It hasn't taken Ryan Harrow long to show that he is going to be a vital part of Marietta (GA) Walton's success this season. The NC State commitment has exploded out of the gates to lead the Raiders to a 3-1 mark while turning heads with his play.
Through four games, Harrow is averaging 34.5 points, eight assists, and four steals as he leads the team in all three categories. Joining him at Walton is Georgia Tech signee Glen Rice and Rice's younger brother, G'Mitri, among others. Harrow arrived at Walton last year after transferring in from Concord (NC) Cannon School, but wasn't able to play due to transfer rules. He believes that he is meshing well with his new team.
"We're doing pretty good," said Harrow. "It's always competitive with me and Glen because we're both good, but we're doing well and all of the guys on the team are really bonding and having a good time. The thing with me and Glenn is we know that if one is hitting shots and feeling it at the moment, that person is going to keep trying to score. When he cools off, it's time for the other person to do what he can do.
"I feel like coach's system is evolving around me and Glen so we can only play well. Coach wants us to get everybody involved and take good shots... I think we're going to surprise some teams. I think we can win states... I think will be either us or Wheeler. A lot of people didn't pick us high... I guess they are just going on what the team did last year and they really don't know about me."
According to Walton head coach Joe Goydish, opposing teams and fans are finding out about his star point guard.
"We played in a tournament in Tennessee over the weekend and we probably only brought about 20 [fans] with us," said Goydish. "By our last game in the tournament, there were probably four or five hundred people there mainly to watch him play. He's so fun to watch because he'll do something that will just make your jaw drop. Ryan loves to pass, and he really gets just as excited sometimes with great looks and feeds... he's made some unbelievable passes.
"The kids love playing with him, and he's playing extremely well. He's come in and he's averaging right at 35 points a game and eight assists. He's finding his niche with the team... as far as working with Glen and some of the other kids that have been together all these years."
"It's crazy sometimes what I hear from fans or other kids," said Harrow, laughing. "One kid came up to me after our first game said he used to hate watching basketball but after seeing me play he loves it. Most everybody around my school has had a good reaction to seeing me play because they couldn't last year. They all said they never thought I was that good and now they are going to come to all our games.
"At the tournament we were just in, the coach we played in our first game was saying that I had a bright future and he had never seen anyone play like that before. After playing good against the host team it looked like a lot of their fans came back to watch our last game... that was pretty cool. I signed some autographs and stuff."
Harrow really worked his magic in the team's final tournament game. After building a lead against Lenoir City (TN), Walton's Gerald Williams dove for a loose ball and a couple of other opposing defenders jumped on top of him. A small skirmish broke out and the Walton bench cleared... when the situation was under control, 10 Walton players were ejected and Lenoir City was awarded 18-technical foul shots.
The ejections left the Raiders with just four eligible players, Harrow, Rice, Scott Newton and Mike Storey, and with four minutes remaining the team had to hang on to its lead. A couple of minutes later, Rice picked up his fifth foul... and Walton was left with just three players. Harrow scored 16 of his 43 points in the final minutes as Walton came away with a 98-88 victory.
"It was an unbelievable effort," said coach Goydish. "We were playing 3-on-5 in the final minutes, and I think Ryan had 24 of his 43 points in the fourth quarter."
"It was a good win for us," said Harrow. "Coach said afterwards it was a good win for us and that he really didn't condone the fighting but he was glad we stood up for each other and showed that we were a team."
On Tuesday, Harrow and Walton faced Lassiter High School without the ten players ejected in the previous game. State rules prevented them from playing so Walton was forced to bring up several players from the junior varsity. Harrow responded by scoring 30 points and dishing out eight assists to lead his team to a 71-69 win.
He committed to NC State over the summer after attending the Wolfpack's Elite Camp. He secured offers from NC State, Auburn, and UT-Chattanooga before committing to the Wolfpack, and Wake Forest, Kentucky, Marquette, Florida, and Clemson had also expressed early interest.
Just a junior, the early commitment to NC State has put a target on Harrow's back, but he embraces the challenges he faces each night out.
"I feel like they are coming at me," he said. "The kids are always coming up to me during the game and asking me if I'm committed to NC Sate. When I tell them I am it seems like they come at me even harder, but I just keep playing my game... I don't worry about that."
"He's special," said coach Goydish. "If he's not the best, he's definitely one of the best I've coached or ever coached against. I can't imagine this kid with another 20 or 25 pounds on him... he has so many natural gifts. He has such an uncanny knack for playing the game."
Harrow isn't the first high-major point guard Goydish has coached. Kevin Kruger, the son of former Atlanta Hawks head coach Lon Kruger, played his prep career at Walton High before attending Arizona State and UNLV. How does Harrow compare to Kruger?
"Ryan is more athletic than Kevin and he's longer than Kevin," said Goydish. "I think at this point, Kevin may have understood the game more than Ryan, but Ryan is really getting there. Kevin was the ultimate point guard... because he is so talented, sometimes Ryan can push it and try some things when maybe he shouldn't. There is a lot of good that comes from it but sometimes some bad. I'll tell you this, both are very, very good."
Harrow remains firmly committed to NC State. He actually spoke with Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe on Sunday.
"Coach Lowe was telling me to keep playing well," said Harrow. "Coach said he heard I was doing real good and he wants me to keep playing hard and doing well in school. He said he's going to come to some of my games here soon."
Walton returns to the hardwood this weekend in the Farm Bureau Classic in Pikeville, Kentucky.