Josh Harrellson’s senior campaign will come to an end during the Final Four. He just hopes Kentucky is one of two teams playing for a national title Monday night in Houston.
Harrellson couldn’t pinpoint his favorite game this season, but has one in mind, an obvious no-brainer.
Harrellson has had a big hand in Kentucky’s successful ride in the NCAA Tournament. The Kentucky averaged 14.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in Kentucky’s four games in the Big Dance, a tour that includes wins over Princeton, West Virginia, top-seeded Ohio State and North Carolina.
Although Harrellson produced on both ends of the court during the regular season, it wasn’t until the tournament that the Kentucky center changed his mindset, resulting in a “higher confidence level” and “determination.”
“It is my senior year any game could be my last game, so I am just trying to make the season last as long as I can,” he said. “I am doing as much as I can to make us win.”
Another factor in Harrellson’s development has been his ability to compete against Enes Kanter behind the scenes on a daily basis. Kanter was declared ineligible by the NCAA, but continues to practice with the Wildcats, giving Harrellson competition in the low post.
“Going against him everyday makes me a better player,” he said. “Every day in and out just competing against him, doing drills with him, even if I am not going against him just watching him — I am just trying to match him.”
Matching wits against Kanter helped Harrellson prepared for matchups against Tyler Zeller (North Carolina), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) and will be beneficial when he competes against Connecticut’s Alex Oriakhi this weekend.
“Enes is almost like all of those three combined in one,” Harrellson said. “He can run the floor (even though) he is not seven foot, but he can run the floor. He has a big body and knows how to use it and he can even step out and shoot the 17-foot shot like Zeller. He is kind of like all three combined and going against him gives me a good advantage.”
As a result, Harrellson has transformed from a part-time player into a full-timer with a professional career within reach. Harrellson called Kanter’s ineligibility “a blessing in disguise.”
“It’s given me an opportunity to go to the next level,” he said. “In a way it would have been a little different enjoyment, but I am a little selfish I am glad I got to play.”
The spot in the limelight has not only elevated Harrellson’s game, but has given the Kentucky senior more enjoyment out of the sport and is having fun contributing from the court, rather than the sidelines.
“Early in my career I didn’t really have a passion for the game I just did it because I was bigger and good at it,” he said. “This year, middle of the season, I started loving the game literally. I started seeing success and rewards of hard work and that is probably when I started loving it. That is probably why I am playing better and harder now because I love it.”