To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Georgia State PG Ryan Harrow about leaving John Calipari to be closer to his father.
You began your career at NC State in 2010 before transferring to Kentucky: why did you decide to leave the Wolfpack, and what made you choose the Wildcats? After the coaching change at NC State I just felt like it was the right time to move on. Kentucky is obviously a great program and at the time it was the right fit for me.
In the summer of 2012 your father Mark suffered a stroke at home in Georgia: how hard was it to play an entire season at Kentucky after that happened? It was really hard: my dad and I have always been extremely close so being that far away from him was tough. He was in really rough shape and I felt like I could not help being all the way up in Lexington. Thankfully he is doing a lot better now and I am glad that he gets to come watch me play all the time.
You played for Coach John Calipari at Kentucky: what makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? As good a coach as he is, he is an even better man. I learned so many things from him that I could be answering this question all day long! He knows how to get the best out of each of his players, which is unique for some coaches. Every player is different but he finds a way to maximize your talent. I think that is 1 of the reasons why he has been so good at coaching for so long.
After that season you transferred to Georgia State to be closer to your dad: how hard a decision was it, and do you have any regrets? It was a tough decision but I also knew it was the right decision so I have no regrets. Last season was great in so many ways for us at Georgia State. I have great teammates, coaches, and support staff, just like we had at Kentucky. I get to see my dad all the time now and I think that has helped me become a better basketball player and made my dad feel better as well.
In your very first year as a Panther you were named First-Team All-Sun Belt: how were you able to come in and contribute so quickly? It helps to have great teammates like RJ Hunter, Manny Atkins, Devonta White, and Curtis Washington. When you have great players around you, they make what you have to do so much easier. They did a great job of getting me the ball to score, and when I got them the ball they took advantage of it. The awards were out of my control but I was honored to receive it in my 1st year.
You shot 84 percent form the free throw line last year and made 24 in a row during one stretch: what is your secret to making FTs? It just comes down to practice and muscle memory. We talked all the time about taking advantage of the opportunities that are given to us. If our opponent is going to foul us and send us to the line, we might as well take advantage of some free points! I think our entire team’s FT shooting helped us win a lot of games last year.
You scored a career-high 37 points (13-22 FG) in a loss to UL Lafayette in the Sun Belt tourney title game: how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most? It was just 1 of those days where guys kept finding me open. We had one goal in mind that day and we knew we would take advantage with whoever got hot whether it was me, RJ or Manny. That part of it worked out, but at the end of the day it did not matter because we did not win the game. We missed out on our goal for that day and will use it as motivation for this season.
Coach Ron Hunter’s son RJ is one of the leading scorers on the team: how do you and he get enough of your own shots while also making sure the other gets his? RJ and I work very well together on the court. He is really talented and I think we make each other better. We are a multi-dimensional team on offense so there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to score: if someone is having an “off” night then the others can step up for us. Every once in a while it is also just fun to watch RJ shoot 3-pointers: he is one of the best that I have ever seen at any level.
Another fellow well-known transfer from the state of Kentucky recently joined your team: what is it like to have former Louisville player Kevin Ware as a teammate, and how much inspiration does he give your team after overcoming a horrific leg fracture in the 2013 NCAA tourney? Kevin and I have actually known each other for a long time having both grown up playing in Atlanta. He is a hard worker who wants to help contribute as much as possible. I know he had to work hard after his injury to get back to the level he is at now, and I also know that he will continue to work hard to get even better. I think he is going to surprise a lot of people this season.
What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? My goal is basically the same as the team’s goal: win as many games as possible and still be playing in March. We have worked really hard as a team to continue to get better, but also know that we have to take it one game at a time. There is a long time between now and March, but we learned a lot as a group last year and I am sure we will use that to get better this year.