Ex-Cats

Aaron Harrison is back in the NBA. ‘It’s a great feeling. … It’s just a blessing.’

Former Kentucky star Aaron Harrison talked with the media in Dallas after joining the Mavericks on Thursday.
Former Kentucky star Aaron Harrison talked with the media in Dallas after joining the Mavericks on Thursday. Dallas Mavericks

Former University of Kentucky star and March Madness hero Aaron Harrison signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, the team announced Thursday.

Harrison, who has spent all of this season in the G League, has averaged 18.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game for the Reno Bighorns. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field, 42.5 percent from three-point range and 83.9 percent from the free-throw line. That includes a 45-point performance against the Oklahoma City Blue on Saturday.

The 23-year-old guard went undrafted in 2015 before spending parts of two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets. It’s taken him all of this season to earn another shot at the NBA.

“It’s a great feeling. I’ve been working really hard this year,” Harrison said. “It’s just a blessing. I’m really excited to be here.”

Harrison said he appreciates the journey his professional basketball career has taken him on.

“It’s been a great experience. It’s a different experience than a lot of guys,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it. It’s taught me a lot, helped me become a man, and I’m grateful for it.”

Asked by the Dallas media if he would have any advice for other players whose path doesn’t lead only to the NBA.

“Definitely I would say, ‘No matter what just stay confident in yourself. You gotta believe in yourself no matter what. And no matter what happens, you gotta keep doing what you love. … You just can’t give up,’” Harrison said.

Harrison said three-point shooting is the part of his game that will help him stand out and perhaps keep a roster spot long-term with the Mavericks.

“Definitely shoot it when I’m open,” he said the coaching staff told him. “Don’t be hesitant. Just play hard. Do the little things. Just help the team win. …

“I definitely want to impact the game so we can win. I think that’s the biggest thing, people in the league right now are looking for guys that will help the team win. And I think I can do that.”

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New Mavericks guard Aaron Harrison (9) was defended by Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell during the fourth quarter Thursday night in Dallas. Rose Baca Dallas Morning News/TNS

Harrison scored six points in 20 minutes in his Mavericks debut, a loss to the Utah Jazz, on Thursday night. He missed his first three shots before making his last two. Harrison also had two rebounds, an assist, a steal and a blocked shot.

Before that game, Mavs Coach Rick Carlisle said Harrison will get a shot to stick wit the team. With Wesley Matthews out the rest of the way, Kyle Collinsworth was the only true shooting guard on the roster.

“He’s a 2-guard that can shoot,” Carlisle told The Dallas Morning News. “I talked to Jeff Van Gundy, who coached him on the USA team (last summer). Jeff had positive things to say about him. … Aaron’s got the shot. Hopefully he makes the most of it.”

▪  Andrew Harrison, Aaron’s twin brother, is playing for the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s averaging 9.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.3 rebounds this season.

“We talk every day,” Aaron Harrison said. “He’s playing really, really well this year and I’m really proud of him. … He’s told me to keep my head in it. It’s tough just playing in the G League just grinding it out, but you just got to stay patient.”

Dennis Varney: 859-231-3514, @ExCats

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