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By LARRY VAUGHT
Sometimes pressure can overwhelm a player, even a star player. Andrew Harrison understands that, but the top-rated point guard in the 2013 recruiting class insists that won’t happen to him.
He knows the legacy of potent point guards Kentucky coach John Calipari has produced — Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague — before the string ended last year. However, he’s confident he’s more than equal to the challenge of once again giving Calipari a star point guard and needed team leader.
“I am getting used to the pressure. That is pretty much why you work hard every day,” the 6-foot-6 Harrison said. “I definitely like those expectations on me, and that’s what I am going to try and do. I am going to try to get my teammates involved and make the best situation for them and play defense. I don’t mind the pressure.
“All the kids here are used to having really big accolades and used to being best players in their states. I am sure they are not worried about it. Being ranked preseason No. 1, though, doesn’t mean anything. You have to embrace it and win. Besides, when you have the best scoring guard (Aaron Harrison) and the best power forward (Julius Randle) and what I believe the best small forward in James (Young), it makes it easier for you to make plays. My job is not going to be that hard at all.”
Harrison likes the way Calipari has defined his expectations of him.
“Coach Calipari is really straightforward and blunt. He doesn’t guarantee you anything. He talked to me about toughness. I feel like I can bring that to the team,” Harrison said. “It is just being mentally tough and knowing that whatever he says, he is trying to help you no matter what he says. I feel like my dad helped me with that. He was always really hard on me and Aaron. I feel like I can take anything from any coach in the right way and use it to improve.”
He averaged 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists as a senior at Travis High School in Richmond, Texas, for the Class 5A state champions. He also averaged 12.5 points, 6.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals as a junior.
It was no surprise when Harrison and his twin brother, Aaron, both decided to play for Kentucky. “We always knew we would go to the same school, but we both liked Kentucky equally. It’s not like he wanted to go to one place and me another. We felt like it was best for us,” Andrew Harrison said.
Harrison is known as an intense, no-nonsense competitor who can get into the lane and create for teammates. What makes him different from other point guards?
“My size, my fearlessness and just my ability to win,” said Harrison, who insists he could also play shooting guard if needed.
He also considers himself a lock-down defender, something Kentucky lacked at point guard last year after the departure of Teague for the NBA.
“I don’t want anybody to ever score off me. That’s what I live off of. If somebody scores off you, that is something somebody can write about, so that is why I try to lock everybody down that I go against,” Harrison said.