Vaught's Views: Ryan Harrow's 'breakout game' a good sign for Wildcats
Ryan Harrow led UK with 20 points and eight assists in the win over Marshall Saturday. (Victoria Graff / December 22, 2012)
No, it was something else.
“I was afraid (Kentucky coach John Calipari) would not let us go home if we played bad,” said Harrow, who was 10 for 17 from the field with four assists and a career-high three steals in 33 minutes, another career best.
The Wildcats get three days off to enjoy Christmas at home, and Harrow was heading to North Carolina with his family for the holidays. But did he really think Calipari might call off the scheduled break if the team had not played well? “You never know,” Harrow said.
However, what Calipari and Harrow’s teammates do know is that if the sophomore guard continues to play the way he has, this Kentucky team is a lot better and has a chance to be even better still.
“I’m happy that he had a breakout game,” forward Alex Poythress said. “He’s one of the best point guards, and he played good for us.”
He did, and he has since missing four games for personal reasons that no one but him, his family, Calipari and others on the team know and understand. In the Wildcats’ previous two games he was 9 for 21 from the field, scored 20 points, dished out eight assists, made three steals, grabbed five rebounds and had just one turnover.
He had four more rebounds in this game, and even though he had two turnovers, he still has just five in 147 minutes of play this season.
Marshall coach Tom Herrion said his team let Harrow get “off the schnied” and have a career game.
“Harrow was terrific. But when you are laying the ball in, I want to say of the 10 made baskets, eight, nine were layups, maybe all 10,” Herrion said. “But to his credit, bad defense on us. He’s been struggling offensively, statistically on film. He’s a terrific player. I remember him when he was at (North Carolina) State. I don’t think he got worse sitting out here (last year). I know he has had some different things going on.”
And what did Calipari think?
“Here is what I told him. When he’s playing the right way with aggressiveness, talking to his teammates, that look in his eyes, he’s as good as anybody in the country right now,” Calipari said. “I’m looking around at point guards, he’s fine.
“That other guy — you ready? — the cool guy, he’s not very good. The guy that runs in and gets bumped and falls on the floor, throws the ball, that guy is not very good. That other guy we saw? Spurts today, just play that way. Every minute you’re on the court, play that way.”
Harrow said he never thought of himself as “the cool guy,” even when he was playing at North Carolina State.
“Coach Cal says the good guy is one of the best point guards in the nation. The cool guy sucks,” Harrow laughed and said. “I don’t want to be a sucky player.”
He also said he has to do more than just listen to Calipari’s praise.
"It's good, but I have to believe it myself. He can’t give me self-esteem. It's self-esteem. I have to build it myself,” Harrow said.
But getting inside and scoring as he did, he can do that. He also hit one 3-pointer. He took contact. He made good decisions. He also played with an infectious enthusiasm this team needs, especially from the floor leader.
“I think it is important to our team how I play,” he said. “I get the team going. If I am playing hard and going, guys get excited, too. I just have to play my game and do what it takes to help us win.”
That’s all Calipari wants. He doesn’t have to be Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight or Marquis Teague — Calipari’s past five point guards, all first-round NBA draft picks after one season of college basketball. He just has to be the player running this team, making smart decisions and showing toughness.
“He has a good feel for the game. He can run our team. I mean, there are point guards that are tougher than him, but if he would be tougher, then he's just as good as them,” Calipari said.
“I mean, the guys that are better than him right now are tougher. They're more physical, play a rougher game. Has nothing to do with his ability to shoot, score, make free throws, none of that.
“It’s are you going to play a roughhouse game? If you do, you're as good as anybody out there. That's hard, though. You’ve got to want contact. He’s made strides these last two weeks. Like I said, the difference in our team, he's playing well and he's able to put our players in a better position for themselves.”