Provo • There have been times this season that BYU freshman Damarcus Harrison has lived up to the hype that accompanied him from high school, like just about a week ago, when he played 20 minutes against Pepperdine and made a key 3-pointer to help the Cougars get out of their long-range shooting slump.
Harrison, a 6-foot-5 guard from South Carolina who played his final year of prep basketball at a private school (Christ School) in North Carolina, also had good games against Longwood, Wisconsin and Baylor.
But there have been plenty of low points for Harrison as well, including this past weekend, when he didn’t get into the game against San Francisco and played just five minutes against Santa Clara. Against the Broncos, Harrison picked up an offensive foul while driving to the basket — it appeared he was going to try to dunk the ball over an SCU defender — and did not score or get a rebound before coach Dave Rose took him out of the game for good.
“I thought he gave us some good minutes in the first half,” Rose said, while declining to say why Harrison didn’t play against USF and didn’t play more against Santa Clara.
Certainly, if Harrison is ever going to get a chance to show what he can do, it is now, with junior guard/forward Stephen Rogers out with a knee injury for at least another week.
“I know that when I get into the game, after not playing a lot, I have got to make the most out of those minutes,” Harrison said before the two-game trip to the Bay Area. “You want the coach to have faith in you, keep playing you. So you have to come out, play hard, play tough and make sure you are doing the right things. Then, hopefully, the coaches will let you keep playing.”
Harrison is averaging just 6.2 minutes and 3.5 points per game and has played in 25 of the 23-6 Cougars’ 29 games.
He also acknowledged he’s struggling a bit off the court, as most freshmen do.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “Sometimes you have your down times and stuff. But that’s why you have good teammates who you can talk to, and good coaches. And then you have family that can really get you through those down spots when you have homesickness and everything. It is a great thing to be around great people. That helps.”
One of those confidants is guard Anson Winder, who went through much of what Harrison is going through this year, except that Winder redshirted his first year in Provo.
“We talk all the time,” said Winder, who is flourishing in his second year in Provo, having started in 11 games. “It is harder when you are a freshman and playing, when you are thrown in there. But he’s adjusting well, and he’s doing OK.”
Harrison has sent out a few tweets on his Twitter account intimating that he’s homesick and not especially happy at BYU, but he said last week that he’s not thinking about leaving or anything like that. At least, he’s not thinking about leaving and not coming back.
“I am really just thinking about church and everything,” he said. “I am thinking about a [church] mission, maybe. There’s just a lot on my mind. [The possibility of going on a mission] is 50-50. I am just trying to see how things work out.”
After Harrison played well against Pepperdine in Provo, Rose hinted that more playing time was in store for Harrison, but that didn’t happen on the road trip.
“I think in practice he is really playing a lot harder,” Rose said. “I think his competitiveness is way better. I think that he’s learned a lot in this process. I thought the minutes he played the other night were really important for us and really important for him. He made good use of the time.”
Damarcus Harrison file
• BYU freshman has played in 25 of 29 games this season.
• Averaging 3.5 points, 1.0 rebound and 9.4 minutes per game.
• Chose BYU over offers from Clemson, Florida State, Marquette and Wisconsin.
• Helped Christ School (North Carolina) to a 32-5 record as a high school senior.
P BYU at Gonzaga, 9 p.m., TV • ESPN2