MONTICELLO — Jared Harrison and Arkansas-Monticello men’s head coach Allen Sharpe had never met until Harrison arrived on campus to begin his senior season.
“I had never seen him play,” Sharpe said of his point guard. “When he got here I didn’t even know who he was.
“I just knew who he played for.”
Before spending last season at Stephen F. Austin, where he only played 99 minutes in 17 games, Harrison played two years at Connors State (Okla.) Junior College.
The coaching staff of the Cowboys is the main reason Harrison and Sharpe eventually came together.
“My junior college coaches called me and said they have a college I should look at,” Harrison said. “I looked it up and liked what I saw.”
The coaches also put in a good word with Sharpe.
“When he walked in here on campus was the first time I’d seen him,” Sharpe said. “When you are on a shoe-string budget and only have one assistant coach, … a lot of times you just have to go off the high school or junior college they played at. …
“The assistant coach (at Connors State) called me and just spoke very highly of him. He won a lot of games there playing point guard during his two seasons.”
So far, Harrison has made a major impact in his only season with UAM, helping lead the Boll Weevils to an 11-3 start, including a 4-2 mark in the Great American Conference.
UAM, though, dropped its most recent GAC game at Southern Nazarene (Okla.) with Harrison scoring 12 points but finishing just 3 for 13 from the field in a 71-66 loss.
Harrison and UAM will look to bounce back when they travel to Russellville to play Arkansas Tech (9-5, 4-2) on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at Tucker Coliseum.
Through the team’s first 14 games, Sharpe said he’s been impressed with Harrison’s ability to run UAM’s offensive system.
“It’s never easy for anyone that’s new,” Sharpe said. “We haven’t changed anything, so he’s done a good job picking up all the things that we want to do.”
Harrison credited his quick adjustment to a familiarity with UAM’s style of play.
“I was kind of prepped before I came,” he said. “I had been places where I would push when needed and slow it down when they wanted.
“In that way, (coming here) worked out really well.”
Sharpe particularly likes the balance in Harrison’s offensive game.
“He’s done really well having a balance between shooting and facilitating and running the offense,” Sharpe said. “A lot of guards try to score too much or don’t look for their shot enough, so he’s got a nice balance.”
Harrison’s numbers speak for themselves.
The 5-foot-11 Slidell, La., native is second on the Weevils in points per game (12.3) as well as assists per game (3.4). Harrison has reached double-figure points in 10 out of 14 games, including nine of the last 11.
He shoots at a 41.5 percent clip from the field, while connecting on 45.1 percent of his three-pointers and 81.3 percent of his free throws. Harrison leads the latter two categories among Weevils playing significant minutes.
If there’s one worry with Harrison, it might be the number of minutes he’s been playing. He’s averaging 32.5 minutes per game on the season, but his average in conference games is at 37.2 mpg.
Sharpe hopes he has found a way to alleviate the problem with the emergence of junior point guard Kenric McCants, who had 12 assists in Saturday’s 92-66 home win over Ecclesia College.
According to Sharpe, Harrison and McCants will start sharing the floor more often.
“Jared plays a lot of minutes,” Sharpe said. “He exerts a lot of energy bringing the ball up and getting us set up in things.
“With Kenric in there, Jared could slide to the two.”
Harrison appears to be onboard with the lineup change.
“I like playing with Ken,” he said. “With me being off the ball, I don’t have to work as hard to get my shot.
“Having him bring the ball up helps. … It relieves me from having to deal with a lot of pressure.”
Sharpe just hopes Harrison doesn’t try to change his approach with McCants on the floor.
“I don’t want that to take away from what Jared has done,” Sharpe said. “We need Jared to keep doing what he’s doing.
“We don’t want his role to change.”