ACC tournament MVP, the conference’s player of the year -- is a byproduct of an exceptionally athletic gene pool, a father and an uncle who were willing to sit for hours at a time and teach, and a coachable mentality that has allowed him to become one of the top point guards in the country.

“Both were very successful in their sports, and they played at the top level,” Shane Larkin said Friday afternoon while walking back to the team locker room following his postgame news conference. “They can see what’s happening on the court. We watched a lot of tape.”

Larkin struggled with his shooting in the NCAA tournament’s second round, but he dished out nine assists in the second-seeded Hurricanes' 78-49 win against No. 15 Pacific. And he provided a jump-start midway through the first half when his team wasn’t playing particularly well.

With Miami leading 8-7, Larkin knocked down two free throws after he was fouled driving to the lane. On the next Pacific possession, he knocked the ball away from Rodrigo De Souza to force a turnover. Then Larkin tossed the perfect alley-oop to Tonye Jekiri, and on the Hurricanes next possession he drove the lane again, switched the ball to his left hand, drew the foul from Ross Rivera, scored the layup and hit the ensuing free throw.

About 2½ minutes after Pacific had cut the lead to one, Larkin, almost single-handedly had given Miami a 15-7 lead.

“At that moment in time, we weren’t playing very well,” said Larkin, who finished with 10 points and nine assists. “We needed a spark, so I tried to go out there and make something happen. My teammates were in their right space for me to get to the basket and the right spot for me to pass it to them so they could shoot. My teammates did a great job of being in the right position. That’s just the chemistry we have. We know where we need to be.”

After Larkin’s mini-explosion, the Tigers never threatened again, allowing Miami to go on a 21-4 run and then watching as Hurricanes guard Durand Scott hit four 3-pointers in the first 8 minutes of the second half to finish with 21 points and guide the Hurricanes into the third round of the tournament to face Illinois.

But Larkin was the catalyst, and he did it with his father and uncle watching proudly from about a dozen rows above the Miami bench. Byron, who moonlights as the Xavier radio analyst, was perched proudly in his seat wearing his green Miami polo shirt and remembering all the trips he made from his home in Cincinnati to Orlando to help his brother’s kid learn to play basketball better.

“Barry wanted me to take a real active role in Shane’s basketball development,” Byron Larkin said. “Shane related to me because he always wanted to play basketball. He knew what I did, and he wanted to take a similar path. Barry knows what to do, but sometimes it’s one of those things when somebody else tells you the same thing as your parent, and it’s like, ‘OK, it makes sense now.’ ”

Shane, meanwhile, looks at his uncle and appreciates all those trips to the exposure camps. All the ABCD camps and the Nike showcases and the AAU contests. Shane looks at Byron and sees not only an effective study buddy. He sees a sturdy support system.

It’s not all that much different from how Larkin’s teammates see their point guard.

“Before Shane got here, I was a point guard,” Scott said. “I know what it’s like to be in that position. With the ball in his hand, I know he’s going to put it where it needs to be. I was running the floor and just finding open spots. He did a great job of finding me.”

Byron Larkin has no doubt that Shane will play in the NBA, a level Byron never reached (he played professional for many years overseas). And though Shane Larkin is on record as saying he’ll return to Miami for his junior season -- who’s to say that declaration will stick, though -- it’s clear Shane Larkin is the same caliber of athlete as his father and uncle. Maybe one day, he'll be better.

“He’s efficient,” Byron Larkin said. “That’s the thing I love about him. There’s not a lot of wasted motion. He’s make the smart play, and he’s not afraid of the big moment. He’s a coach’s dream.”

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