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An update on Miami basketball signees

Miami coach Jim Larranaga signed four players in the fall and hopes to add a fifth this spring.
Miami coach Jim Larranaga signed four players in the fall and hopes to add a fifth this spring.
Paul Borden

The University of Miami men’s basketball team has finished its season and though the record wasn’t the disaster it looked to have the potential to be when the Hurricanes opened with a loss at home to St. Francis Brooklyn, neither could it be rated a particularly good year.

One plus: By beating Virginia Tech in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, the Hurricanes did avoid their first losing season since they were 12-20 back in 2006-07.

Their failure to complete a comeback in their loss to North Carolina State in the second round, however, left them with a 17-15 mark, snapping a stretch of seasons with at least 20 wins at four.

Despite the loss of six seniors, better things look to be in the immediate future. Four players who were contributors in the 7-11 ACC regular season -- guard Manu Lecomte and Davon Reed, forward James Kelly, and center Tonye Jekiri -- are due back in 2014-15.

They will be joined by three other players who easily could have been starters this past season but had to sit out, two (guards Angel Rodriquez from Kansas State and Sheldon McClellan from Texas) because of NCAA transfer rules and one (freshman guard Deandre Burnett) because of injury.

Coach Jim Laranaga also signed four quality players last November and will be looking to add a fifth, preferably a veteran transferring from another school with immediate eligibility, in the spring.

The school today released an update on the status of the four prospects who signed last November and will join the team next fall. Here are excerpts from the release:

-- Ja’Quan Newton of Philadelphia’s Neumann-Goretti High, is the premier player in Pennsylvania. ESPN ranks him No. 1 in the state and the 12th-best point guard in the country.

After leading his 22-4 team with an average of 21.7 points per game, Newton was crowned the Catholic League MVP and named to the All-Catholic First Team. He guided the Saints to a sixth-straight Catholic League Championship.

Newton recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the first round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs this weekend as Neumann-Goretti topped Berks Catholic 62-46.

Newton’s perimeter scoring capability is an aspect of his game that Larranaga hopes can replace the productivity of graduating seniors Rion Brown and Garrius Adams.

-- Ivan Cruz Uceda was born in Madrid, Spain, and has played the last two seasons at Harcum College, a junior college in Philadelphia. Harcum was ranked as high as No. 4 in the NJCAA rankings and finished the season with an overall 29-3 record. A 6-10 center, Uceda averaged a double-double (14.7 points, 10.2 rebounds) per game and shot 62 percent from the field.

Uceda started in all 32 games this season, including Harcum’s 77-73 loss to Westchester Community College in the NJCAA Region XV Championship. Uceda’s versatility was on full display in the championship -- 15 of his team-best 21 points came from behind the three-point line, where he made five of his 10 tries. The center was just as effective in the paint, securing 12 rebounds, which were also a team high.

-- James Palmer, a guard out of St. John’s College High in Washington, D.C., earned the No. 1 player ranking in the D.C. region from ESPN.

Palmer is a 6-5 shooting guard who averaged a team-high 15.7 points per game. St. John’s fell a game short of the D.C. State Athletic Association final, falling 84-77 to Theodore Roosevelt High in the semifinal.

Palmer, is still not yet 18 years old and, according to Larranaga, is “baby-faced and doesn’t shave yet. He looks like he should be going into his junior year of high school rather than freshman year of college.”

-- Omar Sherman is a three-star Texan from Duncanville High School, outside of Dallas. Listed at 6-9, Sherman is the No. 10 recruit in Texas and No. 19 center in the country, as ranked by ESPN. Sherman paced Duncanville to a 20-12 season, leading the team with 17.1 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game.

“Sherman has a beautiful, soft, left-handed shooting touch from three-point range, kind of like a Kenny Kadji,” Larranaga said, referring to one of the leaders of the Miami team that won the 2013 ACC regular-season and tourney titles. “He also has a nice low-post, left-handed jump hook game. And we felt as he got bigger and stronger, he could be a force offensively, but also a very good and serviceable rebounder.”

Sherman guided Duncanville to a birth in the regional quarterfinals of the Texas UIL Boys State Basketball Championships, where it ultimately lost to Hebron, 52-44.

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