Miami amped to open against 3-happy North Florida


For the first time in 263 days, the Miami Hurricanes will play a men’s basketball game as they host the North Florida Ospreys on Sunday night in Coral Gables, Fla.

It marks the season opener for Miami, but North Florida (0-2) has already lost 80-67 to Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday and 86-51 at North Carolina State on Friday.

Coach Jim Larranaga, who has 660 career wins and took George Mason to the Final Four in 2006, has muddled through two straight losing season at Miami. Prior to that, he led the Hurricanes to three straight NCAA Tournaments, including the Sweet 16 in 2016.

From last season’s 15-16 team, the Hurricanes graduated second-leading scorer Dejan Vasiljevic (13.2), who was also their top 3-point shooter; and reserve forward Keith Stone, who specialized on defense.

In addition, Miami is without 6-10 senior forward Sam Waardenburg, who injured his left foot in practice and is out for the season.

However, the Hurricanes return preseason All-ACC point guard Chris Lykes, who led the team in scoring (15.4), assists (2.4) and steals (1.1). His strengths are speed, scoring ability and defensive tenacity.

Miami also returns 6-5 shooting guard Kameron McGusty, who averaged 12.5 points last season. Prior to that, he started 25 games for Oklahoma.

“I think experience is very important, especially in your backcourt,” Larranaga said. “Guards really control the game with their defensive pressure and with their ball-handling to create shots for their teammates.”

Two more Miami guards to watch are sophomores Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly, who combined to average 14.9 points per game as freshmen. Both are particularly good at attacking the basket.

Up front, Sunday will mark the Miami debut of Nysier Brooks, a 7-0, 240-pound transfer from Cincinnati. Brooks started 35 games for the Bearcats in 2018-2019, averaging 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Brooks will team with holdover posts Rodney Miller Jr. and Anthony Walker, who combined last season to average 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

North Florida, under coach Matt Driscoll, went 21-12 last season, finishing first in the Atlantic Sun Conference with a 13-3 record. But the Ospreys, based in Jacksonville, have only made one NCAA Tournament appearance, in 2015, which happened under Driscoll’s watch.

The Ospreys transitioned to Division I in 2005, and Driscoll is just their second coach in North Florida’s Division I era.

Miami leads North Florida 5-0 in the all-time series.

This year, the Ospreys are led by forward Carter Hendricksen, who tops the team in scoring (15.5) and rebounding (6.0). He was a unanimous selection as a preseason All-A-Sun player.

The Ospreys, picked to finish fourth in the league this season, led the nation in 3-pointers made and attempted in 2019-20, averaging 11.2 3-pointers made on 29.3 attempts per game.

“Driscoll has done a great job building their program, and they’re going to launch a lot of 3s,” Larranaga said. “They have a lot of guys who can do it, and we’ll see if our defense has improved.”

–Field Level Media

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