By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s been away from home all but four days in the last three weeks, but future Kentucky Wildcat Andrew Harrison of Texas is not complaining.
“It’s fun getting to know people that you did not know that well,” said Harrison. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know guys that I have played against but never really got to spend time with.”
He’s in Portland, Ore., now along with his twin brother, Aaron, to play in Saturday night’s Nike Hoop Summit (7 p.m. on ESPN2). One teammate is UK signee Julius Randle while the World team includes Andrew Wiggins, the nation’s No. 1 player and still a UK recruiting target along with 2014 UK commit Karl Towns Jr.
“This game is more personal. We are not out to show what we can do. We are out to win,” Harrison, the nation’s top ranked high school point guard, said.
He’s already played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic — so did Randle, Wiggins and Aaron Harrison. He knew what to expect in those games, something he’s not sure about for Saturday’s game.
“In the first two games, everybody is just trying to show their stuff. I just tried to get everybody involved and didn’t worry about points or who was MVP,” Harrison said during a telephone interview after Thursday’s practice. “I have no idea how good the competition will be in this game. I know they have at least three really good players. I know it will be a really tough game, and a game everybody wants to win because you are playing for your country.”
Harrison participated in the 2012 USA under 18 national team training camp at Colorado Springs, Colo. However, he says playing in the Olympics has not been a life-long dream for him like it has some players.
“If God blessed me with that, I would be happy. But I know I have a lot of work to do before I could even think of that happening,” Harrison said. “That’s why the Olympics has not been a goal or dream. I know how hard it is to make that come true and how few players get to do something like that.”
He’s not really been able to work on improving his game since his team won the Texas state championship.
“In these games, you just have fun and don’t get to really work on parts of your game,” Harrison said. “Everybody already knows what kind of player you are, so you really don’t have a chance to get better. It’s more about who can dunk the best and stuff like that. By next year, I look forward to getting better. That’s when I can really put in the work.”
He knows Kentucky, which will add six McDonald’s All-Americans to four experienced returning players (Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kyle Wiltjer, Jarrod Polson), will give him a chance to showcase his point guard skills next year.
“I don’t care about scoring. I just want to lead my team. I want to win every game,” he said. “I will get a chance to just throw it up the rim sometimes and see who can go get it. I just have to put them in the right positions to score and I am looking forward to that. In high school, they could play four guys on you. Now you can’t leave anybody or they will kill you because we have so many good players.”
Harrison’s three-week tour from Chicago to Brooklyn to Portland has had one constant — UK fans at every stop.
“There have been some UK fans almost everywhere we have been,” he said. “I’m kind of getting use to what it will be like next year. But this whole experience has been great. We got to meet Spike Lee. He is wise and knowledgeable. It was really cool meeting him.”
He says he gets to talk to UK coach John Calipari or his staff “every once in a while” and they talk recruiting, leadership, defense and more. He has talked plenty to his future teammates the last three weeks.
“All the guys are cool. Getting to know them has definitely made me even more comfortable about next year,” Harrison said. “It was like a two-week head start on next season. We have not developed great chemistry yet, but we all like each other a lot and everything. We are cool.”
His only future plans before arriving in Lexington in early June will be to “spend all the time I can in the gym to improve” his overall play.
“That’s all I know how to do is get in the gym and work so I am not changing that now,” Harrison said.