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After going scoreless in back-to-back games, the last thing a player might be expected to do is ask for more playing time.
But that is exactly the request UK sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow made this week.
Harrow missed all five of his field goal attempts against Florida and Tennessee. He tallied just one assist while turning the ball over three times in those games. Despite coming off the bench for the first time in 15 games for just 18 minutes in UK’s 30-point loss at Tennessee, Harrow still managed to foul out.
Those performances made his request to UK head coach John Calipari all the more intimidating.
“The players had our own meeting, and they just were telling me they wanted me to be out there to make plays,” Harrow said. “I sat down with some other people and talked to them. I just felt like I needed to go to Coach Cal and tell him I was going to do whatever he needed me to do just so I could be out there to play.”
Harrow acknowledged he did not know how Calipari would take his request to be reinserted into the starting lineup and he was aware that “even if I went to him it might not have went the way I wanted it to.”
But Calipari took Harrow’s words to heart. The NC State transfer also made good on his promise to play better.
Harrow returned to the starting lineup — along with freshman forward Alex Poythress — to score 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 32 minutes. He also grabbed five rebounds and tallied four assists.
“Any time guys come at me with stuff like that, it’s easy for me because it takes it off my plate,” Calipari said of Harrow’s request to start. “Now it’s on their plate. You want to start, OK, great, here you go, go start. And I thought he was terrific today, but that’s how he’s got to play for us.”
Before Harrow was able to make his request to Calipari, he needed a little emotional support. A call to his mother to confess his fears did the trick.
“My hands were sweating,” he said. “When people were trying to give me high fives, I had to wipe my pants first and give them high fives. But when I got in there, we were able to talk and he listened to what I had to say, and he had the answers for me already.”
Harrow’s improved play will be key to the Wildcats’ attempt to salvage their season with five games remaining on the schedule and star freshman Nerlens Noel lost for the season to a torn ACL.
Without Noel’s intimidating presence in the lane, Calipari decided to open up the offense for more penetration from his guards.
“It also gives Ryan room to move and get his confidence,” Calipari said. “So we opened up the court so he could get into some pick-and-rolls. And you know, he needs to play more confidently, and he did today.”
Even with the improved performance, Calipari still found areas for Harrow to work on.
Harrow fouled out for the second consecutive game. He was called for a technical for his role in a minor scrum late in the second half.
“I told him he had three bad fouls, the technical foul and two reach-ins, that put him out of the game,” Calipari said. “And I said, ‘Now you’ve got to understand, you’d better hope that doesn’t come back to haunt us.”
Harrow blamed his poor performances at Florida and Tennessee on a lack of energy and aggressiveness. He made a concentrated effort to take more shots Wednesday so his aggressiveness could rub off on his teammates.
After one play in the first half in which Harrow was converted a layup while being fouled, the usually soft-spoken guard beat his chest and let out a war cry toward the stands.
He thinks some of that newfound confidence came from the courage to ask Calipari to start again. Even if he had not played well against Vanderbilt, Harrow thinks he improved in one area this week:
“I feel like I grew up a little bit.”
You might also be interested in the KyForward feature “Dodgeball game helps Cats release pressure before using new energy to beat Vanderbilt.”