The Kentucky Dad Podcast released Episode 7 with a Big Blue Nation fan-favorite joining the show. Former Wildcat Josh Harrellson spoke with me about playing professionally in Japan and his transition into a family man.
“Jorts.” as many fans refer to him by. is still playing professional basketball in Japan. He is married to his wife Laura and the father to a beautiful five-year old daughter named Arianna.
It’s hard to believe, but this upcoming season will mark the 10-year anniversary of Kentucky’s 2011 Final Four run, which ended the program's 13-year drought of not making one.
It goes without saying that Josh became a bluegrass legend for his performance during that 2011 NCAA tournament where he averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds. A few weeks prior, he was also named to the SEC All-Tournament team. But it was his 17-point, 10-rebound, three-block performance against Jared Sullinger and Ohio State in the Sweet 16 that will go down in UK folklore forever.
To this day, it’s nearly impossible to hear the name “Josh Harrellson” without thinking of the famous play where he threw the ball off of Jared Sullinger.
In the first half, Kentucky tried to isolate in the middle third of the floor. This one caught me off guard. How about the move from Josh Harrellson? He did a great job of pulling Sullinger out on the floor throughout the game. @KentuckyRivals @RowlandRIVALS #2011Sweet16 pic.twitter.com/t0lSzbsSyN— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) March 15, 2020
Josh Harrellson was huge in this game. Jared Sullinger came in averaging 17 & 10. Harrellson was able to defend him without getting help off the 3-point shooters. He was a warrior. @KentuckyRivals @RowlandRIVALS @TravGraf_Rivals pic.twitter.com/6XsdHwyroq— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) March 15, 2020
If you listen to the podcast, you will learn a lot about Josh Harrellson the person and not just the basketball player. Most people know that his path to Kentucky was anything but orthodox. It was interesting talking it out and coming to the realization that his story may be the last of its considering the type high-profile talent that Calipari is able to bring to Lexington year after year.
By his own admission, Josh was the worst player on his St. Charles High School basketball team as a freshman. When the team was on the court practicing, they would send Josh to the side basket with strict instructions to do nothing but shoot lay-ups.
“It’s because at that point in my development —I couldn’t make them!” Josh told me.
With a lot of hard work and dedication, he was able to become a force in Missouri High School Basketball. By his senior year, Josh averaged 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds a game earning himself First-Team All-State honors. He gives credit to his grandpa for providing some much needed guidance before he passed away when Josh was in 8th grade. He also gives credit to Gary Wacker, who was an influential teacher at St. Charles High School. Without those two people in his life, things could have potentially turned out a lot differently for him.
So after not being able to successfully make a lay-up just a few years prior, Josh now had the opportunity to play college basketball.
However, it wasn’t just a traditional path to the University of Kentucky. He had to attend junior college first. Ultimately, the 6-10, 275-pound big-man was recruited by Billy Gillispie and made his way to Lexington. Shortly after that, the Cats hired a guy named John Calipari, and the rest is history.
Will Kentucky ever see a player develop within the system quite like Josh Harrellson did?
It’s hard to imagine it ever happening again considering the star power that Cal is able to bring in year after year. The story of Josh Harrellson is one that should be celebrated for its improbability and reassurance that hard work pays off.
After finishing his college career at the University of Kentucky. Harrellson was drafted 45th overall by the New Orleans Hornets but was traded to the New York Knicks. He spent time with the Knicks, Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons. Currently, he plays in Japan’s B League, but don’t let the name fool you. It’s the best league around, and Josh has really made his mark.
I loved hearing about how much he has genuinely enjoyed his time abroad.
“There’s no crime, no trash, no littering. It’s the safest place I’ve ever lived.” Josh proudly said about his community in Japan.
Similar to everything else on Earth, COVID-19 has disrupted life tremendously, and probably more so for Josh than others. Like many of his teammates in Japan — he personally tested positive for COVID-19.
Thankfully, he said it was just a day of symptoms, but a terrifying situation nonetheless.
Josh is home now and in a holding pattern awaiting for updates on the return of basketball.
Here are some topics we covered on Episode 7:
- Red Forman guy (listen for the drop at the end)
- Growing up in Missouri
- Missed football opportunity leads to unbelievable basketball career
- Playing a professional game with empty stands
- 2010 UK team Zoom call
- COVID-19 Coping
- Dad Jokes!
Make sure to follow Josh @BigJorts55 and the podcast @KentuckyDadPod