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By LARRY VAUGHT
He wasn’t on the court to help Kentucky win the national championship last season, but Ryan Harrow found a special use for his championship ring.
“I actually gave my ring to my dad, because he had some illness over the summer and I knew that giving the ring to him would make him happy. He’s doing good now, so that ring went to the right place,” said Harrow, a sophomore guard who had to sit out last season after transferring from North Carolina State.
Harrow was in New Orleans for the Final Four and sat with his mother while watching Kentucky beat Louisville and Kansas.
“It was crazy to watch the Final Four, because I wanted to be out there. Me and my mom were just saying, ‘Let’s try to get back to the Final Four again this year,’” Harrow said. “She was excited about the games just like I was. She felt that I wanted to be out there as well, and she told me it was my time next year. It’s ironic that Final Four this year is in Atlanta with me being from Atlanta. Getting to the Final Four would be pretty cool.”
Kentucky’s chances of getting there could depend in part on how well Harrow, who is expected to be the Wildcats’ starting point guard, plays as he takes over from Marquis Teague, one of three first-round draft picks gone from last year’s team.
DraftExpress.com analyst Matt Kamalsky thinks Harrow’s play will have a huge impact on the success of freshman center Nerlens Noel and ultimately on Kentucky’s overall success.
“Noel’s success offensively, and in my opinion Kentucky’s championship hopes, are going to have a lot to do with how well Ryan Harrow handles the point guard position. Harrow is a dynamic player with his creativity off the bounce, and if he strikes a good balance between being a facilitator and being a scorer, he could make Noel’s life a lot easier, especially against quality competition,” Kamalsky said. “Noel is a very good finisher, and has nice body control in the air for how skinny he is, but his post game and shooting ability are both works in progress. The more defensive movement Harrow creates in the dribble drive, the less regularly Noel will have to make plays out of his current comfort zone.”
Harrow says he learned plenty during his transfer year, when he could practice daily but not play, and he knows what coach John Calipari will expect this season.
“I learned everything that coach Cal wanted from me as a point guard, and I learned that they want the best out of everybody and they will push us hard to get the best out of all of us. They might be hard on us, but we just have to know they are looking out for us in the long run,” he said. “I definitely have gotten stronger than where I was when I first got here or where I was at N.C. State. I tried to put on weight, but it seems like I can’t get past 168 (pounds). It doesn’t seem to stick on me. I have got heavier and definitely stronger, things I needed to do.”
He learned from going against Teague that he had to be stronger.
“He was such a strong player. He was one of the strongest people on the team last year, so having to play against somebody as strong as him and take those bumps helped a lot. Playing him on defense helped me also because when he shoved into me or he was really fast and I would have to be on my toes or dedicate myself to defense,” Harrow said.