Transfers Harrow, Mays eager to play

By Les Johns | @KernelJohns

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All work and no play has made Julius and Ryan long for game action.

UK head coach John Calipari is planning to rely on two transfers to play significant roles in his short rotation this year.

Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow and graduate student shooting guard Julius Mays both have experienced the physical and mental strains of sitting on the bench during a redshirt year.

Mays considered giving up basketball while he sat out the 2010-11 season at Wright State University, after transferring after his sophomore season from North Carolina State.

“There really were times I just wanted to quit. I didn’t even want to play basketball anymore,” Mays said. “I just wanted to move back to Indiana and be a regular student — just go to school with my friends.”

Harrow went through many of the same feelings last year during his redshirt year with the Cats.

“It was hard knowing that I got to do everything that they do (his teammates) — I have to wake up in the morning, lift weights, I have to do these hard practices and run these sprints,” Harrow said. “But I’m not going to get on the floor (in a game). I would have my down days.”

Going through the rigors of classes, weight training and practice without the payoff of playing in the actual games wore down each player’s psyche.

“It was tough. I felt like a practice dummy. I practiced, didn’t play, didn’t go to any games, didn’t travel anywhere — it was just real hard,” Mays said. “It almost feels like you are doing it all for nothing. Those were the times I just wanted to quit.”

Just as both players experienced similar situations, they also received inspiration from similar sources — their mothers.

“I give a lot of credit to my mom. She always has taught me to use basketball, not let basketball use me,” Mays said. “I could have easily got off track with my academics, but I give all of the credit to my mom because she stayed on top of me and didn’t let that happen.”

Harrow expressed his concerns to the coaching staff and eventually called his mother to get guidance.

“I didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect this to be this hard,” Harrow told his mother.

The response from the staff and his mother was simple.

“The coaches and my mom told me the end  result is going to be what I want, and that is doing well and moving on to the next level,” Harrow said.

“So I just worked hard last year and cheered them on. I was their biggest cheerleader, so I can have my time this year.”

Harrow’s redshirt year with the Cats climaxed with a national championship. Mays’ was less eventful from a team perspective, but personally just as important.

“I stayed ahead in my academics and graduated on time — which put me in the unique situation I am now where I ended up here,” Mays said. “

When I was sitting at Wright State at this time last year, I would have never have expected to be sitting where I am right now. It is a blessing to be a part of it, and I am excited.”

Although they will be seeing their first minutes on the floor for the Cats this season, both Harrow and Mays will be counted on to be leaders.

When asked how Calipari defined his role, Mays said, “To knock shots down and to be a leader, with the experience I have.”

Harrow will have the ultimate leadership role, following in the footsteps of John Wall, Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague by playing point guard for the Cats under Calipari.

“For him to pick me, he obviously had some faith in my game. That made me feel good,” Harrow said about Calipari recruiting him. “I’m just trying to do the best I can do and help my team out.”

Following two years at North Carolina State and a redshirt year, Mays had a breakout senior season at Wright State, leading the Raiders with 14.1 points per game and earning second-team All-Horizon league honors.

Mays is a career 84.1 percent free-throw shooter and drained 42.4 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.

“He is a great kid who had performed at a high level, that could make baskets — especially jump-shots — that wanted to be a part of this and understood what it meant,” Calipari said about Mays in early September.

He appears to have his shooting stroke cranked up just in time for the season. According to Eric Lindsey at, Mays recently hit 66 3-pointers in a five-minute shooting drill in practice. Hitting 50 during that time frame is considered good and anything more than 60 is considered “NBA level.”

Coach Calipari is looking for Harrow to be a vocal leader of the team.

“He has to be more aggressive — has to have more intensity to his game,” Calipari said after the Blue-White scrimmage.

“He can’t be cool. He can’t act like the other guy’s not playing.”

Harrow averaged 9.3 points per game for the Wolfpack his freshman year and was second on the team with 96 assists on the season.

He has gotten stronger since arriving on campus prior to last season. He weighed 125 pounds as a high school senior and is up to 167 pounds now, with most of the weight and muscle gain coming since joining the Cats.

“I think he’s played stronger than he looks,” Calipari said. “He’s out of the mold of Brandon (Knight). They’ve got the same body frame. You look at him and say he’s skilled, fast and a pretty good athlete.”

Although the year on the sidelines was trying at times for Harrow, it has given him an additional edge of knowing the Calipari system as the season starts.

“He’s ahead of the game because he was here last year, but he didn’t play,” Calipari said. “He’s got to go in the game and perform.”

After redshirt years that had both considering giving up, performing in a game is exactly what Harrow and Mays are looking forward to.