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November 28, 2012The illness was undiagnosed, but not entirely unexpected.
Ryan Harrow goes through it every year. It's usually flu-like symptoms. It's always early in the basketball season. At least once, he passed out on the court.
And every year, doctors tell Harrow they don't know exactly what's wrong.
"I wasn't at practice for a week (last year), but nobody was really worried about where I was at that time," Harrow said Wednesday, three days after he returned to the Wildcats following absences for illness and a family matter.
Last year, Harrow was a redshirt who'd transferred from North Carolina State. This season, his absence caused a considerably bigger stir. Harrow started at point guard and played 10 minutes in Kentucky's season-opening win against Maryland and then effectively disappeared.
He's missed four games and most of the Wildcats' practices since. He returned on Sunday after going home for what he described as a family matter and was scheduled to travel with No. 8 Kentucky (4-1) to Notre Dame (6-1) for Thursday's SEC/Big East Challenge game.
Harrow's role in that game - and beyond - is in the hands of UK coach John Calipari.
"I know I still have some stuff to learn because there was new offense added, but if (Calipari) thinks that I need to play I'll be out there ready to play," Harrow said Wednesday. "If not, then you'll see another cheerleader sitting on the bench."
In Harrow's absence, Archie Goodwin thrived as Kentucky's point guard, averaging 19.7 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. In UK's last two games, he's averaged 25 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
On Wednesday, Calipari seemed to shoot down the suggestion that Goodwin will slide back to his natural shooting guard spot as Harrow readjusts to playing with the Wildcats.
"Archie is our point guard, so I hope he's comfortable in that position," Calipari said. "But (Harrow's return) gives us a chance now to play with two point guards on the court, which my best teams have had two point guards on the court at one time."
When Harrow might be in that mix remains unclear. Calipari said he "may throw him in" against Notre Dame "just to see where he is."
"He's a good basketball player," Calipari said. "He's quick and fast. He can get to the basket. He can score the ball. We need him to be the energy bunny out there, making plays defensively, scrapping out the game a little bit. He can do all the things we're asking him to do."
And Calipari still is asking Harrow to do plenty. Sometimes he's asking loudly.
When asked on Wednesday if the stress of playing point guard at Kentucky - and the pressure Calipari puts on his point guards in practice - played any part in his absence, Harrow didn't entirely run from the suggestion, saying it "might've played a role in me getting sick."
Harrow has openly discussed dealing with Calipari's vocal coaching style, and ESPN's "All-Access Kentucky" promised such intense scenes of Calipari shouting at Harrow that Harrow admits he didn't watch the last two episodes.
"What you all saw on that show is just half of me and Coach Cal's relationship," Harrow said. "You all didn't see the part where me and him just go sit in the office and talk. You don't see the part where me and him are hugging after practice and he's telling me I did a good job. You all just saw the Coach Cal in Coach Cal practice mode."
Harrow said since his return, Calipari "tells me that I'm doing better a lot more now, but he still yells at me and stuff like that." Calipari said he's coaching Harrow "exactly the same."
Whatever the coaching philosophy, Harrow's been happy to return to practice. He was back for the first time on Sunday.
"It was definitely a great practice with him back," teammate Nerlens Noel said. "He couldn't stop smiling all day. I saw how much enjoyed being back. It's just something you've got to feel good about, to have him back with the team."
Now, Harrow begins the process of determining his role on this team.
"I know that I'm going to have to work to get my (playing) time back because I wasn't at practice," Harrow said. "I understand that."
But Harrow said he isn't using Goodwin's success as a motivator now.
"I'm just happy that they did well," Harrow said. "I'm just going to be out there when it's time for me to be out there. I'm glad (Goodwin) did well, though. I texted him and told him, 'You won't be the only one out there once I get back. You'll have some help.' So it gave him encouragement, I guess."
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