Miami Sports Day

Hometown Hurricane: Dewan Huell

By CAMRON GHORB

Let it be known – from Tobacco Road to the pastures of Kentucky, upstate New York all the way to Lawrence, Kan., – that on Dec. 3, 2016, under lights brighter than the south Florida sun, the Magic City will showcase its own rising power in the college basketball landscape.

It’s not the University of Miami’s first game of the season – it’s actually the eighth (ninth, counting the exhibition against nearby Division II power Barry).

No, Miami isn’t (yet) ranked in the top 25 of either the Associated Press or Coaches Poll.

And, to answer the last question, none of the aforementioned “traditional powerhouses” or “blue blood programs” is rolling into town.

Fresh off their third straight win in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, the Hurricanes will battle NCAA Tournament regular Wofford in the back end of a doubleheader at the AmericanAirlines Arena as part of the HoopHall Miami Invitational, organized by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In last year’s inaugural event, Kentucky, Ohio State and Memphis all took part.

This year? A program whose maturation under Jim Larrañaga from impressive infancy – including two Sweet 16 appearances, a NIT Championship runner-up finish and ACC Regular Season and Tournament Championships – to likely year-in contender is best embodied by one player alone: 6-foot-11 freshman Dewan Huell.

Who?

duh-WAN. HUE-uhl. If you don’t know the name yet, you might want to start practicing.

Huell is a five-star basketball player from Dade County, offers in hand from every “major” program in the country, who chose the hometown Hurricanes over any other. His mother and father attended local football powerhouse Miami Central, but he opted for the hardwood at Miami Norland, where he guided the Vikings to three state championships.

Huell (No. 28) is one of six ESPN Top 100 players to sign with Miami since 2007, including classmate Bruce Brown, who was ranked No. 26. Three more are in next year’s signing class, who will join sophomores Huell and Brown in 2017, when Miami will put together one of its most talented groups, albeit on paper, in program history.

Put simply, a five-star recruit like Huell’s decision to attend Miami is becoming the norm.

Welcome to the new college basketball scene, where Larrañaga – or “Coach L,” as fans, players and staff call him – has planted his flag in Coral Gables.

“Back in the day, UM wasn’t, I guess, a great basketball school,” Huell said. “A lot of kids have their dream schools. For me, I’ve been in Miami my whole life. I’m a hometown guy – I’m a fan of the Dolphins, the Heat and the Marlins.

“I thought I would stay here too and build my legacy.”

Huell made his first collegiate start in Wednesday’s game against Rutgers at the Watsco Center and sparked Miami to a 73-61 win. He poured in 14 points – one shy of his career high – and added seven rebounds, showcasing the athleticism that earned him a five-star ranking from every scouting service.

“If he can discipline himself to shoot his jump-hook all the time, he could really be a heck of a scorer,” Larrañaga said. “He shot it tonight beautifully. I was very impressed with Dewan’s athletic, acrobatic ability to score near the rim.”

Twelve of those 14 points came in a second half that helped Miami pull away and snap a two-game losing skid.

“Those dunks [in the second half], they’re not easy plays,” Larrañaga said. “The post feed we did to him, where he didn’t take a dribble, he just turned and kind of squeezed it in – his first basket of the second half – that helped him get going.”

Huell credits Larrañaga for his development as a student and athlete.

“He’s the greatest coach I’ve had. Coach L helps me on and off the court. If I have any problems, he’ll make sure I solve them,” Huell said. “If I’m going through any situation, he helps me throughout it.”

While many Miami-born hoopers and “blue chip” recruits before him have spent their college careers elsewhere, Huell will be wearing the orange and green proudly Saturday, playing in front of the city whose famous “305” area code is permanently emblazoned on his right bicep.

He got the tattoo early on in his freshman year at Miami, and said that he knows the city’s basketball talent is overshadowed by the local high school football scene.

That might change Saturday, if the Rutgers game is to be taken as a harbinger, when Huell takes the floor on his hometown court wearing his hometown university’s famous colors and playing in front of his hometown crowd.

“It’s pretty exciting. It’s amazing playing on the Heat’s court,” said Huell, who took part in the high school version of the HoopHall Invitational last season at Norland. “Now, having a bigger supporting staff, fans…it should be pretty amazing to walk out of the tunnel. It’s special.”

He even predicts how he thinks the PA announcer’s voice will sound when his name is called.

“The freshman…From Miami, Florida…Number 20…Dew-aannnn Huuu-ell!” he says softly, and with a smile. He usually lets his play do the talking.

More than anything, he says, he loves playing in front of his family and friends who will be in attendance at the AmericanAirlines Arena, and who are at every home game at the Watsco Center.

“Being from here, that’s what really makes it great,” Huell said.

“Everyone in the crowd says, ‘Yeah, that’s my boy,’ or, ‘Yeah, that’s my son,’ or, ‘Yeah, that’s my cousin.’

Playing here in Miami, it really is a special thing.”

(Camron Ghorbi is Miami Assistant Director of Communications)

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