LEXINGTON - No one benefited more from Enes Kanter being declared ineligible by the NCAA than Kentucky senior Josh Harrellson, who emerged as one of the Southeastern Conference's top rebounders and a reliable starter for UK's Final Four team.
Harrellson often credited practicing against Kanter, who is also his roommate, for his rapid rise, and he shared these thoughts about Kanter now that UK’s season is over:
Question: What are your feelings now that the season is over about Kanter not being allowed to play this year?
Harrellson: “I think me more than anybody wanted him to play, and I wish he would have played. I think it was a blessing in disguise for me. It is not going to hurt him that he did not play. He is still going to go top five in the draft and be a great impact player when he gets to the NBA.
“It was a blessing to me, and it is amazing how God works. He gave me the opportunity, and I just took control of it and did everything I could with it, but I felt bad for him.”
Question: Do you think the NCAA stuck it to Kanter because he was at Kentucky playing for John Calipari?
Harrellson: “I think they did. I think if he had gone to Washington where he originally committed, he would have been playing all year. I think since he went to Kentucky and was playing for coach Cal and nobody wants us to get back to where Kentucky used to be, they took it out on him.”
Question: Were there down times for him during the season when the NCAA ban got to him?
Harrellson: “There were, especially in the decision-making process when the NCAA wasn’t sure what it was going to do. He was always down on himself and didn’t know what to expect.
“He just wanted it to be over with and get a decision. They took forever, and when the decision finally came, he said he didn’t care. He just wanted the pressure to be off his back.”
Question: What does it say about him that he stayed at UK after he was banned from playing and will even complete his second-semester classes?
Harrellson: “It is amazing. A lot of people would have just gotten up and left. He could have went anywhere and trained all year for the NBA, but he loved us guys and wanted to be around us and hang out with us and be with the team. He even kind of took a student-manager role for a couple of games.
“Just the love he showed for us as teammates will be something I remember the rest of my life.”
Question: Do you think he had something to prove to people who doubted his academic sincerity by staying in school and completing classes?
Harrellson: “I think so. A lot of people thought since he was not going to play, why would he stay and go to class? He proved a lot of people wrong staying here and showed a lot of love and support for Kentucky, and I appreciate what he did for us.”