Kentucky-Miss. State notes: Andrew Harrison says 'sky's the limit' after 'humbling' start

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 7, 2014 

Kentucky Wildcats guard Andrew Harrison (5) scored against Louisville Cardinals forward/center Mangok Mathiang (12) as #18 Kentucky defeated #6 Louisville 73-66 on Saturday December 28, 2013 in Lexington ,Ky. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

When speaking with media types Tuesday, Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison sported a good start on a full beard.

"I'm going to shave it," he said. "When my mom sees it, she's going to kill me."

A further sign that Harrison is willing to change in this season of personal transformation? He's been in the driver's seat of change for UK players, most definitely including himself.

"I feel I've gotten better," he said, "but I still have a lot of improvement to make.

"Just being a leader. That's what I'm working on. Playing defense. Stuff like that."

Harrison noted how he's starting to call plays. "And not looking at Coach. Just pretty much knowing what I'm doing," he said.

When asked to elaborate, Harrison backed off the notion that he — and not UK Coach John Calipari — would be dictating the offense.

"Not necessarily free to call my own plays," he said. "I'm kind of starting to figure out what to call in what situations, and what he wants me to do."

To move from high school to college as a point guard is to relearn how to play the game.

"A lot different," Harrison said. "I'm not going to say it's easier because you don't have to do as much, like, scoring-wise.

"But as far as calling plays and not holding (the ball) as much, it's tough."

In the pre-season, Kentucky spoke of doing something historic this season. but the loss to Michigan State, followed by losses to Baylor and North Carolina, doused talk of a 40-0 record.

"Pretty much a humbling experience," Harrison said. "Now, we see how hard we have to work. But at the same time, we still have a lot of talent. The sky's the limit."

'Good lesson'

Dominique Hawkins continued to get good reviews for staying within himself, not trying to make so-called hero plays and providing consistent and predictable contributions.

"Dominique does what he does," Calipari said. "Brings it on every possession till he can't go anymore."

The UK coach saluted Hawkins for good "amnesia," meaning he does not let a setback on a particular play affect him adversely.

"It's been fun watching his growth," Calipari said.

When asked about Hawkins' apparent popularity with teammates, Calipari said, "They like him because they know he works hard. Great teammate. He's about his team. He's not about himself.

"He's established his role, and he does it well. Everybody respects that. ... It's a good lesson. When you come with energy and you come to compete, you stand out."

Youth served

Echoing comments he made on the SEC coaches' teleconference on Monday, Calipari said Marcus Lee and Derek Willis should get more playing time.

But a team largely composed of freshmen and a few sophomores works against an expanded rotation, Calipari said.

"If I had a team of juniors and seniors, no question they'd be in because I'd know juniors and seniors," he said. " ... If you have a veteran team, you can play nine or 10."

A young team moves a coach to want to play his core players more so they gain experience. And as UK notes, stats maven Ken Pomeroy considers UK the youngest team in Division I. UK is the least experienced Division I team since Pomeroy began assessing such a thing in 2007, UK said.

"Youngest team I ever coached," Calipari said before adding, "and I coached all the young teams."

Leadership

Calipari on leadership: "If you think leaders are born ... I haven't met it yet."

Calipari said he works diligently with multiple players each season to develop leaders.

WCS irreplaceable?

On the SEC teleconference, Calipari touted the positive in UK beating Louisville without getting much in the second half from Julius Randle. It's good to have options, in part so players don't believe they're indispensable.

Now, he'd like to get Dakari Johnson and Lee ready to spell Willie Cauley-Stein, Calipari said. That suggested, for now, WCS was irreplaceable.

Not so, Calipari said. He was trying to motivate Johnson and Lee to produce more.

"We played with Alex and Julius (in the post positions), and we were really good, too," Calipari said.

Big advantage on boards

UK ranks fourth nationally with a rebound margin of plus-12.4. Wednesday's foe, Mississippi State, ranks No. 182 (plus-1.2).

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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