Shane Larkin: Being Barry Larkin's Son Huge Asset for Miami Star PG in March
By now, you've probably heard that Miami Hurricanes sophomore phenom Shane Larkin is the son of former Cincinnati Reds shortstop and recent Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
It's something the star point guard can't change, even if he gets tired of new fans of his game connecting the dots and thinking about the elder Larkin first.
What the younger Larkin won't get tired of is the experience of being the son of one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game. While the sport-to-sport skills don't match up, Larkin's status gives him a leg up on the rest of the competition during the final few days of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
How so, you ask?
How many players remaining in this year's March Madness have the kind of outlook on sports that includes being in cohorts with MLB players and having an all-access pass to see what it takes to win at the professional level from about the age of five on?
The answer is one—Shane Larkin.
The Canes' on-the-court leader has come 10-fold as a player, nearly doubling all of his significant stats from his freshman season. He's averaging 14.5 points, 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds this season, and is a best on defense, too, with 2.0 steals per game to add to his growing list of individual accomplishments.
Larkin was named the ACC Player of the Year after leading Miami to both the regular season and conference tournament titles in 2012-13, and rightly so—this is in large part the same Miami team that missed the tournament a season ago and struggled to play consistent basketball over the past few seasons.
It's no coincidence that Larkin's winning past has played a huge role in his team's success.
When Tony Perez, Pete Rose and Barry Larkin are giving you tips as a toddler, it's hard to not give Larkin's past an edge in his developmental process—even if it was eventually in another sport entirely.
Tom Friend of ESPN.com did a great expose on Larkin's path from baseball to basketball and how he was fawned over in the Cincinnati dugout year after year. This multi-sentence section is all you need to see that Larkin has been around winners all his life:
Every Cincinnati player would be rolling out the Red carpet for him. Tony Perez would throw him slurves in the cages. Eric Davis would hit him fungoes. Deion Sanders would call him "Sugar Shane.'' The clubhouse was just as much his as theirs.
After he decided basketball was his sport—not baseball—Shane continued to be a part of the culture in Cincinnati. However, he would return to spring training and other Reds events with a piece of equipment that allowed him to absorb the experience and focus on his first love—a basketball.
Shane would dribble the ball in the dugout during practices and games, and drew the ire of Barry's teammates after so many predicted he would be the next great center fielder in Major League Baseball. It allowed him to be a high-riser in the ultra-competitive AAU circuit, and eventually landed him a spot at DePaul before transferring to Miami for good.
While the baseball side of being Barry's son has helped mold Shane into a winner at heart, the lineage of his existence should also not be ignored.
In addition to having a Hall of Fame father, Shane's uncle Byron is the leading scorer in the history of basketball at Xavier. His other uncles Stephen and Mike played baseball and football professionally, all giving Shane something to aspire to in the future (via Matt Crossman of Sporting News).
Those aspirations have the Canes in the Sweet 16.
Larkin has been lights-out over the past five games, including a 28-point, seven-assist, five-rebound performance against North Carolina in the ACC tournament championship. He's continually gotten teammates open looks with his penetration and ability to draw multiple defenders, and reminds some scouts of a young Chris Paul.
He and Miami have their work cut out for them if a Final Four appearance is in the cards, though.
Indiana or Syracuse await in the Elite Eight if the Canes can get past Marquette in the Sweet 16, and the second part of that statement will be no easy task. Reggie Johnson is expected to miss the game with a knee problem, putting more pressure on Larkin to create for himself and others.
If there's anyone left in the tournament that has the experience of the moment without having it at all, it's Shane Larkin.
While that statement might sound ludicrous to the naked eye, Shane's time with his father, fellow big-leaguers and a myriad of talented family members won't scare him away from being aggressive, displaying leadership and playing the same game he did during the regular season.
Expect to see Barry Larkin on television over the next few days. Each time Shane scores, gets excited or the Canes make a run, Barry's face will likely grace your television screen.
What should Shane Larkin do after the NCAA tournament?
Instead of getting annoyed (the likely reaction for most), appreciate the reality that Barry has helped the sophomore play like a seasoned veteran for most of the season. It's certainly cliche, but being a son of a professional athlete gives one a leg up with intangible situations like the magnitude of the NCAA tournament.
If you remember nothing else about the father-son relationship when watching Miami the rest of the tournament, remember Shane's quote about his developing greatness (from Friend's piece): "I'm not Shane Larkin, Barry Larkin's son, anymore," Shane says. "It's Barry Larkin, the father of Shane Larkin.''
That's exactly the kind of big-league confidence that puts the younger Larkin in position to lead Miami all the way to Atlanta.
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