CRAWFORD | Harrell slips to second round -- what happened? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Harrell slips to second round -- what happened?

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AP photo. AP photo.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Who knows what happened with Montrezl Harrell in Thursday night's NBA Draft.

He was a near-unanimous first-round selection in the mock drafts. Unfortunately, those aren't the people conducting the actual draft.

Still, when the first round of the draft ended and Harrell remained on the board, it was jarring. He finally went to the Houston Rockets with the No. 32 overall pick, but that didn't ease the shock.

“We're all surprised that Montrezl slipped out of the first round, but it really doesn't matter,” said University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. “He'll get a contract from Houston. The most important thing is to be drafted by the right team with a chance to play. He certainly was drafted by the right team with a chance to play. Some players would have a chip on their shoulder to prove people wrong (about not being selected in the first round). Montrezl will have a boulder his shoulder, and there's not a doubt in my mind that he will.”

Harrell may get a contract, but second-round contracts often aren't guaranteed, and aren't what he would've made if he'd gone even on the low end of what was projected. Of his pre-draft workouts, you didn't hear anyone raving, but you also didn't hear too many knocking his game.

“It was definitely a surprise,” Harrell told the Houston Chronicle. “It's a blessing to hear your name called on this night and definitely special. Not many people get this opportunity. It is all about what you do with the opportunity when it's put in front of you.”

Harrell knows something about work, and about proving himself. He came from a small town and a family that wasn't well off. He watched the draft back home in a hotel in Rocky Mount, N.C., with his grandmother, and some other family and friends. Now, he'll go to work all over again.

But what happened? Harrell's jump shot, which he stayed a year in college to perfect, still wasn't where it will be if he spends any significant time in the NBA, nor is his ball-handling. That may have bumped him behind more offensively polished players.

He was ejected from a game at Western Kentucky and then suspended for the next game for throwing a punch. He stepped down, or was removed, as team captain, because he was being too hard on the team's younger players.

Those things surely didn't help, but they certainly don't define Harrell.

And maybe it was none of that. Maybe it was just a case of one or two teams who had an inkling of taking Harrell going elsewhere. Rest assured, Harrell's mission beginning Friday will be to make those teams pay.

Harrell thought long and hard about turning pro after last season. His projected draft place was about the same it wound up being this year. His family, he said, thought he should probably go. He told Pitino he was going, and Pitino told him good luck, and called Kenny Klein to set up a press conference. Then Harrell called Pitino back and said he was coming back. He Tweeted out the news. And it was done.

Was that the right move? It's hard to say. Harrell was a better player this season than he was a year ago. He also faced a much deeper draft. 

I covered Harrell for three years and I can tell you that he's a different person off the court from the demonstrative, bombastic player you see on it.

At U of L he was a great big kid from way out in the country. 

He came from humble beginnings, and he held onto them, except when he stepped onto the basketball court. Then he chased after his basketball dream like a guy pursuing his last meal. And he couldn't tolerate it when others did not.

Put a basketball in his hand within four feet of the basket and he went to work on the rim like a lumberjack with an axe.

Yes, he celebrated a bit more than Pitino would've liked sometimes. He hung on the rim to the point of distraction for opposing fans.

“I'm just getting myself going,” Harrell said. “And sometimes when I make a big play, my teammates get confidence from it.”

Whatever the case, Houston is getting a highly motivated and athletic player. Harrell measured a full 6-8 at the NBA combine, and has a wingspan of 7-3. He's a great offensive rebounder, and with work can be good on the defensive boards. He comes in behind Terrence Jones, and gets a chance to play with Dwight Howard.

“I feel like I fit in very well,” Harrell told the Chronicle. “It's a great system to be in and a system that likes to get up and push the pace up and down the floor. It is definitely one of the teams that want to get out on the defensive end and cause defensive havoc.”

If anyone in this draft didn't need more fuel for his fire, it's Montrezl Harrell. He got it anyway.

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