I was standing in line this weekend for a bar in Lexington (which is absurd thing to do in a city like Lexington) when I overheard two UK fans talking about this season. One looked at the other and said, “now who is that guy Harris….I like him but I dont know what his deal is.” I chuckled to myself, but then thought that these guys actually were correct. We know Ramon Harris on the team but we dont really know what his deal truly is. Unlike most players at Kentucky, we didnt follow his recruitment. Fans werent clued in on who Harris was deciding between or what schools were looking for visits. In fact, Harris didnt even get the Morakinyo Williams “year to stew over the commitment” time that allows fans to get to know players. People just looked up one day and this kid from Alaska was all of a sudden committed to Kentucky and a few days later he was on the team….Presto, a new Cat….and one we dont really know.
And this year has been an odd one for the Razor. Due to injuries, he was pressed into duty early and often was criticized for his somewhat erratic play. Most people dont give Harris the benefit of the doubt for essentially being a Freshman and along with Michael Porter, the Razor took some heat during the early struggles. However slowly over the season, we have seen steady improvement from Harris. Defensively, he is still the best on-the-ball perimeter defender on the team. Game after game, he guards the other team’s quickest player and often controls the matchup (as against Humphrey at Georgia). He finds himself on the court for 30 minutes or so a game due to this defense and Gillispie is very happy with his command of the offense, defense and his basketball IQ. His offensive ability has even shown some signs of improvement, even on the dribbling end, where it didnt look like he could get much worse. He has had a couple of nine point efforts in the last three games and he doesnt look like a constant threat to turn the ball over, as early in the season. While there is still much work to be done (as his full court drive to the basket on Saturday that included two double-dribbles, a near hit in his own face with the ball and a minor injury can attest), Harris now isnt a total offensive liability….and his athleticism and ability to finish around the basket shows promise for the future.
But what has been really interesting to watch over the last few months is the development of Razor Ramon as a leader both on and off the court. Harris is relatively quiet and says very little unless he is specifically asked. However Gillispie pointed Harris out at a recent press conference as a potential team leader due to some “little things he is doing” that help the team out. Part of what Gillispie was surely talking about is the up front role that Harris has taken in recruiting. Like Bobby Perry and Chuck Hayes before him, Harris has become a key part of the recruiting process and steps up during player visits to try and become the key player contact with the team. Ramon has gone with the coaching staff to watch high school players in the area, including future Cats Darius Miller and Dakotah Euton. Harris hosts a number of recruits on visits and can be seen at local high school games sporting the Blue and White. In addition, he may be the best ambassador UK has on the team, signing autographs longer than any other player after every game and reaching out to UK fans at all times. Quietly, he is showing how a Kentucky basketball player should act off the court and he embraces the extracurriculur parts of the program that make it so special. That leadership rubs off on others and is something that the coaching staff truly values.
During this five game winning streak, I have heard many UK fans talk about the improvement of Ramon Harris and to a certain extent they are correct. However, Razor Ramon is actually right on pace as he develops during what is essentially his Freshman year. While he will likely never be a star at UK, he has found a role and is sure to contribute for the rest of his UK career. However no matter what Harris ends up doing on the court, he should be applauded for his contributions to the team and the chemistry off the court. Ramel Bradley said after the game Saturday that this team is a “family” more than any other he has been on. While many factors play into that, the work that Harris does as a Cat off the court is a big part of that improvement.
More throughout the day, including a post by the Turkey Hunter, a look ahead to Vandy and more on Wesley Witherspoon…..