Andrew Harrison's Blueprint to Becoming an Elite John Calipari Point Guard
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The idea that John Calipari puts a lot of thought into recruiting his point guards could be countered with a simple observation.
Go check the recruiting rankings every year, search for the top-rated point guard, and that's the guy Calipari is probably after.
That might be true, and it was the case with incoming freshman point guard Andrew Harrison. But the new-age point guards, at least the best, fit a similar mold. They're big, they're fast and they don't back down from big men in the lane. Think Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.
It's just so happens that Calipari has coached three of the biggest, baddest drivers that college basketball has seen. Those three guys—Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall—have been the most successful guards in his offense.
Calipari has also had more slender guards the last three seasons with Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague and Ryan Harrow. Calipari made adjustments to highlight Knight's best attribute, his jumper, by bringing him off more ball screens. Here's one example of that from the blog, The Mikan Drill.
Teague was slender, but he was lightning quick and could get into the paint to score or throw alley-oops or kick-outs to UK's shooters.
Then there was Harrow.
It's understandable why Calipari was interested in Harrow. He has a slick handle and decent speed, and the best guards for Kentucky's dribble-drive motion offense can beat their man off the dribble. But Calipari came to find out that Harrow was too slender and not physical enough to really thrive in UK's offense.
Looking at the advanced numbers from Calipari's last six point guards, it's clear that what Calipari is looking for is a guy who can dominate the ball if necessary—that wasn't the case for Teague because of UK's talent surrounding him—get to the free-throw line and set up teammates. Mistakes, as in turnovers, are not a huge concern, because aggressive playmakers are going to make mistakes.
|%Poss||Ast. Rate||TO Rate||FT Rate||PPG|
|Derrick Rose (07-08)||27.2||30.4||19.1||47.0||14.9|
|Tyreke Evans (08-09)||33.5||30.0||21.6||38.4||17.1|
|John Wall (09-10)||27.3||34.8||24.0||53.0||16.6|
|Brandon Knight (10-11)||26.8||23.4||19.6||33.3||17.3|
|Marquis Teague (11-12)||21.2||25.5||23.7||33.8||10.0|
|Ryan Harrow (12-13)||22.0||20.5||16.6||24.4||9.9|
Harrow did not exactly earn a passing grade compared to the guards he followed, and that's one reason why UK struggled.
So how does Harrison fit?
Close to perfect. At 6'5" and 200-plus pounds, Harrison is a throwback for Calipari to the run he had with Rose, Evans and Wall. In fact, the only point guard he's had bigger than Harrison during that time is Evans.
Harrison's best attribute, like the big three, is that he's a downhill driver. He has the moves to get a defender off balance and then he'll come straight at the defense, willing to finish through contact once he gets to the rim.
The challenge that Calipari faces is trying to encourage Harrison's aggressiveness—while also getting him to set up his teammates. Rose, Evans and Wall were all able to do that, but that has been one area of improvement that ESPN.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep recently wrote about in evaluating Harrison.
Harrison also needs to address his approach on the floor. He has yet to prove he can be a consistent setup man. We've seen flashes of it, but things need to be adjusted to keep talented players around him happy. We've seen flashes of it, but things need to be adjusted to keep talented players around him happy.
For a team with as much talent as Kentucky has this season, keeping seven other future pros satisfied will be a chore.
Harrison did win a Texas state championship last season as a willing second scorer. His brother, Aaron, was the leading scorer for Travis High School, and Andrew's stats—14.1 points and 5.1 assists—would be close to ideal for his freshman season at UK.
As for Andrew's skill set and size, Calipari has to be thrilled to once again have a guy with the potential to be the biggest, baddest point guard in college basketball. Like Rose, Evans and Wall, he's a perfect fit in the dribble-drive motion offense.
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