Montrezl Harrell: The All-American man just keeps getting better

By on November 12, 2014

By Noah Allison–

When Montrezl Harrell decided to forgo the NBA draft and return for his junior season, the expectations and possibilities for this Louisville team skyrocketed.

As a sophomore captain, Harrell averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds a game on the Cards’ way to a 31-6 record and an AAC title. Now, as a junior leading U of L into the ACC, Harrell is a pre-season All-American and ready to show the country who puts the word ‘power’ in power forward.

“I know I am going to have to play a huge role in our program and I am fine with that,” Harrell said. “I’m fine with having to be one of the go to players on the team. That doesn’t phase me, that just gives me extra motivation knowing that I have to work harder to better my game. Having that spotlight is really an honor and you just have to use it as motivation to get better.”

The decision for Harrell to return for his junior season shocked many, as a sophomore Harrell physically dominated the opposition. The 6-foot-8 power forward had 98 dunks on the season, many of which were ferocious and jaw-dropping.

In a season where consistent play at the big man positions was hard to come by Harrell put the team on his back. As an underclassmen forward, Harrell led the team in rebounding with 311 and was second on the team in blocked shots with 49.

His relentless effort on the court is what sets him aside from any other player, and his raw, super human athletic ability just makes it plain unfair for everyone who has to contest him. The scary thing is, though, this year the pre-season All American will be better than ever before.

“I feel like I’ve improved a lot in my game. I added a 15-foot jump shot and also being able to step out behind the three-point line, ball handling. I’ve improved a lot in my game but I just have to get back to the way I played defense last year,” Harrell said.

Harrell stepped out and hit multiple three-point shots in Louisville’s first scrimmage of the year. It looked routine for him. If anybody is going to make sure he doesn’t get too trigger happy, it’s going to be Harrell himself.

“But that’s not the one thing I am going to rely on. I am not going to take anything away from my game and just be a perimeter player, that’s not my game. I’m known for power and finishing around the rim and that’s what I am going to stick with but its also going to make it tough to guard me if I can step out behind the three point line,” Harrell said.

Harrell could easily be the hardest working athlete in the country and that is not too bold a statement. He lives, sleeps, breathes and bleeds basketball. Although he is an athlete, he is not a brute, Harrell understands the mechanics of the game and recognizes Pitino’s ability to teach him all those mechanics. It’s on Harrell to use that coaching, and just practice, practice, practice.

“We have a long season ahead of us and the work doesn’t stop. I get better everyday. I wake up every morning and look for something that I can improve my game on to make me better and make the team better. I don’t take a day off or play at half speed, that’s not the way I was brought up in the game,” Harrell said.

For all his on court skill and off court preparation, it is the intangibles Harrell brings to this Louisville squad that are so pivotal. As a junior captain, it is Harrell’s role to be a consummate professional and workhorse. He leads a team that has six freshmen and four players with just two year’s experience on the Louisville program.

As a freshman on that 2013 national champion squad, Harrell has all the tools and experience to lead these young but talented Cardinals.

“Being around people like Peyton (Siva), Gorgui (Dieng), Luke (Hancock), Russ (Smith), I learned a lot of different things from them. With me being back here, being one of the older guys it just gives me an opportunity to teach these young guys how I was taught and I really feel like that’s my job.” Harrell said.

“I once was a younger guy but I took everything in from those guys. I was a sponge, because I knew one day they weren’t going to be in this locker room and maybe I was going to be in their position, and here it is. It’s my goal to lead this team as far as we can go.”

Photo by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal 

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