Yesterday, Aaron Harrison made a comment that's been blasted around the Internet as evidence of a selfish attitude. KSR has the quotes, taken from an interview Aaron did yesterday:
"I think that’s the biggest question for all of us. We all, all of our lives, have just been worrying about ourselves. When you put that group of people all together, it’s really hard. Coach said it’s impossible, really. So, I mean, we’re just trying to do the impossible and see where it goes. We’re really getting better at it."
"I think we learned a lot from that game. We talked about how, yesterday, if we would have won that game we probably wouldn’t have learned as much as we should have from that game. Since we did lose, I think we learned a lot and just took a lot from it."
What to make of this? Well, Scott Phillips of NBC Sports has thoughts:
It’s troubling that Harrison would be ready to admit this, but probably a good thing if the young Wildcats want to move on from it. If they all buy in for this next month, it will benefit all of them greatly.
Okay, let's delve a little into all this. Can anyone tell me why, if he was actually doing so, it would be troubling for Aaron to admit that the team had been worrying about themselves? After all, the coaching staff has been saying this all season long.
If you look at John Robic's comments (see this morning's Quickies), you'll find that the second quote was a paraphrase of what Robic said in the pre-Ole Miss press conference. This is simply Aaron reflecting the coach's line. Calipari wants to look at the positives of the Florida game and not dwell on the loss. We've seen this many times before, especially late in the season, because Calipari fears, rightly in my view, that the psyche of freshmen is somewhat fragile. This is the wrong time to read them the riot act. You and I may disagree with that tactic (although I happen to agree with it), but that's why Calipari makes all that money — to know what works best for his team.
So with that in mind, look at the first quote, then one purported to be an admission of selfishness. How many times have you heard Calipari say something similar? Why, just last week when he told us he was asking "the impossible" of this team, and he has repeated over and over again that trying to get these guys to focus outward rather than inward. What you see here is the result of repeating the same message over and over again — Aaron has bought into it. Has he internalized it? Maybe not, but he is saying exactly what Calipari has been saying, parroting the coaching staff.
Anyone who's surprised at this hasn't been paying attention, and it shouldn't be reacted to negatively by anyone. Of course this team is inwardly focused — all human beings are, it's part of our DNA. Cooperation must be learned, and it's not trivial for a group of young men who have grown up for years being told how great they are to find themselves struggling with that.
Now, before you mention Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, let me remind you of two things — Davis was on nobody's radar for most of his career, played at a school without their own gym, and only became a phenomenon 18-24 months before his college career, and played little AAU ball. To be successful at all, he had always needed to have a team around him. MKG played for one of the legendary high school basketball programs and coaches, Kevin Boyle at St. Patrick in New Jersey, and came in fully prepared. Teague was just like the guys on this year's squad, because he grew up just like they did — all AAU and accolades.
Previous environments breed habits that are hard to break. One thing this team has thoroughly taught me about freshmen is that AAU stars almost universally come in with so much cruft to be cleared away that it's a wonder Calipari has been successful at all. Trying to get a whole team of them pulling in the same direction is a unique challenge.