CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Shane Larkin was determined to return to the University of Miami for his junior season immediately following the Hurricanes’ East Regional semifinal loss to Marquette in the NCAA tournament.
Three days later, Larkin saw his future when he watched Louisville’s Kevin Ware suffer a devastating leg injury against Duke.
“I just thought to myself, ‘If I did come back to school and something horrific happened, even though it’s a one in a million chance, would I be able to live with myself?’” Larkin said Sunday.
“‘My dream is right here for me to take it, to take the opportunity, and if I didn’t and something happened to where I couldn’t play basketball to the best of my ability or get back to the level of athlete I was before,’ . . . that was one of the many things I was thinking about.”
Larkin announced his plans to declare for the 2013 NBA Draft during an early evening news conference Sunday at the Bank United Center.
“It came down to what was in my heart and what was in my gut,” said Larkin, who said he went “back and forth on this a hundred times” and didn’t settle on a decision until the day before his official announcement.
Late last week, several media outlets reported Larkin had indicated his intentions to go pro to his father, baseball Hall of Famer Barry.
That prompted some disappointed fans to direct comments to Larkin on Twitter.
One tweet said Larkin should stay in school because he didn’t need money.
Larkin’s response: “I’m still a kid with a dream no matter how much money my FATHER has. You not in my shoes so I don’t expect you to understand.”
The point guard leaves UM after two seasons, with the highlight being this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles. Larkin led the Hurricanes in scoring (14.5 ppg.), assists, steals and 3-point percentage (40.6).
Now, he’s off to begin a professional career. The NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee has told the 5-foot-11 Larkin he could expect to be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
“I think now that he’s declared, his stock is going to rise,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “People were initially saying between Nos. 20-35 when I first started to inquire. I think he’s going to be higher than that.
“He’s one of the very best points guards in the country. At every level, everything begins with the point guard.”
It had been known around UM that guards Durand Scott and Trey McKinney-Jones and big men Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble played their last games at UM, because they’re seniors.
Hurricanes fans hoped Larkin would remain in school and help the program cope with the veteran losses.
Instead, Larranaga sees one of his players bolt early for the NBA for the first time in his 42-year coaching career.
“I think Shane’s the greatest,” Larranaga said. “I’ve loved being around him for two years. I love being his coach.
“I’ve been so excited for him. This is another first for us. We had a lot of firsts this year. A lot of things went really, really well. This is another milestone.”
While saying he was happy for Larkin, Larranaga admitted he was at a loss to describe next year’s UM backcourt.
“Ask me in November,” he said. “There are some question marks. We haven’t finished our recruiting. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle we have to figure out.”
That could mean help from two football recruits (Corn Elder, Derrick Griffin) who can play basketball. And you can be sure Larranaga’s staff also will look overseas and at fifth-year seniors with eligibility remaining.
Larkin, though, said he had little doubt the Hurricanes will weather the storm.
“I know with the players they’re recruiting and with Coach L. at the head, I know they have a great opportunity,” Larkin said. “I just really hope they believe in themselves like we did this year.”