Kentucky Basketball: How Aaron Harrison Has Been Instrumental to Success

Thad NovakCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2014

Jan 18, 2014; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) shoots the ball against Tennessee Volunteers guard Josh Richardson (1) and forward Jarnell Stokes (5) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky Wildcats defeated Tennessee 74-66. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

On a team of stars—and Kentucky basketball fits that description on an annual basis—the most important player is often the least noticed. The closest thing to a traditional “glue guy” in the Wildcats’ starting five has been shooting guard Aaron Harrison, whose versatility has helped to smooth many of this young team’s rough edges.

At first glance, the 6’6” freshman hasn’t been an especially impressive 2-guard. He’s a weak long-range shooter (.313) and his 13.8 points per game place third on this high-scoring roster.

However, Harrison has displayed a consistency that Kentucky as a team has often lacked in 2013-14. He’s scored in double figures 16 times in 20 games, a total that only Julius Randle (17) can top.

One reason for that edge is that he makes his free throws. His .774 average from the stripe leads the team.

Moreover, he’s shown the best shot selection among the ‘Cats’ perimeter players, hitting a welcome .456 overall in spite of his three-point struggles. With twin brother Andrew and feast-or-famine James Young both hovering around .400 (or worse), Aaron Harrison has provided as much stability as this group has mustered.

It’s not just his shot that makes him valuable either. The olderand less-heraldedtwin has quietly been making plays in almost every facet of the game.

On defense, where the backcourt as a group has struggled, Harrison has made as much of a positive impact as anyone. He’s taken advantage of his wingspan to place second on the team in steals (1.1 per game) while keeping his fouls under control (2.4 a night).

The pinnacle of his defensive effort came in a showdown with Tennessee’s Jordan McRae. Though McRae did score 17 points in a loss at Rupp Arena, Harrison held him to 1-for-7 three-point shooting and pressured him into four turnovers.

Having Aaron Harrison as an alternative at point guard has been a valuable asset for Kentucky.
Having Aaron Harrison as an alternative at point guard has been a valuable asset for Kentucky.Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

Offensively, he’s kept his own turnovers to a minimum—1.8 per game, best among the perimeter starters—while helping out his brother as a ball-handler. On a team that’s been desperate for offensive rhythm on many occasions, his 2.1 assists a night have been a bigger contribution than they sound.

Even in his weakest area, rebounding, Harrison is still putting in a respectable season. At 3.1 boards per contest, he was right on James Young’s heels until Young finally started pulling his weight around New Year’s.

Taken on their own, none of Aaron Harrison’s stats are all that remarkable. However, when one of the Wildcats’ go-to stars falters on any given night, the player in the best position to pick up the slack is often the one with No. 2 on his chest.