Pacers' Harrison has something to prove
June 28, 2004
Dennis Harrison chuckled when his son David, the Indiana Pacers' first-round draft pick, was asked if he would be intimidated in the NBA.
"He wasn't intimidated playing basketball against me and his brother," said Dennis, a former defensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles. "And that's pretty rough."
Growing up in a house with 11 brothers and sisters and a pro football player for a father, David Harrison couldn't afford to be timid. Still, he was a little sheepish today when he met the Indianapolis media for the first time.
"Hi, how y'all doin'?" Harrison said bashfully. "I'm David, from Boulder, Colorado. I really don't know what to do."
As unassuming as his introduction was, there's no doubt Harrison has a presence. The 7-foot, 285 pound center commands attention, even sitting next to basketball legend and Pacers president Larry Bird.
He has plenty of doubters to prove wrong.
Despite his considerable skill and sheer size, concerns about his work ethic and heart caused him to tumble all the way to the Pacers with the last pick of the first round.
"Draft night was a long, long night," Harrison said. "After I got picked, I was elated but then looking back on it, I felt a little disrespected. I go finish first team All-Big 12, second leading scorer in the conference, and I get overlooked by almost every team in the league."
Harrison averaged 17.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.9 blocks as a junior at Colorado last season. He also shot 63.1 percent from the field, fourth-best in the nation, on his way to earning first-team All-Big 12 and honorable mention All-America honors.
"I have a demeanor about me that I always look sleepy for some reason, same way in basketball, so I can see where they get a lot of their stuff, but it's not valid," Harrison said of the critics.
Being doubted is nothing new to the Harrison family. Dennis Harrison was a lightly regarded fourth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978. Some scouting reports said the 6-foot-8, 275-pound defensive end "looked like Tarzan, but played like Jane" when he came out of Vanderbilt.
But Dennis Harrison emerged as a solid pro, earning a Pro Bowl bid with the Eagles in 1981. He also played for the Rams, 49ers and Falcons.
"I went through similar things," Dennis Harrison said. "I was never supposed to play professional football, but I played for 10 years."
That experience helped the elder Harrison prepare David for what to expect.
David Harrison soaked up his father's knowledge, almost a little too well. Through his sophomore year in high school in Nashville, Tenn., football was David's favorite sport.
"Being able to just crush somebody, and it's legal, you don't get in trouble," said the former tight end and outside linebacker.
When Harrison kept growing -- 6-8, 6-9, 6-10 ... -- his father told him it was time to concentrate on basketball as a junior in high school.
It proved to be a wise decision.
"I think it's really helped Dave that his father has been through the professional business," Bird said. "I think he's got a good head start."
Bird and coach Rick Carlisle planned to put Harrison through a workout this evening to start getting him acclimated to what life in the NBA is going to be like. They made it clear at the press conference that Harrison had better be ready to work.
"Like Larry told him, it's up to him now," Carlisle said. "We're going to give him every resource to become the best player he can be. We're excited about him."
And while Harrison was disappointed when he nearly fell out of the first round on draft night, playing for a team that played in the Eastern Conference finals last year and having the opportunity to learn under Bird and Carlisle might not be so bad.
"I looked at the situation in front of me with the Pacers and this is a better situation than I would have had almost anywhere else," Harrison said. "This is a gift and I'm going to use it."
One thing seems certain -- he won't back down.
"I don't get intimidated by much," Harrison said. "That's one thing my dad taught me. If you get intimidated by somebody, you're scared and you don't want to fear anything."