Hurricanes’ Wong further validates honors this year. And more from UM’s football Pro Day
Miami Hurricanes guard Isaiah Wong didn’t have much to prove after winning the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, an honor shared by such luminaries as Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Ralph Sampson.
Even so, Wong further validated the recognition he received this year with impressive work in UM’s second-weekend NCAA Tournament games.
In the wins against Houston on Friday and Texas on Sunday, Wong combined for 34 points on 10-for-23 shooting, with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. Wong had 27 points and 8 rebounds in the win against Indiana that advanced UM to the Sweet 16.
“It’s amazing,” Jim Larranaga said Monday of Wong, who was named a third-team All-American.
“Since he’s been here, four years he’s never had a bad attitude day or bad effort day. His work ethic is beyond belief. His attitude is always positive. I love coaching him, love being around him. He’s a sweetheart. He’s earned everything he’s gotten this year. Just thrilled for him.”
Las Vegas sportsbooks list the Hurricanes as a clear underdog in their Final Four game against Connecticut, with the Huskies favored by 5 ½ points.
That’s nothing new for UM, which was a betting underdog against Indiana, Houston and Texas in their past three games.
Some Canes fans have tweeted “Don’t Pick Us.”
Is that a rallying cry within the team?
“I never really talk about that; maybe once in awhile I bring it up that the experts don’t think we are as good as we are,” Larranaga said. “What has motivated this team so well is that our two [final-year] starters from last year, Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller, have preached to the team all year long we’re good enough not just to get to the Elite Eight but the Final Four and compete for the national championship.”
▪ Among those who reached out to Larranaga to congratulate him after the win against Texas: former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and every head coach in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“And I got a very thoughtful and nice text from Dusty May after we beat Texas,” Larranaga said of the Florida Atlantic coach who guided his team to the Final Four. “I immediately texted him back.”
FAU plays San Diego State in the first game on Saturday, shortly after 6 p.m on CBS. Canes-Huskies is expected to tip off shortly before 9 p.m.
▪ Miller — who was 7 for 7 from the field and 13 for 13 from the free-throw line against Texas — on Monday saw a tweet from Christian Laettner, the only other player to do that in NCAA history. Laettner did it in 1992 against Kentucky.
“Way to go @Jordan_miller11 on a perfect game,” Laettner tweeted. “Keep up the good work! Good luck representing the @theACC at the @MFinalFour. See you there!”
▪ Several UM players at Pro Day on Monday said they have accepted invitations to work out for the Dolphins at their April 14 local day. That group includes tight end Will Mallory, cornerback DJ Ivey, offensive lineman Justice Oluwaseun, offensive lineman DJ Scaife and linebacker Mitchell Agude.
▪ Cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, considered UM’s best prospect in this draft, said NFL teams are looking at him as a nickel cornerback and a safety.
Safety would be a new position for him; he has discussed playing the position with former UM and NFL safeties Antrel Rolle and Sheldrick Redwine.
Scaife — who played tackle and guard at UM — said NFL teams are looking at him as a guard and center.
▪ Olawaseun said Canes coaches — including offensive line coach Alex Mirabal — prepare UM linemen for the pros with “being physical in every aspect, pass protection, run blocking, pulling. Any time you have a chance to put your hands and helmet on somebody, you want them to feel it. Technique was really big with coach Mirabal especially.”
▪ Stevenson and UM’s other likely draft pick, Mallory, reiterated that Mario Cristobal will get the program where it wants to go.
“He’s got that Nick Saban mentality, same mentality that’s at Georgia,” said Stevenson, who transferred to UM from Georgia two years ago.
That mentality is “we are going to do whatever it takes and put everyone in position to win and go out and dominate. The fact he’s teaching the younger guys that and the coaching staff that is going to push everyone on the edge.”
Mallory said “I have no doubt in my mind he’s going to get the guys he wants to. He’s going to get the people he wants here in order to succeed. It’s not a one-night thing. It takes time. He’s doing it the right way. They know how to develop players. They are going to get it done. Wish I could have been here another year to play with them.”
Stevenson said UM, like Georgia, is now “elite” in facilities.
▪ Agude, Ivey and punter Lou Hedley are possible draft picks. Several others who worked out on Monday — including Scaife, Olawaseun, Antonio Moultrie, Waynmon Steed and Caleb Johnson — are not expected to be drafted.