As play zoomed back and forth, with halfhearted defense giving way to dueling fast breaks, most of the college coaches gathered in one corner of DeMatha’s secondary gym.
But Miami Coach Jim Larranaga sat toward the middle of the worn bleachers, his arms stretched out and his legs covering the two rows in front of him. The 67-year-old watched a handful of prospects competing at the Victor Oladipo Skills Academy last week, and the dim, dusty space made the action look like grainy old game tape. His glasses rested near the edge of his nose. At one point he yawned, stretching his arms just a bit farther before folding his hands on his chest.
It looked as if he were in his own living room. It is, after all, a familiar space for Larranaga. The coach spent 14 years as the head coach at George Mason in Fairfax, Virginia, which glued Larranaga to high school bleachers all over the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area. Now he is entering his seventh season leading Miami, and the Atlantic Coast Conference program is fixed on chasing this area’s most talented basketball players.
He and Chris Caputo — who moved with Larranaga from George Mason and is the Hurricanes’ associate head coach — have strong ties to the region. So does Miami assistant Jamal Brunt, a Baltimore native who was instrumental in reeling former Gonzaga point guard Chris Lykes into the Hurricanes’ most recent recruiting class. It is not a bad place to center recruiting efforts.
“The thing with Miami is that they were able to spend a lot of years building connections here at a smaller program, and now they can cash in on that with the draw of a bigger program,” said a high-major assistant, who spoke under the condition of anonymity at the Oladipo Skills Academy last week. “That’s a tough mix to beat sometimes, and I think you could see those guys cashing in on it more in the near future.
“It’s also the DMV, one of the most talented basketball hotbeds in the country, if not the most. I mean, who doesn’t want to recruit well here?”
Miami has welcomed two area players since Larranaga started in 2011, and both have come from the vaunted Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. The first was Class of 2013 guard James Palmer from St. John’s. The second is Lykes, who will start his college career in the fall and won the Post’s most recent All-Met Player of the Year award.
Lykes, an electric 5-7 guard, could kick-start a southern movement for some of the area’s top players. Rock Creek Christian’s Jermaine Harris, a 6-9 forward and the area’s best 2018 big man, has Miami in his final eight schools. Harris had offers from Georgetown and other schools in close proximity to D.C., but they were dropped from the running when he whittled down his options last week.
Saddiq Bey, a 6-7 wing from Sidwell Friends, was offered by Miami in May and took an unofficial visit there in the spring. Bey is one of the area’s most intriguing 2018 prospects, a pure scorer and shooter who could still grow a few more inches. He also has offers from Notre Dame, Georgetown, Florida, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, among other schools. Both Bey and Harris play for D.C. Premier’s 17U team on Under Armour’s AAU circuit.
Miami is also one of two schools (along with Virginia) to have offered 2020 point guard Jeremy Roach. Roach, who attends Paul VI and plays for Team Takeover’s 16U team, will likely have a long list of high-major schools to choose from as he moves further into his high school career.
West Potomac’s Jonas Munson, a 6-11 big man in the Class of 2019, is expected to visit Miami in the near future, West Potomac Coach told The Post on Sunday. Munson plays for Virginia Elite on the AAU circuit.
“I like Coach Larranaga’s history of developing guys and what I know of his relationships with his players,” said Rock Creek Christian Coach Chris Cole, who is helping Harris through his recruiting process. “It feels like their staff genuinely cares about their guys.”
Cole said that Miami’s commitment to the area makes sense given their past at George Mason, but mostly attributed it to the region’s undeniable talent pool.
The Hurricanes staff (and all Division I coaches) has one more five-day evaluation period before the 2016-17 recruiting calendar ends. That will start on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and be the third time this month that coaches can evaluate players in person. Then the coming months will show whether Miami’s most recent recruiting efforts in this area will be fruitful or fruitless.
“Look, I don’t know many programs, especially ones on the east coast, that don’t want to focus on recruiting here,” said that same assistant at the Victor Oladipo Skills Academy. “But those guys at Miami should know the ins and outs and the movers and shakers a bit better than a lot of us.”
Then he took a deep breath and smiled.
“And if that starts to work out for them a bit more, I think everyone would be pretty darn jealous.”
» Bullis point guard Vado Morse verbally committed to Mount St. Mary’s on Monday, according to Scout’s Evan Daniels. Morse, who plays for New World on the AAU circuit, had offers from Mount St. Mary’s and James Madison.
» Severn School guard L.J. Owens received an offer from Saint Joseph’s on Monday, D.C. Blue Devils Coach Ricardo Rush told The Post. Owens plays for Rush on the Blue Devils’ 17U team and had a strong showing at Under Armour’s all-American camp in Philadelphia this past week. This was Owens’ 16th Division I offer across the last two years, the most recent coming from Delaware, Youngstown State, Eastern Kentucky, Charles Southern and now the Hawks.
» James Madison offered six players on the D.C. Blue Devils’ 16U (Class of 2019) team this past weekend, which included four local prospects: Evan Buckley (point guard, Stone Bridge), Dejean Desire (wing, Georgetown Prep), Christian Depollar (wing, St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes) and Josh Wallace (guard, St. Mary’s-Annapolis). Marvin Price, one of the six players on the team offered by James Madison, started his high school career at DeMatha before moving to Baltimore. Price, a 6-foot-4 guard with high-major offers, was also offered by George Washington on Monday.
» Springbrook guard Matt Balanc picked up offers from La Salle and Iona over the weekend, Mid-Atlantic Select director James Lee confirmed to The Post. Balanc, who plays for Mid-Atlantic Select’s 17U team, has used the July evaluation periods to greatly elevate his recruiting stock. He added seven offers — from New Mexico, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure, Quinnipiac, High Point and UMBC — during the first evaluation period. He has also attracted interest from Georgetown, Kansas State, Connecticut and Penn State, according to Lee, and now has nine Division I offers in total.
» Fairmont Heights guard Darren Lucas-White picked up an offer from Morgan State over the weekend, Fairmont Heights Coach Chuck Henry told The Post. Lucas-White, who had a strong showing at the Hoop Group Jam Fest, also attracted interest from Seton Hall, James Madison, Army, American, Towson, Drexel, La Salle and Missouri State, according to Henry. Morgan State is his first Division I offer.
» Bladensburg wing Daniel Oladapo received an offer from Central Connecticut on Saturday, Bladensburg Coach Antonio Williams confirmed to The Post. The 6-foot-6 Oladapo, who is in the Class of 2018 and is playing for New World on the AAU circuit, previously had offers from Canisius, Towson, High Point, Howard, Bowie State and Virginia Union.
» Southern guard Curtis Holland III received an offer from Radford on Sunday, Southern Coach Will Maynard confirmed to The Post. Holland, a 6-foot-2 guard who plays AAU basketball with The District out of D.C., previously had offers from Mount St. Mary’s, High Point and IUPUI.
» Bishop Ireton point guard Darius Hines picked up an offer from Division II Millersville at the end of last week, Bishop Ireton Coach Neil Berkman told The Post. Hines, who is in the Class of 2018 and plays for Team Takeover Orange, previously had an offer from Division II Concordia, and does not yet have a Division I offer. According to Berkman, his play in recent weeks has attracted “strong interest” from Boston University, Cornell, James Madison, Lehigh and Hartford.
» Potomac School forward Devon Flowers has garnered a lot of interest with his recent play, according to Potomac School Coach Levi Franklin. Flowers, a 6-foot-9 forward in the Class of 2018, plays for Maryland’s Finest on the AAU circuit. The schools showing interest include Princeton, Rice, Davidson, Murray State and the College of Charleston, among other mid-major schools. Flowers holds offers from North Carolina-Asheville, Towson, Coastal Carolina, Mount St. Mary’s and Loyola (Maryland).
» Former Wise guard Darron Barnes will play at Navarro College next year, according to DMV Elite’s Marcus Helton. Navarro College is a junior college in Corsicana, Texas. Barnes, a 6-foot-4 who helped lead the Pumas to the Maryland 4A state final this past year, was originally planning to a prep year at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Virginia.
Catch up on all of our spring and summer recruiting coverage …