By LARRY VAUGHT
Ryan Harrow was slated to be Kentucky’s floor leader and take over the point from Marquis Teague, a 2012 first-round draft pick after his freshman year. However, he was sick when UK opened the season against Maryland and barely played. He missed the next four games for personal reasons.
He slowly worked his way back into the starting point guard role that freshman Archie Goodwin had inherited during his absence. Proof that he was perhaps ready to emerge as a potent floor leader came in UK’s loss at Louisville when he had 17 points and did not make a turnover against Louisville’s aggressive pressure.
“There was definitely pressure. I had never played against a defensive team that is that rugged and stuff like that,” Harrow said.
Considering Harrow’s ability to withstand pressure of playing point guard for Calipari at Kentucky had been rumored to be the reason for his four-game absence, Harrow knew playing well at Louisville helped silence his critics.
“I was kind of nervous before the game, but when the ball goes up it is just basketball,” Harrow said after the loss. “They bleed like we do . They tie their shoes just like we do. So it was just playing basketball and executing like coach Cal has us do in practice. It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted.
“Obviously I am growing as a player and point guard because I am doing things I have never done before. But as I keep saying, I am not at the point I want to be at for the team. I think I play a big role for the team. I think I am playing well, but I think if I can play even better it will be better for all of us.”
That’s what Calipari is counting on from Harrow, who had 15 points and a career-high eight assists last week against Eastern Michigan.
“Why not try to be the best point guard in the country? Why not? Why would you not chase that? Why do anything short of that?” Calipari said. “The way he’s playing right now, the assist-to-turnover ratio, shooting percentage, all the stuff that we need him to do.
“And on top of that, defending pretty well, playing the ball screen better, staying in front of people, putting pressure on the point guard, helping his teammates when he’s away from the ball, all things that guy has to do to be able to lead, he’s doing.”
Mays says Harrow is a “different guy” and just needed time to adjust to his role even though he practiced all last season with the Cats after transferring from North Carolina State.
“He’s a playmaker and when I first got here (in the summer) he was more fighting the way Coach wanted him to play and was trying to play the way he wanted to play,” Mays said. “But once he got into what Coach was trying to get him to do and he realized how good it makes him look and how good it makes our team look, it has been showing the last few games and it is only going to get better.”
Mays said Harrow was more of a “break a guy down” player than what Calipari wanted when the season started.
“I don’t think he was just trying to play for himself, but that’s how he has always played. Just breaking a guy down and doing what he does. I think Coach was wanting him to be that aggressive, energy bunny and just get crazy on defense,” Mays said. “At first, I don’t think he was understanding it. I don’t think it was so much he was fighting it, I just don’t think he was understanding. Once he got the understanding, he has been playing very well.”
Harrow, though, understands he’s ultimately going to be judged on how much UK wins the next two months.
“We’re supposed to be the team making history and doing things and it’s kind of the other way around. We need to step up as a team and try to finish this season out strong, because it’s not like a Kentucky team to keep on losing,” Harrow said after the Louisville loss. “Obviously, if we are not winning, I am not doing enough as a point guard.”