Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Top 20 Pick Montrezl Harrell Hoping to Extend College Career With Louisville
SYRACUSE — Montrezl Harrell’s college career is likely going to come to end in the coming days.
He just doesn’t want it to be on Sunday against Michigan State in the Elite Eight.
“We worked so hard throughout the whole year to get where we’re at, and we really just don’t want to go home early,” the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Harrell said here Saturday. “So we’ve just got to make sure we do anything and everything in our power to make sure that we head to Indianapolis.”
Harrell was a projected first-round NBA pick last season after his sophomore year, but opted to come back to develop his game and remain in college. A year later, he’s listed as the No. 20 pick by Draft Express.com.
“I believe he can be an effective [NBA] backup for 10 years,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv.
In an up-and-down year for Louisville, Harrell has been their best and most consistent player, averaging 15.7 points and 9.2 rebounds while frequently making SportsCenter for his rim-rattling dunks.
He went for 24 points and 7 rebounds here Friday night when Louisville outlasted N.C. State, 75-65, to send coach Rick Pitino to his seventh Elite 8.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo showed his team film of Louisville at 1 a.m. here on Saturday.
“I made sure that Montrezl Harrell was invisible because I didn’t want them to have nightmares,” Izzo said. “I just wanted to show them some film. We had our video guy cut out anything where he was living with his head and feet on the rim.”
Pitino, a former NBA coach with the Knicks and Celtics, compares Harrell to a couple of explosive NBA players.
“He has a little Kenneth Faried in him,” Pitino said. “But he’s really improved his ball handling, his passing, and his 16-foot jump shot. Somebody said the other day, reading a scouting report that somebody said about him, they said, he still hasn’t learned to shoot the three. I don’t know what pro team would want to draft Montrezl Harrell to shoot the three. It’s bizarre.
“This was actually a legitimate pro guy saying that. I mean, you’re drafting — right now at the Denver Nuggets, “Come on, Faried, get out there and shoot the three.” It just doesn’t make any sense to me. You’re getting a slasher, a dunker, a great athlete who stays on the glass. It’s very similar to the young man with the Clippers, DeAndre [Jordan]. You have to draft accordingly, and what you need. You need energy, athletic, shot blockers, that’s what you draft. If you want him to shoot 3s, then you don’t have that type of athlete. So sometimes it’s so hypocritical when they say those things. It just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”
One reporter tried to compare Harrell to Michigan State forward Branden Dawson, the Spartans’ best player and another high-energy guy.
“I haven’t seen too many players play with the energy that I play,” Harrell said. “I don’t take any plays off. I go in and make sure I play 110 percent every play. If he has as much energy as me, it should be a good game tomorrow. I don’t see him running with as much energy as I have.”
One year after electing to come back, Harrell’s career will end soon. But he wants to extend it at least until next Saturday’s Final Four, so he cam compete for his second NCAA championship since 2013.
“My decision to come back to school, I felt like it was best for me to come back to school and to work on my game,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot of things in my game that I needed to work on before I really took that next step to the NBA. With the team I had coming back, I felt like we could make a strong run towards another national title and another National Championship. It’s just a blessing to be back where I am and for us to be in this situation that we’re in.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.