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Larranaga playing numbers game at Miami

Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga has had to deal with senior-laden rosters each of the last two years.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The University of Miami will recognize six departing seniors before the Hurricanes host Wake Forest Saturday afternoon in its regular-season finale.

This time last season five seniors who were counting down the final days of their collegiate careers.

That’s a total of 11 seniors in two consecutive seasons for Miami -- a remarkably high number in men’s college basketball these days.

No fellow member in the Atlantic Coast Conference has had anywhere even close to that many seniors leaving the program over the last two years.

Throw in the early departure of guard Shane Larkin, who opted for the NBA draft last spring after playing two years with the Hurricanes, and the Hurricanes are looking at losing a dozen players in just two years while returning only seven scholarship players for 2014-15.

Such imbalance in class size is an issue that coach Jim Larranaga has had to contend with since taking over the program at Miami for the 2011-12 season.

Inheriting a roster that was heavy on sophomores and juniors his first season, Larranaga had only two scholarships available. One went to Larkin, the other to guard Bishop Daniels, who missed his freshman year because of injury and later left the program.

The next year, his second, Larranaga was able to sign only one freshman, center Tonye Jekiri, because of the dominance of juniors and seniors on the roster.

It wasn’t until Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott and Trey McKinney-Jones and Julian Gamble left following the 2012-13 season that Larranaga -- in his words -- was really able “to start his first recruiting class.

That group of signees included three players -- guards Manu Lecomte and Davon Reed and forward James Kelly -- who played big roles this season. But together with center Tonye Jekiri, they are the only four scholarship players returning for the 2014-15 season.

They will be joined by three others who sat out this season -- guards Deandre Burnett (injured), Angel Rodriguez (transfer), and Sheldon McClellan (transfer) plus four players who signed letters-of-intent last November.

The addition of guards James Palmer (Washington, D.C.) and Ja’Quan Newton (Philadelphia) and forwards Omar Sherman (Duncanville, Texas) and Ivan Cruz Uceda (Harcum College in Pennsylvania) will give Larranaga 11 scholarship players on his roster.

Only one -- Kelly, who came to Miami this season after transferring from junior college -- will be a senior, which could lead to a repeat of the problems if Larranaga and his staff aren’t careful.

The Hurricanes, who had to give up one scholarship because of NCAA sanctions, have only one more scholarship to award during this spring’s recruiting period to get the roster up to the limit of 12.

Larranaga said he hopes that player will be a graduate transfer who will be eligible immediately and will play only one season, just like forward Donnavan Kirk did this year. That would open up two scholarships for the 2015-16 season and help keep the class numbers better balanced.

“It gets very complicated when your classes are imbalanced, or out of balance,” Larranaga said at a media session Thursday.

Indeed it does.

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