Harrison Anxious to Get Started
By John Clayton | June 28, 2004 The newest of the Indiana Pacers' big men arrived in Indianapolis Monday afternoon – just in time to go to work.
After an introduction to local media, David Harrison, sitting alongside Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird and Coach Rick Carlisle, was headed to the gym for his first workout as a member of the Indiana Pacers.
“We’ve set it up so that he’s in here for a couple of days,” said Carlisle. “It gives us a chance to get to know him a little bit and get on the court and work on some things. It’s going to be a long journey for him because I expect him to be in this league for a long time. We just want to get him off on the right foot.”
Harrison’s short professional career has already been met with draft-night disappointment and speculation about whether his temperament and maturity level are ready for the NBA.
But, again, Harrison met his detractors head on.
Yes, his hands are smallish - in relative terms to seven-footers - but that is also a knock on Jermaine O’Neal, and “look at him.” Some have said his brain is too big – that he’s too smart for basketball. He responds, “How can you be too smart for anything?” Yes, he takes losing hard, maybe too hard sometimes, but wants to continue to play every game as if it’s his last. Yes, he “looks sleepy” on the court, but averaged 37 minutes per game last season. The people who questioned his work ethic weren’t up with him at 7:00 a.m. every day as he prepared for his pre-draft workouts.
“I want to prove all these people wrong that have these thoughts and opinions on me, said Harrison. “And maybe in a couple of years I can look back on all of it and laugh.”
As an All-Big 12 center and three-year starter at Colorado, the 7-foot, 285-pound Harrison developed solid basketball skills to go with obvious physical attributes. A rare combination of size, strength and skill is often enough for a player of Harrison’s ilk to land among the top players in the NBA Draft.
But Harrison fell to the Pacers at No. 29 – the final pick of the first round. His reaction was frustration, followed by elation and then relief that the three-year guaranteed contract awarded the league’s first-round draft picks awaited him rather than the tenuous job security of a second-round selection.
“Draft night was a long, long night,” he said. “After I got picked, I was elated. Then, I kind of felt a little disrespected – I mean, I go and finish first-team All Big-12, I’m my conference’s second leading scorer and I get overlooked by every team in the league, almost. But then, I looked at the situation I have with the Pacers and realized that this is a better situation than I would have had almost anywhere else. This is a gift and I’m going to use it. If you don’t use your gifts, they’re taken away. I believe that.”
Physically, Harrison is already one of the largest pure centers in the Eastern Conference. The course over the next few months during workouts and the NBA’s Summer League in Utah will be set toward refining his game for the professional level.
“You can always get better at almost everything,” said Harrison. “Defensively, I’m going to work harder at staying low in my position and timing on my shot blocks. Offensively, I want to work on scoring further and further out. Those are two things, if I get them down, it’s going to be real hard to stop me.”
His physical skills alone have Carlisle intrigued.
“We don’t have a guy like David. We don’t have a guy with his height in terms of size and his strength,” Carlisle said. “Scot Pollard is the closest thing, but I think David is a guy who has a little more brute, power type of strength than Scot. He fills a void. He’s something we don’t have.”
After Carlisle ‘s initial workouts with him, Harrison will return to join the Pacers’ Summer League team, which is to also include James Jones, Fred Jones and Jonathan Bender. Training camp for NBA teams will begin in October.
Harrison, for one, is anxious to get started.
“I kind of wish it was tomorrow,” he said joining the rest of the Pacers. “I like to jump into things. It starts today for me and I’m happy it’s here. It’s an opportunity I’ve worked for and prayed for, and it’s here.
That opportunity also comes with responsibility – one that Harrison has a unique insight into as the son of former NFL defensive lineman Dennis “Big Foot” Harrison, who spent 10 NFL seasons with Philadelphia, Atlanta and San Francisco.
“When you’re in athletics as a professional and even in college at the Division I level, you’re in a fishbowl and you’ve got to be aware that what other people do, you can’t do because you really stand out,” said Dennis Harrison. “He’s aware of that. We’ve raised him right, we feel. He knows right from wrong. We don’t worry about that. We don’t worry about getting a call to pick our children up from downtown. David just has to do the thing’s he’s doing – work hard. Like I told him, if you work hard and are in better shape that puts you ahead of half the people you’ve got to go against.”
That work was to begin on a lonely court Monday afternoon – just a player and his coach. Soon enough, preparation will meet opportunity as Harrison’s NBA career officially begins.
“Our job is measured in wins and losses and when we bring a young kid in, you expect him to be professional,” said Bird. “It’s good that his father has been in the professional business (of sports) and he’s got a good head on his shoulder. It all comes down to how hard you want to work.
“I’m a firm believer that if he does things right the first year, gets acclimated and feels comfortable with the system we have, his potential is unlimited because he has a lot of talent. He’s got size. He’s got strength, and we’ve just got to put it together.”
Transcript of press conference:
David Harrison Press
Conference Transcript June 28, 2004 Larry Bird: Good afternoon. We’re here to introduce the newest member of the Indiana Pacers, David Harrison. We’re very excited about having this young man on our team now. He’s 7 foot. He’s going to weigh about 280, I don’t know what he weighs now. But we feel we’re very fortunate to have a young man with the talent of David, having a man slide that far down in the draft. He’s very appreciative of us taking him in the first round, but we’re very appreciative that the other teams passed him up because we think we’ve got a kid who’s willing to work and do the things necessary to get better as the year goes on. So we’ll turn it over to David because this is his day.
Harrison: Any questions?
Bird: You’ve got to give them a statement or something.
Harrison: Uh, hi. How you doin'? I’m David from Boulder, Colorado. I don’t really know what to do.
Q: Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed?
Harrison: Yeah, this is awesome. This is a day you dream of. It really is.
Q: There’s been some questions about your ability to work and how hard that you’re willing to work. When you entered the draft, your coach from Colorado said you stopped working. What do you have to say? How can you defend that?
Harrison: I’m just going to show them. I mean they might have a valid case about the past, but that was the past and now I am just pressing forward to the future.
Carlisle: It’s interesting that you asked that question because he has answered those a little bit. And we’ve gone to the trouble of taking some of his quotations and I’ll read a couple of them to you: “My work ethic has been questioned, but I am going to come in there and show them I am the hardest working player they have ever drafted.” – Harrison
We’re going to put these up in his locker. Second one: “I am going to have six, seven months to answer all these questions and believe me, I am going to have a lot of answers for people. I’ve got a 28 player chip on my shoulder.” – Harrison
That’s the second one and the third one is “I want to be an All-Star within my first contract. I want to start my rookie year. I want to make the All-Rookie Team. So I definitely have lofty goals and I’ll have to work hard to get there.” – Harrison
Carlisle: He’s gone on record with a lot of things and we are going to keep reminding him of that. So you don’t need to bring up things that he’s already said.
Q: Given the fact that this is a team that has a deep roster, what do you feel your chances are of really being able to contribute in your first year?
Harrison: I think that my chances are pretty high. Like Mr. Bird said, I am 7 feet, 285 pounds. I am probably the biggest person in the East besides (Zydrunas) Ilgauskus. I think I have a really high chance to contribute a lot to this team. And, like coach said, I just have to work hard and I’ll achieve my goals.
Q: Did you have a team that you were hoping you would go to? Sliding down into the twenties did you start thinking that you had a chance to go to a team that has a legitimate chance of winning a title?
Harrison: That’s what my agent was telling me. It’s kindof a blessing in disguise going that late. But, (the Pacers) were four points away from the finals last year, so I just want to hope that maybe I could score those five points that they needed to win. Maybe I can help the team win more games next season.
Q: How much have you seen of the Pacers, other than in the playoffs?
Harrison: I saw all the playoff games, but I didn’t get to watch them a lot in Boulder.
Q: Did you ever think the day would come where you would be sitting next to Larry Bird, on a podium, wearing an NBA hat?
Harrison: I am still kind of shocked about that.
Q: You haven’t asked for his autograph or anything?
Harrison: I was going to later.
Q: What do you have to do to refine your game, things you have to work on to get to that next level?
Harrison: You can always get better at almost anything. Defensively I am going to work harder to stay low on my position, timing my shot blocks. Offensively I am going to work on scoring from further and further out. I mean, that’s two things if I can get down it’s going to be really hard to stop me.
Q: Larry Bird, Reggie Miller and Jeff Foster have all seen you play. Were you ever aware when NBA people were at your games? Were you ever conscious of who were at your games?
Harrison: I remember a couple former players that were scouts and you would see them out wandering around the concourse before games, but you’re not really aware of it, you’re just trying to play your game.
Q: Is it frustrating being a three-year college guy and seeing your name slide down in favor of high school kids and European players who are still relatively young go before you?
Harrison: That’s the nature of the draft right now. It’s been like that for three or four years. So it’s frustrating, but what can I do about it? I mean, I don’t have a draft pick.
Q: Seeing how Jermaine O’Neal got beat up and took some big hits against the Pistons, with a big guy in there that’s 40 or 40 pounds heavier than Jeff Foster, how much pressure will that take off?
Carlisle: Well, we don’t have a guy like David. We don’t have a guy with his height in terms of size and his strength. You know, I think Scot Pollard is the closest thing. But I think David’s a guy that has a little more brute type power strength than Scot. So he fills a void of something we don’t have. It’s interesting, I looked at his college stats today and here’s a guy who averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and shot over 60 percent from the field for three years, playing in a big time conference and has great statistics, the only thing that he really needs to work on statistically is free-throw shooting. He’s at 55 percent and I’ve seen him shoot in a work out tape and he’s got good form so I think that’s something that he’s going to be able to work on pretty easily. This is a great opportunity for our franchise. And it’s a great opportunity for him if he really takes advantage of it. Like I believe Larry’s told him, it’s up to him now because we are going to give him every resource to become the best player that he can be. When we’re done here we’re going to the gym. We’re going to get started and we’re excited about it.
Q: What are your plans for summer?
Harrison: I was pretty much planning on moving out here as soon as possible. I was going to stay out here all summer and try to get used to the area and try to get used to the system and just work my way from there.
Q: Have you ever been to Indy before?
Harrison: Yeah, the Nike camps here, so I have been up here a couple times.
Q: What did you learn from your dad about being a professional athlete?
Harrison: More about the key to being a pro is keeping a schedule like being punctual…sorry if I was late today. Just performing in a professional manner on and off the court. It’s something you have to do.
Q: How do you like to play offense or approach the basket?
Harrison: I like playing with my back to the basket. I’m one of the classic centers I think in that respect.
Q: What are your expectations for David? Whodoes he remind you of? What can he become?
Bird: He’s a real center. He’s got the strength. He’s got the size. I don’t know if I can come up with a name as to who he is comparable to, but like Rick said it’s up to him now. This is a job. It’s just like you tell all the young kids coming in, when you get here it’s time to get to work. You know our jobs are measured on wins and losses, and when we bring a young kid in we expect him to be professional. Obviously he’s got to learn a lot of things, but I think it’s helped David that his father’s been through a lot of the process in the professional business. And I think he’s got a good head start on most of it, but it all comes down to how hard you want to work and work ethic. How well you get along with your fans and your teammates and you just take it a step at a time. I’m a firm believer that if he does the right things the first year, he gets acclimated and he feels comfortable with the system we have, his potential is unlimited because he’s got talent and he’s got size and he’s got strength. Now we’ve just got to put it together.
Q: Were you impressed with his workouts before the draft?
Bird: I don’t put a lot of emphasis on workouts. I’ve seen him play a number of times this year and I think you are going to be surprised with the type of talent. He has skill, and obviously he has to get better just like everyone. But I am very impressed with the young man.
Carlisle to Harrison: I’ve got a question for David. It’s says here, in your personal, that you were an open-option major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. What is an open-option major, because that sounds like something I should have explored when I was in school.
Harrison: It’s something you can do when you don’t want to declare your major. But I’ve declared it, they just never update our website. I was a history major, pre-law philosophy minor.
Q: Did you declare your major before you went into the NBA Draft?
Harrison: It’s an NCAA rule that you have to have a certain number of credit hours towards your degree after your sophomore year, so I declared it that summer of my sophomore year. That’s the updated web-system of Colorado, though, right there.
Q: It says your favorite sports team is the Philadelphia 76ers. Do you want to defend that as well?
Harrison: Growing up, being from that area, that’s the team that I knew. But I’ll amend that now, they didn’t draft me.
Q: Do you know any of the current Pacers from Nike camps or anything?
Harrison: I have met a couple. I don’t know any of them as friends.
Q: Is it intimidating coming in and playing with people like Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal?
Harrison: I think it’s more exciting. I don’t really get intimidated by much. That’s another thing that my dad taught me. If you’re intimidated by somebody, you’re scared. And there’s no point to fear anything. So, it’s more exciting to me than being intimidating.