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December 23, 2012

Harrow's hot streak key to Kentucky's improvement

There are two versions of Ryan Harrow, Kentucky coach John Calipari will tell you.

One of them goes all-out. He plays through bumps despite his slender frame. He talks to his teammates on the court. He runs the Wildcats offense and makes his teammates better.

The other Harrow is a laid-back, cool customer.

Calipari only likes one of them.

"Coach Cal says the good guy is one of the best point guards in the nation," Harrow said. "The cool guy sucks."

Lately, Harrow's heating up.

There were few signs of the cool Cat Saturday in Kentucky's 82-54 rout of Marshall. Harrow scored 23 points, dished out four assists, grabbed four rebounds and had three steals.

It marked the third-straight game in which Harrow hit a season-high in scoring. The 23 points also were a career high, topping the 20 he scored against South Carolina Upstate as a freshman at North Carolina State.

"When he's playing the right way with aggressiveness, talking to his teammates, that look in his eye, he's as good as anybody in the country right now," Calipari said. "I'm looking around at point guards, he's fine."

Harrow missed four games and about two weeks of practice earlier this season, first with an illness and then with a family issue. Kentucky lost his first two games back, against Notre Dame and Baylor.

Since then, though, Harrow's playing more - and better - and the Wildcats have won four in a row, beating their overmatched opponents by an average of 31.5 points per game.

Calipari said Harrow's recent play, his ability to put his teammates in a better position to succeed, is "the difference in our team."

"He has a good feel for the game," Calipari said. "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."

So that's been Harrow's recent point of emphasis. He admits that when he first came into college basketball, he instinctively avoided contact, the better to protect his undersized body from injury.

But Harrow said he's getting stronger - the 6-foot-2 guard said he's put on five pounds the past two weeks - and trying to play through contact the way Calipari wants him to.

"I mean, the guys that are better than him right now are tougher," Calipari said. "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 got to want contact."

What Harrow really wants is to continue making his teammates better. He's aware that some of Kentucky's ability to reach its full potential hinges on his continued improvement at running the show.

"I think it's important how I play, because I kind of get the team going," Harrow said. "If I'm playing hard and I'm excited, then the guys kind of get excited, too, because it makes it a lot easier for them."

Calipari said Harrow's doing the right thing in spurts. He wants more consistency, and he's pushing Harrow to provide it. But he's also praising Harrow more than he did early in the season.

"It's good, but I have to believe it myself," Harrow said. "He can't give me self-esteem. It's self-esteem. I have to build it myself."

Harrow's confidence boosts aren't coming just coming from within, nor just from Calipari.

Former UK point guard Marquis Teague, a rookie with the Chicago Bulls, also gave Harrow a recent boost.

"(Teague) said just to go out and play my game, that I was one of the best that he's seen, so I just need to focus and do what I do best," Harrow said.


He's doing it lately. And he can keep it up as long as the right Ryan Harrow sticks around.

"(Calipari says) I can't be the cool guy," Harrow said. "I gotta be the aggressive guy that has emotion and is playing hard. And I agree with him."


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