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Harrow balancing flash and fundamentals in taking over at point guard

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Ryan Harrow transferred to Kentucky after averaging 9.3 points and 3.3 assists as a freshman at North Carolina State in 2010-11. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Ryan Harrow transferred to Kentucky after averaging 9.3 points and 3.3 assists as a freshman at North Carolina State in 2010-11. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
There simply aren't many Kentucky fans who have seen Ryan Harrow play a basketball game. The North Carolina State transfer may have played a season of college basketball, but most UK faithful have learned about Harrow's game the same way they got to know his point-guard predecessors before their first games: high-school and AAU highlight videos.

A search of Harrow's name on YouTube yields dozens of videos showcasing "insane handles" and "sick dunks." Based on that snapshot of his game, it's natural to conclude that Harrow will be making plenty of SportsCenter Top 10-worthy plays when he finally suits up as a Wildcat.

With that day now barely a month away, John Calipari is looking for something else entirely out of his new lead guard, something far simpler.

"The thing I said about Ryan is I want Ryan to be the best layup shooter in the (Southeastern Conference)," Calipari said.

Harrow, a player who has consistently been known for the flashiness of his game, is being asked by his coach to focus on about the most basic play in basketball. For lack of a better analogy, that has to make Harrow feel a little like a tiger being asked to change his stripes.

The good news is that Harrow has had a full year to let Coach Cal's message sink in. He spent 2011-12 practicing with the team and against Marquis Teague, building a relationship with his new coach in the process.

"I definitely know him well," Harrow said. "I think the learning curve won't be as long as every other point guard that he's had because I have played a year already then I sat out and learned from him."

Teague, Brandon Knight and even John Wall went through plenty of growing pains, many of which stemmed from a tendency to try to dazzle much like Harrow's. Like all three, Harrow is slowly but surely coming to realize the virtue of making the easy play, but that doesn't mean he's eradicating the flash altogether.

"I think you just have to pick and choose your times for that," Harrow said. "Sometimes it's necessary, it helps you to get open or it helps you to get somebody else open. Sometimes it's easier just to do the simple thing, make the basket or make the right pass."

There will be times when Harrow, the projected starter, lands on the wrong side of that fine line, which will in turn likely land him on the bench. Freshman Archie Goodwin and senior Julius Mays aren't natural point guards, but Coach Cal has discussed the possibility of both spending time at the position. Goodwin and Mays are likely best suited for the wing though, meaning UK's ceiling is highest if Harrow can do the job the way Calipari wants him to.

Harrow is unquestionably different from Teague, Knight and Wall. But at the same time, it's hard not to see shades of his predecessors in the way he plays. He has a little of Wall's showmanship, a touch of Knight's shooting ability and a hint of Teague's toughness, developed through plenty of pick-and-roll battles with the Calipari-described "pit bull."

"Following after all those point guards that did so well, I just think that I'll be making my teammates better around me because I got so many people around me that can score," Harrow said. "Coach Cal has said I'm like a mixture of all the guys that have played before me."

The most important thing Harrow can take from his forerunners' experiences is the awareness that his primary responsibility is making sure he serves all the talent around him. In his year in Lexington, Harrow has come to understand that process starts well before games, or even practice.

"We're all pretty close already for us to be such a new group of people," Harrow said. "We've got that brotherhood like the team did last year, so that's good. If you've got a brotherhood off the court, it will transfer to the court and it will make it easier to play with everybody."

Forming bonds with his teammates has come easy enough for Harrow, but the process of developing into a leader has been a bit tougher.

Even though he's just a sophomore by class, Harrow knows - by virtue of both his experience his position - he will be one of the players that needs to lead. Considering he's a naturally soft-spoken person, that's a work in progress.

"It's definitely hard because I'm not that type of person," Harrow said. "But if Coach Cal is asking for that, it's something you have to do if it's going to help the team."

If going a little bit outside of his comfort zone is what it will take to get on the floor, Harrow will be happy to do it. He spent a year doing the alternative, sitting on the bench, and has had more than enough of that.

"I'm just going to happy to be back out on the court and be eligible to play and compete," Harrow said. "That's my main thing, just being happy that I'm able to play again."

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