Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji and Shane Larkin handle most of the scoring this season for Miami.
Trey McKinney Jones is one of Miami’s unheralded players this season. The senior guard leads the team in free throw percentage and is second in 3-pointers made. (Credit: HurricaneSports.com)
Reggie Johnson and Kadji grab most of the rebounds for the third-ranked Hurricanes (20-3, 11-0 ACC).
Johnson commands plenty of attention off the court as perhaps the most entertaining interview in college basketball.
With those players sharing most of the spotlight, the contributions of seniors Trey McKinney Jones and Julian Gamble remain largely overlooked by those outside of Miami. Second-year Canes coach Jim Larranaga certainly recognizes their importance in a historic season for his squad, which has won 12 straight games and has its highest ranking in school history going into Sunday’s contest at Clemson.
“We have a lot of guys who get attention from the media: Shane Larkin, Durand Scott, Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji,” Larranaga said. “But we have two guys – Trey McKinney Jones and Julian Gamble – who are such valuable contributors because they’re kind of flying under the radar yet do exactly what the team needs them to do.”
McKinney Jones has been slowed recently with a shin injury but is still chipping in various ways as the Canes seek their first NCAA tournament berth since 2008. The 6-foot-5 guard leads the team in free throw percentage (.868), is second in 3-pointers made (34) and third in 3-point percentage (.370) and minutes per game (30.7).
Fifth on the squad in scoring (9.3 ppg), McKinney Jones scored a career-high 18 points and drilled five 3s in a Nov. 28 win over then-No. 13 Michigan State.
Larranaga added that McKinney Jones, who has scored in double digits 12 times this season and made at least two 3s in 10 games, does many things that never show up in the scorebook.
“Trey is someone who keeps us in the offense, makes the simple pass, plays very smart and plays a very conservative brand of basketball yet can shoot the heck out of the ball,” Larranaga said. “Every time you leave him open he can hurt you from 3-point range.”
Larranaga described Gamble, a 6-10 center who missed last season with a torn ACL, as “one of those guys who plays defense, rebounds, hustles and is strong and tough.” The sixth-year senior is having a career year, ranking fourth in the ACC in blocked shots (1.9 per game). He is also the team’s third-leading rebounder (5.0 rpg) and sixth in scoring (6.7 ppg) while shooting 56 percent in barely playing 20 minutes per game.
On a Miami squad with several standouts, Julian Gamble can be easily overlooked. The senior center is fourth in the ACC in blocked shots and is having a career season. (Credit: HurricaneSports.com)
His numbers (7.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, ACC-best 2.7 bpg) against league opponents are even better. Since replacing an injured Reggie Johnson (broken thumb) in the starting lineup in mid-December, he has averaged 8.1 points and 6.7 rebounds and shot 57.1 percent (52 of 91) from the field over the past 15 games.
Gamble’s best performance was a 16-point, 13-rebound effort in a Dec. 23 win over Hawaii. Gamble also averaged 11 points, six rebounds and 3.5 blocks in two wins over North Carolina. He added 10 rebounds and four blocks in the program’s first win over a top-ranked team against Duke on Jan. 23. Those games were extra special for Gamble given that he grew up in Durham and was a North Carolina fan.
“This is definitely something that you dream of,” Gamble said of this season. “Just being here now and having this opportunity to play with this great group of guys and our coaching staff is a great feeling.”
Here are some other overlooked players in the ACC with quotes from their respective coaches:
BOSTON COLLEGE: Freshman G Joe Rahon (10.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.0 spg)
“Joe plays a lot of minutes and is our toughest kid in my opinion. He’s our best on-the-ball defender and just knows how to play.” –Boston College coach Steve Donahue
CLEMSON: Sophomore G Rod Hall (6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.0 spg)
“He’s not a high-level scorer, but he’s done a very good job of guarding the best players on the perimeter we’ve faced. Rod is a tremendous passer and unselfish player. He plays with good poise and is tough-minded and physical. His personality is what we want in Clemson basketball.” –Clemson coach Brad Brownell
DUKE: Junior G Tyler Thornton (3.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.3 spg, .364 3PT%)
“Tyler Thornton doesn’t have to take a shot, but he’s important because of his defense, his leadership and his presence on the court.” –Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
FLORIDA STATE: Freshman G Devon Bookert (5.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, .517 FG%, .526 3PT%)
“When he is loose, he’s showing signs of being fairly productive. He’s shooting close to 50 percent from 3. He makes good decisions with the ball.” –FSU coach Leonard Hamilton
GEORGIA TECH: Junior C Daniel Miller (7.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.1 bpg, .511 FG%)
“He was a guy who when we got here wasn’t asked to do a lot and now we need him to do a lot. It’s not always scoring or rebounding. He anchors our defense and is always in the right spot.” –Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory
MARYLAND: Sophomore G/F Dez Wells (12.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, .536 FG%)
“Dez Wells has done the most defensively for us. We put him on the (other team’s) best perimeter player most nights. He’s probably done more for us than anybody else.” –Maryland coach Mark Turgeon
NORTH CAROLINA: Sophomore F Desmond Hubert (1.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
“Desmond does a lot of little things for us defensively. He doesn’t get very much credit because people look at the offensive end of the floor and yet he is our most fundamentally sound defensive big guy.” –UNC coach Roy Williams
NORTH CAROLINA STATE: Freshman G Tyler Lewis (3.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.5 apg)
“He’s been very reliable (while Lorenzo Brown was out hurt). He’s played pretty effective. … I definitely think that Tyler has earned the right to play.” –NC State coach Mark Gottfried
VIRGINIA: Sophomore G Paul Jesperson (4.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg, .388 3PT%)
“He’s very steady in terms of his decision-making, his position on defense, his unselfishness and ability to make shots. Paul is only a sophomore, but he’s a smart player who usually does the right thing and is in the right spot.” –Virginia coach Tony Bennett
VIRGINIA TECH: Sophomore G Marquis Rankin (2.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.8 spg)
“He’s an energy guy for us and our defensive stopper. I feel like I can put him on the other team’s best player on the perimeter and he can make it difficult for them all night. He plays with a big heart and plays hard.” –Virginia Tech coach James Johnson
WAKE FOREST: Freshman F Devin Thomas (8.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1.0 spg)
“He is someone who defends and rebounds very well and starts our break with quick outlet passes. The fact he isn’t scoring as much as some of the other (ACC) freshmen has put him under the radar, but from a rebounding standpoint you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better young player.” -Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik
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