Whether Ryan Harrow’s playing time changes now that he has returned to the Kentucky basketball team remains to be seen. But the sophomore said he already detects a minor change in coach John Calipari’s approach.
“He tells me I’m doing better a lot more,” Harrow said Wednesday, “but he still yells at me. I’m used to it now. I guess it’s a good balance.”
Calipari later disputed that he has softened.
“I can ask the guys, ‘Which player am I hardest on?’ and seven guys will raise their hand,” Calipari said. “They never notice what it’s like for the other guys, only for themselves.”
That player-coach relationship, especially for the point guard at Kentucky, is an intense union. That became abundantly clear during ESPN’s “All Access: Kentucky” series which showed the coach relentlessly riding his playmaker. Harrow admits the pressure of the fishbowl may have been part of the problem.
“It might have played a role in me being sick,” Harrow said, “but I never thought about it like that. That’s just something you have to handle when you come to Kentucky and play for a person like Coach Cal. If you can’t handle that, then there’s no point in you coming here.
“I just have to be me,” Harrow added. “All those guards who were here before me and did well struggled early, too. I’ve only played one game and that was 10 minutes. So there’s no telling how I’m going to start my season once I start playing more.”
Calipari said there is no reason for Harrow to sense the ghosts of Kentucky teams past. “We only want the guys to play to their strengths,” he said.
But the ESPN broadcast didn’t help the situation.
“I didn’t even watch the show after the first time because I knew how the second and third ones were going to go,” Harrow said with a laugh. “But what was on that show is only half of me and Coach Cal’s relationship. You don’t see me and him just sit in the office and talk. You don’t see me and him hugging after practice and he’s telling me I did a good job. You just saw Coach Cal in practice mode, the yelling part that everybody wants to see. That’s only half of it.”
CALL TO DUTY. Now that Harrow has returned, the question remains how soon he assimilates into the roster. He was the starting point guard for the opener against Maryland – his only game – but Calipari was emphatic Wednesday in declaring Archie Goodwin is the starting point guard.
“He’s earned it,” Calipari said. “But now we’ve can play two point guards at the same time and that’s a good thing.”
The timing of Harrow’s return to the hardwood remains a mystery.
“If coach feels he needs to play me, then he’ll play me and I’ll be ready,” Harrow said. “I don’t know when that’s going to happen. All I know is until then I’ll be on the side cheerleading like I was last year, only dressed out and ready to go if needed.”
Calipari was non-committal on when that time will come, but Harrow has realistic expectations.
“Just go out there and give them quality minutes on offense and defense,” he said. “I have to work to get my time back because I wasn’t at practice, and I understand that. I still have some stuff to learn because there’s some new offense added, but if he thinks I’m ready to play then I’ll be out there. All I can say is that I’m happy to be back.”
MYSTERY ILLNESS. The only bigger mystery than Harrow’s return is what sent Harrow away in the first place.
“Nobody knows. I still don’t know,” Harrow said. “I always get sick every year this time of year, ever since high school. I always lose weight. It was just more this time. But I’m starting to feel better definitely.”
Harrow said he first bout came in high school.
“My senior year I passed out, but they never found out what was wrong with me,” Harrow said. “They said I had flu-like symptoms but I ended up passing out in a game. I had to go to the hospital and get three IV bags.
Year 2 was as a freshman at North Carolin State. “It happened there. I had to sit out three games.”
Year 3 Harrow sat out as a redshirt at Kentucky. “I wasn’t at practice for a week last year but nobody was really worried about where I was at that time.”
Year 4 followed the Maryland loss in early November. “It happens at this time of year and nobody understands why,” Harrow said. “I even got a flu shot this year to prevent it. I don’t like needles, but I tried to avoid it this year but it didn’t work.”
Harrow explained that his absence was prolonged this time because of a personal issue in North Carolina.
“When I was sick, I just wanted to get better. Then when I started feeling better, I had to go handle a family matter,” Harrow said. “I handled that over the Thanksgiving break and then I just wanted to get back here as fast as possible.
“It felt good to be back,” he added. “All I could do Sunday at practice was smile. The guys made me feel important by telling me they needed me and wanted me back. That makes me feel good.”
Harrow said he stayed in constant contact with his teammates during his absence, but did not watch their games on television.
“I watched the Duke game, but it was hard to watch the game and not be able to play so I just looked on my phone for play-by-play texts,” Harrow said. “Watching basketball makes me want to play basketball but I knew I couldn’t be out there at that time.”