Shane Larkin poised to be top UM NBA Draft pick since Rick Barry

CORAL GABLES — If only he were a few inches taller.

Shane Larkin's heard it for years and doubters remain. Still, the 5-foot-11 former Miami Hurricane is expected to hear his name called during the first round of the NBA Draft, starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. Most mock drafts have him listed as a mid-round selection.

How much his height will matter in the pros is still up for debate, but he'll join an elite group of Hurricanes either way. Larkin will likely become only the fourth first-round pick to come out of Coral Gables and the first since John Salmons was the 26th overall pick 11 years ago. Since Rick Barry was taken No. 2 overall in 1965, no Hurricane has been drafted higher than Tim James (No. 25) in 1999.

Several other members of UM's Sweet 16 team worked out for NBA teams, but Larkin appears to be the only sure thing on draft night. Kenny Kadji had been appearing as high as the first round in draft projections, but his stock has since slipped.

Larkin, however, is one of the fast risers in the mock drafts. Originally slotted as late first-round or early second-round pick, the Orlando product moved all the way onto the cusp of the lottery.

Impressive individual workouts and a 44-inch vertical (second highest in NBA combine history) helped improve his stock considerably. Speed, defensive instincts and an improved jump shot led him to leave UM after his sophomore season, when he scored 14.5 points per game and earned second team All-America honors.

ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said Larkin's best-case scenario appears to be going 14th to the Utah Jazz, although the Jazz could wait until the 21st pick to draft Larkin.

"I'm not sure they'll take [him] there," Ford said of Utah using its No. 14 pick on Larkin. "We have him going 15 to the Bucks in our mock, and he's definitely in the mix there. He's in the mix for Boston at 16. He's in the mix with the Hawks. They have two picks at 17 and 18. And if he was still on the board when the Jazz drafted at 21, assuming that they decided to go big and not take a point guard, I think that's his range, 14 to 21."

Ford said concerns not just about Larkin's height, but his short wingspan could also deter franchises. It measured at 5 feet 10, lower than any point guard drafted during the past decade, Ford said. For comparison, fellow point guard Trey Burke's wingspan measured 6-5.

Miami coach Jim Larranaga doesn't worry about any of that with Larkin.

"I mean, the kid's just a great athlete," Larranaga told CBS Sports radio this week. "I don't think size is as much of a factor in the NBA as it once was."
He pointed to the NBA Finals when the Spurs went to four-guard sets and the diminishing post-up style of play. One local NBA star who won another ring last week has faith in Larkin.

"Shane is a guy that has an opportunity to be very good in our league, and some of the other UM guys as well," LeBron James said. "We'll see what happens."
Former Hurricanes Durand Scott, Trey McKinney-Jones, Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson and Kadji had workouts with NBA teams in recent weeks. Kadji's age is the biggest challenge, Ford said, while predicting he'll go undrafted.

"Yeah, it's a big deal in the NBA," Ford said. "And at 25, people begin to really question your productivity because you ought to be playing basketball against kids that are six, seven years younger than you."

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