BOZICH | Aaron Harrison's NBA Draft hurt now fueling his quest i - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Aaron Harrison's NBA Draft hurt now fueling his quest in Charlotte

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Not being one of the University of Kentucky players selected in the NBA Draft hurt Aaron Harrison. He won’t try to tell you that it didn’t. It did.

“It definitely hurt me,” Harrison said.

But that was draft night. On Thursday Harrison was in Louisville, high-fiving, teasing and instructing 225 young basketball players at the Big Blue Unplug and Play Basketball Procamp.

His hurt has been transformed into motivation. That is the way it must be if Harrison intends to sneer at the doubters and make the Charlotte Hornets’ roster.

He does not have a guaranteed contract.

He does have an invitation to training camp.

He does not have a spot near the head of the line of the Hornets’ guards, a group that includes Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb and two others ahead of him on the depth chart.

He does have the confidence inspired by a solid performance during the NBA Summer League, where Harrison averaged nearly 30 minutes and more than 13 points.

“I was a little nervous when I went out there at first,” Harrison said. “But once you get in the flow you just have to have confidence. Just know that you worked hard enough to be there.

“You have to go out there and play with confidence. I know that I can handle the ball. I think that’s an advantage for a guy with my size.”

Harrison said that his day begins at 6 a.m. He runs two miles. That is often followed by a nap.

He reports to the gym for a two-hour workout, often with his twin brother, Andrew, a second-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies. That is followed by a nap.

He returns to the gym to lift weights. Another nap? You bet.

In the evening, there is a final trip to the gym. Shooting, shooting and more shooting.

“You have to do it,” Harrison said. “You have nothing else to do. It’s your job.”

It is more than that for Harrison. It is the first time he can remember being the guy who has to worry about his name showing up on the Cut List. After a lifetime of being a 5-star player, he’s more like a 3-star prospect trying to show NBA coaches all the things he can do:

Play off guard. Play point guard. Make perimeter shots. Make clutch shots. Handle the ball. Distribute the ball. And, yes, defend.

Harrison said that Hornets’ coach Steve Clifford wants him to fill both guard spots. When you’re an extra on an NBA team, you’d better have something to sell.

Harrison believes he can do that. He has experience playing on the wing. It’s all the point-guard stuff that the NBA people want to see.

Harrison said that he understands that. He knows he can do it.

Remember: Before Kentucky went on that 38-game winning streak, it was Aaron Harrison who was the media pick as the Southeastern Conference player of the year. He was the only Wildcat voted to the all-SEC first team.

By June the rankings were turned upside-down. Six teammates were taken ahead of him in the NBA Draft. He led UK in scoring (11.0 ppg) but his three-point shooting percentage declined from 35.6 percent to 31.6 percent. Wrong direction for a guy playing his second season. The Final Four loss to Wisconsin didn't help.

The funky shooting numbers and questions about his ability to defend moved Harrison into the world of free agents. He said Charlotte offered him a contract as soon as the draft was over.

He knows there are doubters – and almost sounds as if he appreciates them.

“It’s just motivation, really,” Harrison said. “There are obstacles in life. It’s just different for me that now I have to play with my back against the wall and I haven’t had to do that for a long time.

“It’s going to going to build my character and make me stronger as a man, definitely. It just tests what type of man I am. It’s going to show my character. I love the competition and things like that. So I think that I’ll do well.”

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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