CRAWFORD | Kentucky's Aaron Harrison, and the art of the dagger - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Kentucky's Aaron Harrison, and the art of the dagger

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AP image. AP image.
INDIANAPOLIS (WDRB) — Time winding down. Andrew Harrison has the ball, and whips it to his brother, Aaron, on the wing, who drills a three-pointer for the game winner.

NCAA Tournament rehash? Nope. Aaron Harrison was in the fifth grade when he made the shot for his Houston Defenders AAU team against ARC of California -- his first game-winner.

“It was just exciting,” Aaron Harrison said Friday. “Just to see how proud my teammates were of me and all the parents and coaches, a cool feeling.”

You knew it had to start early, because there's something a player just has to be born with, desire, willingness, something, to take and make big shots in the ends of games.

And nobody has hit more big NCAA Tournament shots than Aaron Harrison. The sophomore had a three-game run in last season's NCAA Tournament unlike any in memory.

“For me, it was just a confidence thing,” Harrison said. “Growing up, just wanting to be the guy to take the last shot, and being able to take the consequences of making it or missing it.”

It all started in Lucas Oil Stadium, where unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Kentucky will try to win its ninth NCAA Championship. Harrison took a pass out of the post from Julius Randle and buried a three with 39 seconds left that put UK up one, and proved to be the game winner.

Two nights later, he stepped back against defending Charis Lavert and hit a deep three over his outstretched hand with just under four seconds left for the game-winner in a 75-72 victory.

In the Final Four, he got the ball barely a step inside the sideline on the left wing, sized up his shot, then went up over Wisconsin's Josh Gasser for a three that took UK from down two to up one, and gave them a win that sent them into the NCAA championship game.

This week, Harrison has been fielding many questions, not only about that shot in particular, but about his ability to make those kinds of shots.

He did it again last Saturday against Notre Dame, made a long-range three-pointer with 3:15 left to give UK the lead.

“For Aaron, it's just some stuff he has inside of him that a lot of people don't have,” his brother, Andrew Harrison, said. “The confidence, the guts he has, it's crazy.”

One of the victims of one of those Harrison daggers, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, shook his head when talking about him.

“That that kid — one of those twins — keeps hitting a shot 10 feet past that 3-point line,” Pitino said. “And he's done it now four times. That is truly remarkable. He's 10 feet behind that line. With the game on the line, crucial moments, that kid has nailed it. That is an unbelievable thing for anybody to do, any athlete to do. He's quite a young basketball player.”

Ask him what makes him want those moments, and what has enabled him to deliver, and he doesn't have much explanation.

“I've always had it,” Aaron Harrison said. “Now, of course, when the game is winding down, I think my teammates look to me, so I just want to succeed in that time for them. . . . Coach still says, no matter what I shoot throughout the game, he knows at the end of the game he's going to me, and that makes me feel good and confident and I'm proud of that.”

With Wisconsin once again in UK's way in the Final Four, Harrison's shot in that game has been a frequent topic of discussion in interviews.

Gasser said he thought he defended it well, but that he was surprised Harrison took the shot.

Andrew Harrison said the play didn't start out well.

“Coach called the play for him but the play didn't work out like it was supposed to,” Andrew Harrison said. “Once he got the ball in that position, I just told him, let it go. . . . I remember the celebration afterward. I don't remember the actual shot. I remember I was telling him to go. Thank God he made it.”

“It's a rematch, and a dramatic time, it was the Final Four last year, so it's going to come up and people are going to ask about it,” Aaron Harrison said. “They're all big shots. But I guess that one was a little more special, because it was the Final Four, and put us in the NCAA championship game.”

The UK basketball media guide has a feature that few schools have. It lists the biggest shots in the program's history.

There are two by Ralph Beard, a free throw with 43 seconds left that gave Adolph Rupp his first national title in 1946, and a 52 1/2-foot buzzer beater in 1948 to push the Wildcats past Tennessee.

Brandon Knight owns a couple, a layup to beat Princeton in the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament and jumper with five seconds left to beat Ohio State in the Sweet 16. 

There are 18 shots listed. I'd argue that Harrison's three against Louisville should be among them, because without it the other two shots wouldn't happen.

And Harrison might not be finished.

“I hope not,” he said. “You'd always rather win by a big margin. . . . But I know I have the confidence of my team and my coach if there needs to be a shot late.”

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