With Their 3 Leading Scorers Declaring for the Draft, What Does the Future Look Like for the Canes?

With Their 3 Leading Scorers Declaring for the Draft, What Does the Future Look Like for the Canes?

PhilWood
Unsurprisingly, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker both declared for the NBA draft, but Brown did not hire an agent, which gives him the chance to come back for another season at UM. Dewan Huell also declared, but it is pretty likely that he will go through the pre-draft process only return to school and wind up donning a Canes jersey next year, while Ja’Quan Newton is off and graduated. So, that means that the Canes three leading scorers from last season, a trio that made up nearly half of the Canes average points per game, could be leaving Coral Gables as they get their NBA careers started. But what does this really mean for the Canes moving forward as we look to next season?

Well, before we get into that, let’s look at the past just one last time. I know you’re all probably tired of it, but let’s talk once more about that pesky little team that ended the Canes season far too early: the Loyola Ramblers. The Sister Jean led (you would seriously think that at this point wouldn’t you?) Loyola Ramblers were the story of this year’s tournament. And that story all started with a heroic three pointer against some really bad late game defense from Sam Waardenburg, who stepped back and gave Donte Ingram the cleanest look he could have ever hoped for. But this isn’t about Waardenburg’s defense. This is about what happened right before it. Lonnie Walker’s missed free throw. The Canes were horrible from the line all season and, though it never killed them, it ultimately did them in when it mattered most. Free throws are one thing, but what’s most important is what the Canes can learn from the Holy Wolves (is their mascot a wolf?). Loyola sliced and diced their way through this tournament all the way to the Final Four in a game they led with just 9 minutes remaining. Loyola was phenomenal moving without the basketball, was lightning fast with their passes and never settled for a bad shot (until the final 9 minutes of their season). The Canes were far more athletic than the Ramblers, but the Ramblers did all the fundamentals right that the Canes struggled with.

At times this past season, we looked absolutely lost on offense. Look at what we did against Syracuse. It looked a lot like what Michigan State did in the round of 32: absolutely nothing. So go ahead and buy up all the Sister Jean bobbleheads just so you can throw them in the trash, and let’s be done with this year’s Cinderella. But let’s not forget what they did to beat us and also what they did to keep moving forward in the tournament.

So how can we accomplish that with arguably our two best players heading off to the land of dream teams and tankers? Chris Lykes is going to have to be our guy. The little freshman with a big heart (announcers seriously need to come up with something else) was huge for the Canes last season and played better than expected in his debut season for UM. He will be the key to the Canes success next year, when he will certainly be the starting point guard from beginning to end.

We can almost safely assume that Huell will be back in the lineup next season. Though he had a solid game in the NCAA tournament, he has tons of room to improve before heading to the next level. There’s even a case to be made that Ebuka Izundu outplayed him toward the end of last season, so if Huell does decide to forego his junior campaign, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Look at their numbers over the last 10 games (NCAA not included). Izundu really did some work. Huell is the better basketball player overall and more of a threat to score, but Izundu is going to see increased minutes either way.

Bruce Brown leaving will definitely earn some groans from the fans down in Coral Gables, but look at what the team accomplished this season without him. It didn’t always look pretty but the Canes finished third in the ACC and earned a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. They lost to a Final Four team basically at the buzzer. No matter what the name on their jersey, they made it to the Final Four and put up the best showing a number 11 seed ever has. It took an almost buzzer beater to beat Miami, while it took a boring 20 minutes of basketball and a non-dramatic 16 point victory to knock off Kansas State in the Elite Eight. Yes, Bruce Brown is a stellar basketball player, who we undeniably want on the floor, but without him the season is not a lost cause. Look at what the team was able to do when they unexpectedly lost him; now imagine what they’ll be able to do with an entire summer to prepare.

Finally, there is Lonnie Walker. Walker was solid in his freshman campaign, even though it took him a little bit longer to get going than Canes fans would have liked. He finished the season leading the team in scoring with 11.5 PPG and shot 34.6% from 3 point land. He had ice in his veins for most of the season, even if he did miss the biggest free throw of his life, and will be missed moving forward. However, Larranaga and staff couldn’t have expected Walker to ever stay past his freshman year when they were recruiting him. He was an obvious “1 and done”, and though he didn’t put up the best numbers, draft boards consistently have him going in the first round, almost always to the Washington Wizards. While we all thought he was going to be a certain lottery pick before the season started, it looks like he may have to settle with just missing the cut. Walker won’t be back next season and guys like Amp Lawrence and Sam Waardenburg will have to fill in for him. Both players had up and down seasons in 2017, but both have the talent to be providers on the team next season.

So, while this team definitely isn’t as good as they were this time last year, all hope is not lost for the Canes. Guard Miles Wilson, a transfer from Mount Saint Mary’s, will be eligible to compete this year. Forward Deng Gak will look to join the rotation off his redshirt year as well. The Canes are also in the current transfer market and are in contact with Oklahoma guard transfer Kameron McGusty and FGCU guard transfer Zach Johnson. While none of those players will be able to fill the void left by either Walker or Brown, the Canes should still be able to compete and finish in the top half of the ACC yet again.
 

Comments (6)

Not sure at all that Miles Wilson can't average 11 ppg, which is what Lonnie gave us and more than Bruce did. Not equating their athleticism or pro potential (or, in BBs case, rebounding and defense) --only talking about replacing points. Lykes' shots and scoring should be up as well. Amp is an enigma. Not sure what Sam's ceiling is. Izundu should be solid. Gak is an unknown. Not expecting anything from Miller.
 
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Great write up. You are spot on about the issues on offense. I've said all year long how much our lack of ball movement and strategy on offense is killing us. Loyola got to the final four because like you said, they moved the ball so well and when you do that it makes it easier for everyone to score. We've done the opposite and made it as challenging as possible to score. In order to be good next year, we will have to move the ball better or we won't win consistently in the ACC with the talent we've lost.
 
Not sure at all that Miles Wilson can't average 11 ppg, which is what Lonnie gave us and more than Bruce did. Not equating their athleticism or pro potential (or, in BBs case, rebounding and defense) --only talking about replacing points. Lykes' shots and scoring should be up as well. Amp is an enigma. Not sure what Sam's ceiling is. Izundu should be solid. Gak is an unknown. Not expecting anything from Miller.
Lonnie was 14ppg during ACC play though.
 
We did well without Brown, but had Walker. Huell has underwhelmed, but losing him will create a hole. I feel as if you're reaching for rosy picture in case we have a worst case scenario.
 

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255
Miami, FL
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290
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