My gut reaction following the Louisville game was to bemoan some of the officiating, agonize over missed free throws and ponder where Alex Poythress disappeared to late in the second half. Once the initial frustrations and feelings subsided, I was left with one lingering thought: This is a really different Ryan Harrow.
I was actually left with the same thought after the first few weeks of the season, when the team was heading into Thanksgiving break with Ryan Harrow’s status a big question mark. When I heard that Harrow had left Lexington before the rest of the team for the holiday, I just remember thinking that this wasn’t supposed to be how the season played out for Ryan Harrow. All the expectations, the year of practicing with the team while he redshirted… It wasn’t supposed to play out like this. I was left with one lingering thought: This is a really different Ryan Harrow than I expected to see.
In just over one month’s time, Harrow has seemingly undergone a major transformation. The thoughts and comments from coaches, teammates, fans and himself have continued to change over the last month.
Here are 3 changing thoughts on Ryan Harrow, and perhaps you can relate:
1. Cal and Harrow are not on the same page —> Cal and Harrow are building a strong player/coach relationship
Then: When Calipari talked about Harrow a month ago, he sounded similar in a lot of ways to how he talks about Alex Poythress right now. Harrow was a puzzle that Calipari had yet to figure out. Calipari seemed certain that the potential was there, and he wasn’t ready go give up… but the formula for getting Harrow on track like many of his young point guards in the past felt like it was still more than a few tweaks away. Due to health and personal issues, Harrow didn’t seem like a point guard Calipari could trust in the big moments early in the season. Calipari used Harrow sparingly in the beginning, electing to go with Archie Goodwin or Jarrod Polson instead.
Now: The comments from Calipari on Harrow have gotten more and more positive with each passing press conference. First it was Cal being pleased with Harrow putting in extra work at practice. Then it was Calipari feeling like Harrow was trying to be more vocal. Harrow and Calipari talk now like a player and a coach who have found a common ground. They are on the same page. Calipari pushed the right buttons and Harrow responded, clearly buying into what his coach was telling him. Calipari has turned over the point guard duties to Harrow almost fully. He played 37 minutes against Louisville and played exceptionally well. Harrow is no longer a puzzle Calipari has to figure out. Harrow is now a player ready to be pushed to his highest potential by Calipari, much like the point guards of Calipari’s past.
2. Was Kentucky the right choice for Ryan Harrow? —-> Ryan Harrow made the right choice by picking Kentucky
Then: For a few days when the Harrow saga was at it’s lowest point, and rumblings were floating around that Harrow couldn’t handle the pressure when he was at NC State, I began to wonder if Kentucky was really the right choice for Harrow. The pressure and the spotlight is always shining on the Kentucky players, for better or for worse. Then I heard about Harrow getting nervous before games and sometimes throwing up. Was Kentucky the right place for this young man? Was the choice a matter of circumstance with the 2012 batch of point guards being less star studded than usual? Would Harrow, who obviously has talent, have been better off at a school with less pressure/spotlight?
Now: Harrow had his first big test as THE starting point guard against a top 5 ranked Louisville team. Not only was it a huge test on a big national stage, but Louisville’s defense is known for pestering opposing point guards and creating turnovers. Harrow did not turn the ball over one time. He handled the press with ease almost all day long. He had one of his best games in the Kentucky uniform on the biggest of stages. Harrow now looks like a point guard ready to max out his potential in Calipari’s offense. As Calipari has done with point guards in the past, he will push them and he will likely help them achieve their goals of playing in the NBA one day. A few weeks ago those goals seemed very far away for Harrow. Now, they seem much more attainable and Kentucky is the perfect place for a young/talented point guard.
3. Ryan Harrow doesn’t come off as a “leader” —-> Ryan Harrow is starting to sound like a veteran/leader
Then: It’s hard to come off as a leader when you are still trying to figure your own self out. Calipari has said it before with lines such as “worry about your teammates” or “be your brother’s keeper.” We’ve heard all the lines before. While they are cliche’, there’s definite truth behind them. Harrow spent the first month of the season getting healthy and getting himself right. He wasn’t necessarily in a position to be worrying about his other teammates at that point in time.
Now: Harrow is in a good place right now. He’s still improving, but he’s no longer struggling to catch up with the rest of his teammates. Even though he admitted in an interview yesterday that he “gave up his right to be a leader” when he wasn’t there with the team, I think that realization and mature type of comment shows just how savvy of a young man he is. I read through Harrow’s comments about his struggling teammate Alex Poythress. He was intuitive and in Cal’s terms, sounded like “his brother’s keeper.” Cheesy, but he sounded like a veteran leader who had himself figured out, talking about his younger teammate who needed a little guidance. There was nothing “know it all” about his comments either. Harrow sounded wise and sounded like a guy who had been through a similar struggle to Poythress, and was now on the other side and ready to help Poythress get there too.
After reading over Harrow’s comments a few times, I couldn’t help but shake my head and think, “Where did this veteran come from? This is a really different Ryan Harrow. And I like him a lot.”