UK basketball notes: Harrellson glad he saw it through

Gillispie era prompted ideas of transferring

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 2, 2011 

Josh Harrellson got a hug from, Logan Croy, his 5-year-old nephew, during Senior Night festivities before Tuesday's game. Harrellson's brother, Matt, wore a No. 55 jersey and his dad, Doug, stood behind him.

JONATHAN PALMER

Kentucky fans' Senior Night farewell to Josh Harrellson Tuesday also served as a testament to perseverance. More than once in his three UK seasons, he considered transferring, especially after enduring former Coach Billy Gillispie's self-styled tough love in 2008-09.

"There was lots of talk of guys transferring," Harrellson said. "When you see a lot of the other people talking about it, it's easy for me to think of doing the same thing."

Fans, perhaps some who cheered him on Senior Night, would have volunteered to pack his bags.

"A lot of people expected me to leave," Harrellson said. "People sent me stuff (saying) 'You need to leave.'"

When asked if the fans wanted him to get a chance to play elsewhere or simply wanted him elsewhere, Harrellson said, "Maybe they wanted to see me play. But maybe they wanted the scholarship for somebody else."

The player's father, Doug Harrellson, confirmed his son pondering a basketball future away from Kentucky.

"He was talking like he wasn't going to stay after what Gillispie did to him," Doug Harrellson said. "He decided to ride it out."

Why?

"Probably the Kentucky people," the player's father said. "The way they support him. The way they stood behind him."

Harrellson's coach at St. Charles (Mo.) High, Gary Wacker, said the player wondered about his UK career as recently as last fall. Wacker saluted how Harrellson responded. "I think Josh is a great teammate," he said. "He wasn't over there sulking and pouting.

"I'm very proud of him. He had a rough time to start. He saw it through. I think he loves the place. I know he loves the place."

Harrellson, who is on target to graduate in May with a degree in corporate communications, said he couldn't be sure if he'd cry during the Senior Night ceremony.

"Tears of joy, if anything," he said.

SEC honors Liggins

The SEC named UK wing DeAndre Liggins to its Community Service Team for this school year.

The league noted how Liggins' service included helping to raise money for Haiti earthquake victims in the Hoops for Haiti effort, washing feet and helping give shoes in inner- city Detroit through Samaritan's Feet, packing and delivering food bags for God's Pantry food bank and visiting UK Children's Hospital.

Earlier this season, UK inducted Liggins into its Frank G. Ham Society of Character.

Other players named to the SEC Community Service Team were Charvez Davis of Alabama, Marcus Britt of Arkansas, Frankie Sullivan of Auburn, Chandler Parsons of Florida, Connor Nolte of Georgia, Daron Populist of LSU, Zach Graham of Ole Miss, Brandon Bolen of Mississippi State, Malik Cooke of South Carolina, Melvin Goins of Tennessee and Joe Duffy of Vanderbilt.

Jones honor finalist

Terrence Jones is among 10 finalists for the United States Basketball Writers Association's National Player of the Year award (a.k.a. the Oscar Robertson Trophy).

Other finalists are Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith of Duke, Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, Jimmer Fredette of BYU, Jordan Hamilton of Texas, Marcus Morris of Kansas, JuJuan Johnson of Purdue, Kemba Walker of Connecticut and Derrick Williams of Arizona.

Festival game update

Dan Owens, the volunteer charged with getting players for the Derby Festival Basketball Classic, sent another e-mail to UK officials expressing his disappointment that none of its signees will play in the Louisville-based all-star game.

His earlier e-mail asking for help in getting recruits to play in the Derby Festival game went unanswered.

In the second e-mail, Owens defends the Derby Festival game as a viable option to the Jordan Brand Classic game and questions Kentucky Coach John Calipari's assertion that reports about UK's lack of cooperation in persuading signees to play in Louisville were much ado about nothing.

Later Tuesday, the Derby Festival issued a statement distancing itself from Owens' second e-mail.

The Kentucky Derby Festival "does not endorse this e-mail nor condone the comments within," Kentucky Derby Festival chair Ja Hillebrand said in the statement. " ... Although we understand his passion and concern for the game, we apologize for the derogatory nature of the comments.

"We share Dan's enthusiasm to have a UK recruit in our Derby Festival Classic and we value our relationship with the University of Kentucky. We sincerely hope this unfortunate e-mail does not affect our ongoing relationship with UK."

Owens later apologized for "any false or defamatory comments" he made in the second e-mail.

Recruits at Rupp

Shabazz Muhammad was expected to be at the UK-Vandy game. He's considered UK's top target in the class of 2012. Tuesday morning, he tweeted, "In the Charlotte airport about to board in a minute !!!!! UK here i come !!!!!!!"

Torian Graham tweeted a few hours later that he, too, would be at the UK-Vandy game.

Rivals.com rates Muhammad and Graham as the Nos. 3 and 26 prospects in the class.

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