Barry Larkin still remembers when his son, at 3 years old, got his first ball to play with. How could he forget? But despite having a dad on the road to Cooperstown, the tyke was less interested in playing toss and more intrigued by bouncing away.
“He was all about trying to play basketball,” Larkin said.
That toddler, of course, was Shane Larkin. And 17 years later, he’s grown into an All-ACC point guard.
After leading the Miami Hurricanes to their first ACC regular-season and conference championships this year, he took them to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16, where their run ended Thursday with a 71-61 loss to Marquette in Washington.
“It’s an incredible experience,” Barry Larkin said during halftime at Verizon Center, sporting a green Hurricanes ball cap. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. It’s been interesting to see this year develop and see the team play. I’m really proud, proud of how he’s playing and how he’s handling his success.”
To Barry Larkin, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last summer after 19 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, the most enjoyable aspect has been watching his son grow from a role player his freshman year into a true leader during just his second season.
After averaging 7.4 points and 2.5 assists last year, Shane Larkin saw his averages balloon to 14.5 points and 4.6 assists during his sophomore campaign. In the ACC title game victory over North Carolina, he poured in a career-high 28 points to cap a conference tournament during which he hit the 20-point threshold in all three contests.
“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of is how he’s kind of handled everything and how he’s going about his job,” Barry Larkin said. “He’s committed, I’ve seen him take over a leadership role and I’ve really seen him mature as a young man.”
When Shane was younger, he did give the bat and glove a try. “But he always loved basketball,” his father said. “I don’t know how much he really loved baseball.”
After retiring from the diamond, Barry Larkin, 48, has stayed in the game by serving as an analyst at ESPN. But it turns out his expertise extends into the world of hoops as well.
“I was pretty good,” he recalled. “The biggest school to recruit me was Maryland. I played, I enjoyed it. But baseball was my thing.”
And he smiled: “It turned out all right.”