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Senior guard Ramon Harris remembers watching an ESPN special on Tennessee basketball in his senior year in high school. A player for the Volunteers was talking about having to play for three coaches in four years, the last of which was current Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, then in his first season with the program.
â€œI was just sitting there like, â€˜Man, I could never go through that,â€™ â€ Harris said to himself at the time. â€œNow I’m sitting through it.â€
Fast-forward to 2009 and Harris and senior forward Perry Stevenson are the first four-year scholarship players for the Cats to play under three different coaches since 1929, when John Mauer, Basil Hayden and Ray Elkund each coached in a four-year span. Mauer was succeeded by legendary coach Adolph Rupp in 1930.
Neither Stevenson nor Harris ever thought they would be in a situation like this. Both expected to be playing under former UK head coach Tubby Smith.
â€œThat’s who you sign with,â€ Stevenson said. â€œBut you just have to take everything as it comes.â€
Now playing under UK head coach John Calipari, who succeeded Billy Gillispie in March, Stevenson and Harris have developed a special bond. Senior guard Mark Krebs, who transferred into the program, keeps them from being the only seniors, but they are the only ones left from their recruiting class.
Jodie Meeks left the program and was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and Michael Porter left the team to be with his family after last season.
Both players have had plenty of ups and downs in their careers, and both will likely be relegated to a bench role this season after starting last year. All that turmoil can be a bit overwhelming at times, but both players said they just tried to roll with the punches and stay positive.
â€œIt’s definitely not planned,â€ Harris said. â€œEspecially when you sign for a coach that you feel like you want to spend all your years with, you get a change of coach and you kind of don’t know what to do. You don’t know about the new coach that’s coming in, you don’t know anything about his style or what he likes and doesn’t like.â€
It’s not all bad, though. After going through all that side by side, the two have formed a unique bond.
â€œWe are roommates, so I guess that’ll make us even closer,â€ Stevenson said. â€œCloser than I want to be, I guess. I have to hear him snore, and I’m sure he says the same thing about me if I fall asleep first.â€
Neither player wanted to discuss some of the differences between the three coaches. While playing for three coaches has been trying at times, it’s also given both players a special opportunity.
â€œIt’s just great because you can learn from each of the coaches,â€ Stevenson said. â€œThey all have different styles.â€
See more from the Kernelâ€™s 2009 Basketball Preview: