The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 20, 2013

Harrell shining for Louisville

VAN HOLLAND
Sports Correspondent

TARBORO — Former North Edgecombe Warrior Montrezl Harrell, put on a show in the Big East Conference tournament championship game Saturday night.  He led the Cardinals to the Big East title and was named the Player of the Game.

The Louisville Cardinals 6-foot-8 freshman had his best game of the season in the biggest game of his young collegiate career with 20 points, seven rebounds, and an immeasurable amount of energy on both ends of the floor that fueled Louisville’s monster comeback.

"I came in the game just being prepared for whatever coach needed me to do," Harrell said. "When I got on the floor I just wanted to help the guys with a big lift. I was going all over the place trying to get rebounds, either on offense or defense. These guys looked for me and I just tried to finish for them. I just came out hard and played my heart out."

Harrell replaced Chane Behanan with a little over 15 minutes left in the game and gave the Cardinals a spark as soon as he hit the floor. He added three big monster dunks from the baseline in Louisville's high-low offense against the two-three zone.

Harrell provides a different kind of play on the interior for Louisville when compared to Behanan, bringing more explosiveness getting to the basket and more length, according to Cardinals coach Rick Pitino.

He has struggled from the free throw line where he shoots 50.9 percent on the season, but he was big from the charity strip in the second half. He hit some clutch free throws to help extend the Cardinals lead.

"You never know in college basketball who is going to step up," Pitino said. "Now Harrell takes over the backboard, takes over the game…that’s the beauty of college basketball."

Pitino said after the game, he inserted Harrell for Behanan, because he has the length advantage and it helps on both ends of the floor. Harrell was also a big presence on the boards and made a key block with four minutes left to play that turned into a transition basket for the Cardinals.

Harrell is averaging 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this year. He has 25 blocked shots and has dished out six assist. He is shooting 55 percent from the floor.

Harrell has a personal goal set while at Louisville. He wants to be the best he can be on and off the court.

He said the best basketball advice he has received is don't ever quit.

Harrell played his senior year of high school for Hargrave Military Academy after playing his first three years at North Edgecombe.

While at North Edgecombe Harrell averaged 16.2 points, 12 rebounds and 6.7 blocks per game during his junior campaign. During his junior year he shattered a backboard in the Warriors gymnasium and forced them to postpone a game, because they didn't have a backboard to replace it with.

After his junior year, Harrell decided to go to Hargrave to play against tougher competition to make his game a little more complete by playing against more talented players in the nation. The decision was the right one, because he shined at Hargrave and had the biggest game of his career in one of their overtime wins. He dominated the floor finishing with 51 points, which included 18 dunks and he had 17 rebounds and 7 blocked shots.

After his high school career ended, he played on the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 team where he averaged 5.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in five games.

Harrell has a seven foot four inch wing span and went into college as the No. 72 overall prospect by Scouts.com in the class of 2012 and was listed as the No. 89 overall player by ESPNU Top 100.

Harrell had originally committed to play for the Virginia Tech Hookies, but when former coach Seth Greenburg was fired, Harrell de-committed and opened his options. After receiving offers from Flordia, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina and others, he decided that Louisville was going to be his choice. It has turned out to be the right decision, because the Cardinals earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament Sunday.