Thursday night, during the player introductions at Carnesecca Arena, D’Angelo Harrison high-fived teammates, welcomed the referees and finished by greeting South Carolina head coach Frank Martin with a big handshake and some laughter.
But then, the smile vanished and it didn’t return until Harrison had finished putting up 26 points in his team’s 24-point victory.
Then, the smile was back, and nobody cheered harder than Harrison for the walk-on players who got to see a few minutes of playing time in a blowout win.
Even though Martin didn’t have an answer for the Red Storm’s talented combo guard, some would be surprised that the South Carolina coach already knew what Harrison is capable of doing to defenses.
Formerly the head coach at Kansas State University up until this season, Martin tried to get D’Angelo to play for his Wildcats.
“At K-State I recruited him real hard,” Martin said. “I thought he was a real good player when St. John’s got him. He’s a handful.”
Martin got a front row seat to see the player he missed out on, as Harrison easily put up more points than South Carolina’s top two scorers combined.
“He’s one of those players that has the ability on certain nights to go for a lot of baskets,” Martin said. “He’s a good player. I told him after the game, ‘Keep your head on right, keep playing the way you’re playing.’”
Martin’s advice could come in handy for the sophomore. A few violations that Coach Lavin wouldn’t disclose, but likened them to parking tickets, had kept Harrison out of the starting lineup for the first few games of the season.
Now, Lavin is starting to see the maturity that he expects from his star guard.
“I think D’Angelo set a good example today,” he said. “And he’s been better, in terms of a more mature baring, and focusing on the task at hand, and not being more distracted by officials or by an opponent making a hard foul on him, or by something not going his way.”
Lavin lavished Harrison with compliments and compared him to a basketball legend and a former Villanova star.
“I think D’Angelo is as prolific a scorer as there is in the Big East,” Lavin said. “He has range like Reggie Miller, but he’s improved his short game like Scottie Reynolds.”
Although Harrison was efficient against the Gamecocks, it’s important to note that he grinded for his points at the rim, with just nine of his 26 coming from beyond the arc.
Still, he humbly recounted his performance.
“I had easy layups, got to the free-throw line,” Harrison listed. “It wasn’t me in a hot streak, it was just me cutting and them (my teammates) finding me, just happening to be by the basket and making the layup. Anybody could’ve had 26 points.”