Saturday’s box score shows Ryan Harrow had a pretty decent game. In 26 minutes, he scored 12 points and committed zero turnovers in 26 minutes of play.
But stats don’t always tell the story.
While Harrow has been posting double-digit scoring efforts for the Cats, he’s been the focus of John Calipari’s attention the last couple of weeks for his inconsistency. After more than a month of solid play, Harrow’s energy level hasn’t been up to par with Calipari’s expectations.
“It’s a physical-ness, it’s an energy level,” Coach Cal said. “It’s an aggressiveness, a winning attitude, talking to his team, touching his team. He can do that, but it’s difficult. It’s easier to not play that hard, to back up, to back off people, to not pressure. It’s easier.”
After missing four games early in the year due to an illness, Harrow fought back with clean, turnover-free, tough play and solid scoring nights. The redshirt sophomore is still averaging 10.4 points per game, but his consistency has wavered the last few weeks.
The fact that Harrow played so well during December and early January is why Coach Cal has stayed on his starting point guard.
“He can play that way, but he chooses a lot of times not to play that way,” Calipari said. “When he plays that way, he’s as good as any point guard in the country. You look around and tell me who’s better. There are a couple guys.”
Now three years into college, some would expect Harrow to play with more consistency, but Calipari pointed out Saturday that Harrow played sparingly in his first year at N.C. State and then sat out last season as a transfer.
On a team full of freshmen, Harrow’s three years of college make him seem like a grizzled veteran, but Calipari said he’s still young and needs more time.
“I think he’s doing fine,” Calipari said. “But we all want him to be better, and we know (he’s) better. Now he’s just going to have to go out and do it.”
Calipari may be coaching the Cats towards reaching their goals in March, but that’s not his only goal with this young team.
He’s said it before and he’ll say it again – he’s coaching life skills, not just basketball.
Calipari invited former Wildcat Derek Anderson to speak to the team Friday night, hoping to motivate his Cats with life skills that would not only help on the court, but also in their day-to-day lives.
The team has been reading “God Never Blinks” by Regina Brett, a book that contains 50 life lessons, but Coach Cal is thinking about adding another paperback to the curriculum after hearing Anderson’s story and reading a little bit of his new book, “Stamina.”
“I read Derek’s book last night, the new book he has out that’s coming out, and I’m going to tell you what, unbelievable,” Calipari said. “So at shoot?around (Saturday), I was reading portions of his book to my team, which are just life skills, life lessons, and that’s what this team needs more than anything else.”
Only recently did Calipari learn about Anderson’s difficult journey to college and then the NBA. Post-basketball, Anderson has dedicated his life to serving others.
“His story is a great story,” Calipari said.
At the heart of it, Calipari may be looking to win games, but he’s also looking to bring some joy and focus to his team’s life by bringing in guest speakers and making his players read books.
“I’m trying to help them understand what joy is,” Calipari said. “And the last part of joy is a group of us come together and do something special, and we’re just hugging each other because we knew we did it together and everybody’s part was important.”
Calipari turns 54
A win wasn’t in the books quite yet, but instead of trying to distract one of the Auburn Tigers as he stood at the free-throw line Saturday, students in the eRUPPtion Zone sang “Happy Birthday” to Calipari, who turned 54 Sunday.
Coach Cal acknowledged the song with a wave as he walked back to the bench. The fans at his postgame radio show showered him with another birthday song as well as he signed autographs.
“I want to thank you for that happy birthday wish, but I want to tell you that was the worst singing I’ve ever heard,” Calipari joked over his radio show.
His players surprised him with a cake after practice. It was red velvet, Coach Cal’s favorite.
“What I would really love to have for my birthday is an answer to the question, what is my true purpose in life?” Calipari posted to his social media feeds Sunday. “I’m not just talking about basketball but life in general. What is my true purpose? Is there more I should be doing with my family, in this community or the people I have come in contact with? That would be a great gift.”
From the 50 fouls to an ejection to the singing of “Happy Birthday” during the game, Saturday’s game had an interesting feel to it. A couple of other oddities:
- Just a couple games since blocking a UK single-game record 12 shots against Ole Miss, Noel didn’t record his first block until 1:05 was left in the game. The diminutive Harrow, who entered the game with four blocks all season, had more blocks (two) than Noel.
- Auburn was 0 for 15 from the 3-point line in its first game with Kentucky. Over their nine conference games entering Saturday, the Tigers were hitting just 30.5 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Lo and behold, they hit 7-of-13 treys against UK. It only took them 2:06 to hit their first one.