Andrew Harrison — remember him? — returned to Kentucky's practice Wednesday. Teammate Jarrod Polson said UK's presumptive point guard "looked pretty good." Which means the Cats have a better chance to look good in Friday night's season opener against UNC Asheville.
"He's a difference maker ... a floor general," another teammate, Jon Hood, said of Harrison. "... It's not only stats and what he does. It's just him being out there."
Of Harrison's floor presence, Hood said, "It calms people down. ... It lets them know this is how we have to do it. This is what we're going to do."
Harrison, who is expected to be the next standout freshman point guard for UK Coach John Calipari, missed both pre-season exhibition games because of a bruised right knee. He played briefly in the Blue-White Game before it was deemed wise to sit him as a precaution.
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Apparently, there are no long-term ill effects caused by the bruise. "It didn't seem his knee was bothering him at all," Polson said of Harrison's play in practice Wednesday.
Calipari likened Harrison's return to a football team welcoming back its quarterback. He said that UK played the exhibitions with a wide receiver (Aaron Harrison) at the point.
"Now guys are in the right spots," the UK coach said.
Hood noted the difference it makes to play a familiar position, especially a position like point guard that is the nerve center of a team. "If you're forced into that role, you're less likely to thrive and succeed," he said.
After UK beat Montevallo Monday in its second exhibition game, Aaron Harrison acknowledged the demands of point guard, which include the delicate balance of attacking while distributing, all the while under the never-blinking scrutiny of Calipari.
Without Harrison, Kentucky's performances in the pre-season were of minimal value as an indicator of what lies ahead this season, Hood said. "You can't really say."
Hood likened Kentucky without and now with Harrison to the 2009-10 UK team without and then with John Wall. "We just have to get healthy and get on the same page," he said, "and go from there."
Calipari emphasized the importance of that long-term view when he spoke to reporters on Thursday.
"I've got four months to get things right," he said. "Four months. And if I try to do it in two weeks, I'll cheat the kids and drive myself crazy."
Of course, coach mode works against patience. Calipari sees corrections and improvements that must be made. He said he reminded himself on the drive to work Thursday morning that he had four months to work out the kinks and get the machinery purring.
"Don't be panicking," he said he told himself, "as I had both feet on the panic button."
Calipari spoke of needing to work on such basketball fundamentals as finding a workable rotation and developing a cohesive one-for-all defense. Neither is in the final stages of development.
"We need to get a group of seven guys, maybe eight, but more likely eight," he said of the rotation. "Playing together and let them play. That's the main thing we've got to do."
That process of finding the right seven or eight players, then giving each an optimal chance to succeed, begins immediately. Ideally, Calipari would like two point guards and then a combination of versatile players who could handle playing any combination of shooting guard-small forward, small forward-power forward, power forward-center.
"We're not a selfish team," he said. "We're an unselfish team. But we're not a unit. We're not clicking defensively (or) offensively. We don't help each other. Don't have each other's back. Don't create easy shots."
Hood noted how the "main stuff" on defense is in place: How to rotate to help a teammate, how to contain the pick-and-roll, the importance of not leaving three-point shooters open in the corners. The Cats have yet to work on zone defense or a press, and with three games in the next five days, this is not the time to try to install new strategies.
For now, how close is Kentucky from having its defense set? "Long way," Hood said.
But, as Calipari said, Kentucky has plenty of time to improve and fine-tune.
"That may be two months from now," Calipari said. "So what?"
UNC asheville A T Kentuck y
When: 7 p.m. Friday | Where: Rupp ArenaTV: Fox Sports South | Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1,
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr.
00 Marcus Lee F 6-9 215 Fr.
1 James Young G 6-6 215 Fr.
2 Aaron Harrison G 6-6 218 Fr.
3 Jarrod Polson G 6-2 182 Sr.
4 Jon Hood G 6-7 215 Sr.
5 Andrew Harrison G 6-6 215 Fr.
13 Sam Malone G 5-11 185 Jr.
15 Willie Cauley-Stein F 7-0 244 So.
21 Tod Lanter G 6-2 190 Jr.
22 Alex Poythress F 6-8 239 So.
24 EJ Floreal G 6-3 195 Fr.
25 Dominique Hawkins G 6-0 193 Fr.
30 Julius Randle F 6-9 250 Fr.
32 Brian Long G 5-9 155 Jr.
35 Derek Willis F 6-9 205 Fr.
44 Dakari Johnson C 7-0 265 Fr.
No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Yr.
0 Zach Davis G 6-3 185 So.
3 Ethan Wilmoth G 6-2 195 Fr.
5 Jaron Lane G 6-4 185 Sr.
11 Marcus Neely G 6-4 205 So.
13 David Robertson G 6-3 185 Fr.
14 Mike Bedulskis F 6-9 220 Fr.
15 Andrew Rowsey G 5-10 175 Fr.
20 Chudier Pal C 6-9 240 Jr.
21 Giacomo Zilli F 6-9 225 Fr.
22 Corey Littlejohn G 6-3 180 Jr.
25 Jacob Casper G 6-3 190 Fr.
31 Sam Hughes F 6-4 205 So.
32 Will Weeks F 6-6 220 So.
33 D.J. Cunningham C 6-10 240 Sr.
42 Alex Biggerstaff F 6-4 185 Fr.
45 Jaleel Roberts C 7-0 225 Jr.
55 Trent Meyer G 6-3 170 Sr.