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Is NBA hype distracting Larranaga’s Hurricanes?

Jim Larranaga

Jim Larranaga


CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami Hurricanes guards Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker IV might not be ready for the NBA next season after all, and coach Jim Larranaga wonders whether they’re even ready for Florida State.

No. 15 Miami faces the 24th-ranked Seminoles on Sunday, and in the wake of two recent losses and a slide in the rankings, Larranaga’s no longer keen on the NBA talk.

Before the season, he touted underclassmen Brown and Walker as likely destined for the pros in 2018. But Brown’s offensive production has fallen off in his sophomore season, and Walker has played like a freshman — which he is.

On Friday, Larranaga complained about his players viewing college as a pit stop en route to the NBA.

“These guys are coming here like it’s a prep school,” he said.

Regarding sources of NBA hype for his players, Larranaga didn’t mention himself.

“They probably read social media and Twitter and all that junk, and what the media say, and the color commentator at a game,” Larranaga said.

The Hurricanes (12-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) climbed to No. 6 in the rankings before Christmas, but they’ve lost two of their past four games, including Wednesday at Georgia Tech. They’ll fall out of the rankings if they lose to the Seminoles (12-2, 1-1), and perhaps even if they win.

Miami’s biggest problem has been a sputtering offense that Larranaga described as lacking cohesion and rhythm. The leading scorer is neither Brown nor Walker but sophomore forward Dewan Huell.

Brown is averaging 10.9 points and shooting 43 percent, both figures lower than a year ago. Walker is at 8.3 points and 42 percent. In the past six games they’re both shooting below 40 percent while going a combined 4 for 36 (11 percent) from 3-point range.

A New York Knicks scout attended practice Friday, underscoring the obvious question: Is a potential NBA future distracting Brown and Walker?

“You think about it sometimes, obviously,” Brown said. “But I don’t think it’s an issue with us. I don’t think about it much; I know he doesn’t think about it much. We don’t even have conversations about it.”

Larranaga, who is in his 33rd season as a head coach, chuckled when asked if his players are thinking about the NBA.

“Our guys?” he said. “Every guy. My guys at George Mason and my guys at Bowling Green were thinking they were one and done. It’s a real problem for our culture. It’s a real sad commentary as to what has happened to college basketball.”

Larranaga said he would favor the sport returning to the old rules allowing players to turn pro out of high school. But that’s a discussion for another day.

“Right now what’s imminent,” he said, “is Florida State.”