It will be some time before Shane Larkin reaches the height of popularity enjoyed by the MLB Hall of Famer who doubles as his father.
Barry Larkin is on the short list of greatest shortstops ever, and his bust in Cooperstown will attest to that fact. Shane Larkin, Miami’s 20-year-old sophomore point guard, remembers traipsing around the Cincinnati Reds’ clubhouse as a youngster during his father’s 19-year career.
Now he’s the one signing autographs while his parents are the ones there to greet him when he comes off the court.
Of course it will be some time before he can reach the old man’s level in popularity. When asked before Thursday’s practice at the Erwin Center how he measured up to his dad in the number of autographs signed, Larkin’s answer was “nowhere close.”
“That kid’s a superstar,” Shane Larkin said of his 48-year-old dad. “Hopefully one day I can say I signed more. Right now he has me by a couple of million.”
Shane is comfortable talking about his dad because the older Larkin has been the perfect support system during Shane’s breakout sophomore season. Larkin has grown into one of the nation’s top point guards. Thanks to veteran coach Jim Larranaga and an experienced group of teammates, including free-wheeling roommate/senior post Julian Gamble, Larkin blossomed this season and was named the ACC’s player of the year and the MVP of the conference tournament.
And he’s doing it in good humor. Enjoying the ride, as he would put it. He and Gamble spent Thursday morning watching Lingo on the Game Show Network, one day after going at it in NBA 2k13 at the team hotel.
“He’s a humble guy,” Gamble said. “None of the attention has changed him one bit.”
Larkins’ unassuming demeanor doesn’t reveal that he’s actually one of the hottest names in this year’s NCAA tournament, and even if he readily accepts that he’s still batting second in the popularity department at the Larkin house, the kid who grew up hearing some question why he didn’t follow in his famous dad’s baseball footsteps has a chance to further his own growing legend at Miami.
Or somewhere else.
With Larkin’s success comes the talk of whether he’ll leave for the NBA or return for his junior season. It’s not exactly a pleasant topic for Larranaga, who will lose seniors Gamble, Durand Scott, and Kenny Kadji to graduation.
“That kind of talk is really the media talking, and it’s not him or his family or the coaches or anybody,” Larranaga said.
“There’s an appropriate time to discuss things like that. Now is not the appropriate time. He’s got a game to play (Friday, against Pacific) and his focus is on helping his team go as far as it can.”
Barry Larkin wasn’t at Miami’s practice Thursday, but he did tell the New York Daily News that he has basically become his son’s business adviser, meaning that Shane won’t have to worry about all of the NBA talk.
“Now we’re getting a lot of inquiries about (Shane’s interest) in the NBA,” Barry told the Daily News. “His draft status has kind of skyrocketed, I guess. I’m actually fielding quite a few calls about what he’s going to do after the season.”
At 5-foot-11, he doesn’t have great size, but his consistent play over the the season (14.6 points, 4.4 assists, and a solid 48.6 field goal percentage) and that 28-point, 7-assist performance against North Carolina in the ACC title game definitely got some tongues to wagging.
College basketball is a point guard’s game, and the NCAA tournament is not lacking in star power at the position — Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Michigan’s Trey Burke are two that come to mind — so Larkin has the opportunity to add to his developing reputation while helping the ‘Canes win the school’s first national championship.
Larkin is a star on the rise. He’s saying all the things a point guard should be saying at this time of the year. Team first, NBA on the back burner.
We’ve proven ourselves over the year,” Larkin said. “We Beat Duke by 27 and Carolina by 26. N.C. State twice. We’ve done a lot of things this season that should give people that belief in us.”
If he does stay for another year, he could stand a better chance of becoming the second athlete in the family to be picked in the first round of a professional draft.
For now, Larkin’s content to win college games.
And hopefully cut into dad’s lead in the autograph department.