by Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
The key word here is perfect.
“I worked on everything during the offseason to get ready for this year. I feel my skillset was already strong last year but now I’m just trying to be perfect. The team has stayed here in Coral Gables for the summer session over the last two years and it’s really beginning to show on the court.” — Shane Larkin
What expectation could be placed on the shoulders of sophomore point guard Shane Larkin other than perfect? Well, if we’re talking about what it would take to make the Miami Hurricanes a National Championship contender in basketball, then absolutely. If we’re talking about living up to the expectations of wearing the name, “Larkin” on your back and living up to a family legacy that few families on this Earth can compare to, then absolutely.
But if it’s the expectation of pushing your fellow teammate to be perfect, just as teammates like Erik Swoope and Garrius Adams push their floor general push Larkin to be perfect, then it speaks more to a perfect climate that’s been fostered for a Hurricanes team that’s held its place among the college basketball elite.
After spending enough time talking to Larkin and hearing him effuse praise on his teammates and head coach, all while speaking in a humble and relaxed tone, it’s easy to understand how Miami can be so calm and clear-headed when dealing with tense situations on the basketball court. Has Larkin been here before? Been in these tense, pressure-filled situations and we just didn’t know it?
Was he with his pops Barry, the 12-time All-Star with the Cincinnati Reds, when the game was tight in the bottom of the ninth? Or what about his uncle Byron, Xavier’s all-time leading scorer, when the game was late in the second half? Or maybe he was with his other uncle Mike, a standout linebacker for Notre Dame, deep in the trenches fighting for that in the fourth quarter? Wait, don’t let me forget the other uncle Steve, who also had a cup of coffee in the majors as well. So yes, Larkin probably picked up a thing or three from the elder statesmen in his family.
“The entire family has been really supportive of me and my game. Ever since high school they’ve always been on me to get better. Someone in the family would always give me little clues here and there to work on, to push me, to keep my eyes on. My dad is a Hall of Famer, my Uncle is the all-time leading scorer in Xavier history. I want their success and working on what I need to do has been an awesome experience, because I know I’m getting better.” — Larkin
Getting better has been an understatement for Larkin, who coming of an impressive freshman campaign where he earned All-ACC Freshman honors, there were some who wondered what Larkin’s role would be on this Miami team. Would he be a scorer? What about handling the point guard duties? What about defensively?
Right now, any role he takes he’s been excelling, and he’s making the people around him even better. If he penetrates into the lane, he can find the open man with the best in college basketball. If there’s a ball screen and the defender goes under it, Larkin’s hitting the three-pointer (42 percent this season) with consistency. He’s wreaking havoc on the defensive end, averaging over 2 steals a game, and he’s always running the break with a finish or a dish.
That’s what’s scary about Larkin in 2013—he’s still developing and he’s brimming with confidence. That blowout win over Duke earlier in the season wasn’t a fluke, it was a culmination of events that led to that climax. The 13 straight wins in the ACC wasn’t a coincidence (I mean, this is the ACC right?). Miami’s got a battle-tested head coach in Jim Larranaga, they’ve got a veteran-laden squad with six seniors on the roster, and they’ve got a playmaker who doesn’t seem afraid of the moment.
No, Larkin wants the moment, he wants that moment to be perfect.
Eddie Maisonet has been a contributor to SLAM since 2010. He is the Editor-In-Chief of The Sportsfan Journal, contributor to Complex’s Sneaker Report and loves women who wear big hoop earrings. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with more of his shenanigans and tomfoolery.