Kentucky Basketball Recruiting: Andrew Harrison Is the Key to Title Dreams

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIApril 4, 2013

Photo Credit: John Godwin
Photo Credit: John Godwin

As we've come to expect, head coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats have pieced together yet another masterful recruiting class. Per the ESPNU 100 and, Kentucky has four commitments in the Top 10 and six in the Top 20.

As stacked as their recruiting class may be, Kentucky's title dreams hinge upon the play of point guard Andrew Harrison.

Due to the high-profile nature of their crop of recruits, it may seem out-of-line to place such a burden on one player. After all, they do have one of the greatest recruiting classes of the modern era.

With that being said, having a floor general is the key to everything for Calipari's crew.

For perspective as to what the Wildcats are bringing, ESPNU 100 ranks Kentucky as the No. 1 recruiting class. They have the No. 1 recruits at point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center.

Should undeclared small forward Andrew Wiggins commit to Kentucky, they'd have the top recruit at every position.

That includes power forward Julius Randle and center Dakari Johnson, whose athleticism and pummeling power should give the Wildcats an elite interior. With Willie Cauley-Stein returning for his sophomore season, depth will be present.

Along the perimeter, Aaron Harrison is the No. 1 shooting guard and James Young is the No. 3 small forward behind Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

This beckons the question that everyone must be wondering—what makes Harrison, the point guard, so valuable? Why is he the key to success?

It's all about direction.


Revisiting 2012-13

During the Kentucky Wildcats' championship-winning 2011-12 season, they had an abundance of ball-handlers and facilitators. That includes point guard Marquis Teague and point forward Terrence Jones.

In 2012-13, however, the Wildcats placed the facilitating duties in the hands of isolation-style guard Ryan Harrow.

This is not a shot at Harrow, but instead an acknowledgement of the team's lack of direction. Although led by elite recruits, they lacked direction on offense and often suffered from making too many passes or not moving the ball well enough.

That's what happens when you have a score-first point guard on a team without experience.


Pace & Poise

The most common issue for freshmen players at the collegiate level is their desire to do it all themselves. Even if they move the ball throughout the game, freshmen often take on a hero-ball mentality during the waning minutes.

It's on Andrew Harrison to prevent that from happening.

No matter what a fan wants to tell you, running a play during crunch time creates higher-percentage looks than Iso ball. With elite players flooding into Kentucky, that's certain to be an issue for Calipari's crew.

That is, unless Harrison takes control as a facilitator.

No one will debate that Harrison can take his own shot, nor that his brother is anything short of an elite shooting guard. Even fewer will question whether or not Julius Randle can thrive at the collegiate level with his physical gifts.

With that being said, even the greatest of players need to be placed in position for success.

Fortunately, Harrison has proven to be an elite point guard in terms of high school success. Perhaps his most important gift is the uncanny ability to control the pace of games, whether he's pushing it in transition or slowing it down in the half court.

Harrison's ability to create a team-wide pace will be the key to pursuing a national title.