Miami Hurricanes point guard Shane Larkin is finally set to make his “should I stay or should I go” decision this coming Sunday, currently weighing his options regarding a jump to the pros or one more season at The U.
Some reports have stated that Larkin is in the process of notifying the NBA that he is entering the Draft, but in a world where Jon Gruden was considered a “lock” to come to Coral Gables years back, or Signing Day changes of heart leave many shell-shocked, nothing is official until it’s official.
In the most obvious sense, Larkin moving on is the most logical.
Miami is coming off a dream season. ACC Champions, both in the regular season and the tourney. Post-season awards for Larkin, as well teammates and head coach Jim Larranaga. This past season was full of moments long-time fans of the program never imagined.
A two-seed in the NCAA Tourney, the Hurricanes reached the Sweet Sixteen and while most expected UM to go deeper, the semi-early exit still doesn’t change the fact that this proved to be the greatest season in Miami basketball history.
Larkin is the lone Miami underclassmen weighing his options, but the Hurricanes will take a huge hit regardless, due to such a senior-heavy squad.
UM will be gutted going into next season, losing guard Durand Scott, guard Trey McKinney-Jones, forward Kenny Kadji, center Reggie Johnson and forward/center Julian Gamble and should Larkin return, it will be to a shell of the team he ran this previous season. That’s a given.
Furthermore, Larkin’s stock will arguably never be higher. The numbers were there – a .479 field goal percentage, .777 from the free throw line and .406 from beyond the arc. Larkin also scored 522 points, had 71 steals, 138 rebounds and 164 assists. Night and day compared to his freshman stats the year before and seemingly impossible to top should be back for his junior campaign.
There was also tremendous TV time and national recognition due to heavy media coverage. Miami was front page news the majority of the season, stealing headlines from long-time perennial powers and even The Big Three and the hometown Heat as the Hurricanes accomplished just about everything, short of a National Championship.
When you add it all up, Larkin-to-the-NBA seems the most logical answer, but when factoring in the intangibles, for Larkin, a return to the University of Miami really should be a no-brainer.
Unfortunately that’s something you realize later in life, when going through a few decades of grinding, not at twenty when years still feel like an eternity, confidence is yet to be snuffed out, few setbacks have knocked you down a few rungs and you believe you have all life’s answers, even with a lack of experience.
Take the two most important factors in this decision; where Larkin is expected to be drafted, as well as the overall motivation or need to move on.
At best, some have the 5-foot-11, 176-pound point guard a late first rounder. Others have him slipping into the early second, but regardless of where and when he goes, it’s fine as this isn’t a financially-based decision for Larkin.
In a world where some amateur athletes have their hand forced due to family financial struggles, this top-notch point guard is the son of MLB Hall Of Famer Barry Larkin – and while a son never wants to live in dad’s shadow or to sponge off his financial success, the fact remains that the younger Larkin doesn’t need to make this decision to help ease the family’s financial burden or to provide.
No, this decision can be solely about basketball, what is personally best for Shane and which direction he feels he wants to go, all of which seem like a rarity in this day and age.
Larkin’s obvious goal is to reach the NBA and while his stock may be higher right now than it could be a year from now … so what? At worst, a smaller initial payday? The NBA will still be waiting and there is no sense of urgency to get there right now.
Again, this isn’t football and we’re not talking about a top five NFL Draft pick, the insane money (and pressure) that comes from that status, nor the risk versus reward with potential career-ending injury that can occur within that hard-hitting, brutal sport.
Larkin isn’t putting himself at great risk with a return, nor are we talking about the difference between guaranteed NFL first round money, opposed to a third round pay day, so by removing the financial sub plot and making it simply about a life-long goal to reach the NBA, how does one more year in college hurt Larkin’s overall storyline?
If anything, a leadership role with new – and old – teammates, another year under a legend like Larranaga and another year in Miami amongst friends and family could all prove invaluable to Larkin at this quick-passing phase of life.
This really is one of those moments where youth is truly lost on the young. Experience is life’s greatest teacher, and like all college athletes, Larkin simply hasn’t lived enough life to experience setbacks, hurt, disappointment or dreams unfulfilled, as well as the burden of marriage, family, career and survival.
In our late teens or early twenties, life moves at a snail’s pace. The older one gets, it soon becomes long days, fast years the understanding that it all goes by way too quickly.
It really is about relishing great moments and hopefully Larkin realizes the unique position he’s in regarding the role he’d play in another year running the point for the Canes.
Larking needs to look no further some Miami football greats and their decision-making process in similar situations, as well as the reverence said players hold for their college years, which seem forever ago and certainly feel like they blew by.
So many UM alum take over the NFL every Sunday and while they all earn a living and play for their respective franchises, their bond is with The U and smiles wash over their faces when talking about their time spent in Coral Gables.
Ed Reed, who returned for his senior year and a shot at a title. Edgerrin James, who was a top five pick from the streets of Immokalee, with no choice but to go pro as the money was too good and his status so high.
Look at a Michael Irvin or Jimmy Johnson, as well. Both achieved the ultimate success, earning three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, but both unabashed with their love for the University of Miami and boldly claiming those were the best days of their lives, on and off the field.
The money can always be made up, but the memories can never be replaced.
Larkin has one more year to play the role of college superstar and he is a huge reason the City of Miami has become a full-fledged basketball town as of late. Fresh off the Miami Heat’s championship, the Hurricanes carried the torch, putting UM on the map and then some.
Larranaga got the most out of the squad he inherited, players jelled, stepped up and Miami went on a dream run and while it’s inevitable that the Canes will take a step back next year, the addition of a few key pieces this off-season can still make for a solid 2013-2014 season, as well as the opportunity for Larkin to truly be that ‘big man on campus’.
With a return, this is completely Larkin’s team next year. A slew of veterans are gone and Larkin, who ran the offense this season, would get to play the full-blown role of team leader.
Furthermore, it’s another year with mom and dad in the stands, the college lifestyle, new experiences with friends and one more year regarding a revered phase of one’s life, versus the alternative – sitting on the bench in some nameless city, hoping to log some late-game minutes and the feeling of being a lifetime away of what arguably was the best year, thus far, in the young man’s life.
For the record, Larkin doesn’t owe the Miami program, teammates, coaches or fans a thing. He’s already done his job regarding cementing a legacy and giving UM faithful enough to cheer for after last season’s wild ride. If he never suits up again, he’ll go down as one of this program’s greats.
This also isn’t some rah-rah sales pitch to bring the kid back for the sake of the Hurricanes; it’s simply some sound advice and persepective from someone almost twice his age, hoping he revels in this current moment as it will soon be gone, and no late first round / early second round paycheck will fill the void.
Larkin is afforded the luxury to not carry a burden or responsibility with this decision as family members aren’t depending on him to put food on the table or to keep the lights on. Hopefully that in itself removes a weight that many other on-the-fence players before him have carried.
In this case, his family simply want him happy, going with his heart when making his decision – and should the allure of the NBA and reached goal of simply making it to that level outweigh a return to college for one more fun, light, carefree year of ‘being a kid’, then a hearty thanks to #0 for all he’s done and well wishes all around. Sincerely.
One just hopes that Larkin has as good an understanding as possible regarding how quickly it all goes by. That’s definitely asking a lot of a twentysomething as life feels like it moves in slow motion at that phase, but still, maybe Larkin an old soul and wise beyond his years.
The NBA career will be there, as will the paycheck, but what will never return – the feeling of being a highly-touted collegiate point guard, playing the role of ‘the guy’ and the face of the program, nor will there be that excitement and laid-back atmosphere that comes with playing this game for a scholarship and for fun, opposed to when it becomes work and the motivation is a paycheck.
Larkin will make his decision come Sunday and again, as long as he weighs it all out, heeds family advice and chooses with his heart, whatever direction he goes will absolutely be the right one. I have no doubt.
Christian Bello has been covering Miami Hurricanes athletics since the mid-1990s. After spending almost a decade as a columnist for CanesTime, he launched allCanesBlog.com. – the official blog for allCanes.com : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with XOFan.com and will be a guest columnist at CaneInsider.com this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.