Miami faces North Florida working Waardenburg into lineup (Nov 25, 2017)
Buried at the bottom of Wednesday night's box score of Miami's 57-46 victory over La Salle was a rather significant line for the 11th-ranked Hurricanes.
It shows Sam Waardenburg playing 13 minutes and scoring seven points, hitting half of his six field-goal attempts and his only 3-point try, and hauling in two rebounds, one at each end of the court.
It marked the official season debut for the 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman, who played 15 minutes and scored five points in Miami's exhibition win over Newberry College but missed the first three games when the regular season started because of a back problem that popped up in practice.
A native New Zealander who joined the Hurricanes immediately after signing last December but did not play last season, Waardenburg doesn't figure to have a huge role for the Hurricanes (4-0), who are back in action Saturday afternoon against North Florida, but it could be a vital one.
"I think he's just a very good player," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said earlier. "He's a freshman with a lot of basketball savvy. He's got a lot of things still to learn, but he's 6-10, 217, and he can handle the ball.
"He can go shoot a 3. He can go hard to the offensive boards. He's going to be a factor for us this year. He's not going to be someone we have to rely on to get 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he's going to contribute very, very nicely throughout the season."
Waardenburg obviously adds depth up front and relieves Larranaga of having to play guard Bruce Brown, for instance, at power forward when guard-forward Anthony Lawrence needs a break, as he did in the opener.
Thus Larranaga was cautious about getting Waardenburg in the rotation. He did not want the back problem to become a lingering issue. Patience was the key.
"One thing about Sam is he works really hard," Larranaga said. "So if he's not 100 percent, if he goes out there and gives it 100 percent, he could re-injure himself. We don't want that."
North Florida may not challenge the Hurricanes inside, however. The Ospreys (1-6) made 20 3-pointers in 34 attempts from behind the arc in getting their first win Tuesday night, 101-77 over Edward Waters. The win came in their first home game after six losses on the road over a 10-day span.
"Anytime you have team that can stretch the floor like we can, the challenge is to make sure you keep doing the right things to use that as an advantage," North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. "We made 20 threes tonight and shot close to 60 percent, but we need to be taking more 3-pointers.
"We missed several opportunities by turning it over when we tried to force passes inside. We are continuing to grow and when this group figures it out, we have the chance to be really special."