MIAMI – After the public address announcer at AmericanAirlines Arena butchered his name, Dewan Huell walked over and quietly but firmly explained how to pronounce it correctly.
If Huell has his way, all basketball fans will soon know how to say his name. (It’s duh-WAWN, by the way.)
After all, Huell, a 6-10, 215-pound power forward for Miami Norland, is ranked among the top 25 seniors in the nation – No. 21 by ESPN.com and No. 23 by Rivals.com.
Huell recently signed with the University of Miami, joining a Hurricanes recruiting class that ESPN.com ranks as the ninth-best in the nation – one spot ahead of North Carolina.
“I like everything about his game,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said of Huell. “I would classify him as a very athletic four man who runs the floor well, takes the ball to the basket and has great hands.”
In the game at AmericanAirlines Arena as part of the Hoophall Miami Invitational, Huell had 25 points and 12 rebounds in a 57-52 win against reigning Florida Class 8A state champion Wellington.
Norland has won four consecutive Class 6A state championships. The Florida record for consecutive state titles is five, held by Jacksonville’s Arlington Country Day (2005-2009) and Malone (1994-1998).
ACD, amid accusations of rule-breaking recruiting violations, was later suspended by the Florida High School Activities Association, and Malone played in the smallest classification in the state.
Norland, a large public school, hasn’t had a whiff of controversy, building its program primarily on defense.
The architect of Norland basketball is coach Lawton Williams III, who has been there for all six Vikings championships, dating back to 2006.
“We play hard – we’re tough,” Huell said when asked to identify Norland’s core characteristics. “We have shooters, we have big guys, and we play defense.”
Larranaga, who started recruiting Huell when he was a freshman, agrees with that assessment.
“What separates (Huell) from a lot of big guys is that he’s terrific defensively,” Larranaga said. “He’s very active. He can guard his own man, he can guard ball screens, he can block shots …
“Most high school players who are highly recruited are very offensive-minded and have a lot to learn defensively when they get to college. They don’t know how hard you have to play.
“That’s not true (with Huell) – the whole Norland team plays extremely hard. (Huell) is going to be very prepared to come in and make an immediate impact.”
Huell, who averaged 19.2 points and 9.1 rebounds last season, has been a Norland starter since his freshman season.
Williams had met Huell one year prior to that, and his immediate reaction had to do with the youngster’s physique.
“I saw how skilled he was but also how skinny and slight he was,” Williams said. “He has gotten bigger, stronger and tougher.”
Huell still has a long way to go to fill out his lanky frame, and that was one of the things that attracted him to the Hurricanes. He is convinced the ‘Canes have the right stuff to develop him, both in terms of the weight room and his on-court skills. And it didn’t hurt the Canes’ chances with Huell when they won the 2013 ACC title.
“I thought it was a good team back when they had Shane Larkin,” Huell said of the top playmaker on that team. “(Miami) fits my style of play. They play fast – a lot of possessions, up and down.”
Huell, who has a 3.1 grade-point average and plans on majoring in sports management, was smart to notice Larkin. Huell also said current ‘Canes Angel Rodriguez and Ja’Quan Newton were the players he most bonded with during his official visit to Miami.
Larkin, Rodriguez and Newton are all point guards, showing Huell knows how to make nice with the players in charge of distributing the basketball.
That type of intelligence bodes well for Huell’s career at Miami, where the ‘Canes are on a recruiting roll. They have a 2016 recruiting class that also includes 6-4 shooting guard Bruce Brown and 6-11 center Rodney Miller.
Brown is ranked No. 30 nationally by ESPN.com, and Miller is No. 114 by Rivals.com. Brown is expected to join Huell as a more immediate contributor while Miller might take a bit longer to develop.
The ‘Canes have two scholarships available for the signing period that begins in April, but, for now, Larranaga is thrilled with his class and said it was especially important to get Huell because of his local ties.
“At my press conference in 2011 (upon) accepting the (Miami) job, I expressed the importance of recruiting Florida,” Larranaga said. “We spent a lot of time those first few years laying the groundwork.”
Larkin and current starting center Tonye Jekiri were two Florida kids that came out of that work, and Huell is yet another.
Larranaga credited associate head coach Chris Caputo for building the relationships that led to those signing successes.
“Chris has known Lawton Williams for about 10 years – five years before we even came here,” Larranaga said. “We recognized Dewan’s talent as a ninth-grader. We knew he was going to be tall and athletic.”
Williams said he was not at all surprised Miami landed Huell.
“They were at the school,” Williams said. “They called. They worked.”
And that, in essence, is what made the relationship between Huell and Miami click – a hard-working player committing to a hard-working coaching staff.
All that’s left to do now is to make Dewan Huell a household name.