By LARRY VAUGHT
Zion Harmon’s basketball odyssey is going to include another challenge next season.
After moving from Tennessee to Bowling Green and helping the Purples win the 2017 state title as an eighth grader, the talented point guard played at Adair County last season.
Now he is moving to Marshall County and met his new teammates today after officially enrolling in school at Marshall County.
It’s a historic move for a lot of reasons. Harmon was the state’s best freshman — and one of the best in the nation — last season. He’ll bring a buzz to Marshall County, a First Region team with a rich basketball tradition.
Harmon is going to a high school with a low percentage of African-Americans in the student body or in the county overall. He could also become the highest rated recruit ever at Marshall and the first African-American Division I signee at the school.
He’s also going to the school that found itself in the national spotlight in January when two students were killed and 18 injured in a shooting at the school.
Harmon played in the Marshall County Hoop Fest the last two years and both the player and his father were impressed with the facilities as well as the crowd support at Marshall. Zion Harmon was also part of a youth clinic at Heath when he came back for the McCracken County Mustang Madness. Those experiences helped convince Mike Harmon, Zion’s father, that Marshall County could give him a chance to embrace helping make a cultural change and also academically be a great fit for a student with a 3.8 grade-point average because of the academic challenge Marshall County High School would have for him.
“Our year at Adair County was incredible,” said Mike Harmon. “I believe he got what God wanted him to have. He was the MaxPreps National Freshman of the Year and he helped bring light to Adair County. He led the state in scoring and free throw percentage. He gave his all and it was a challenge he really enjoyed.
“But each year is a different challenge. I think he needs something else. We knew there would be some different challenges with Adair but it was good for him learning-wise and we appreciate the people in Adair County and the opportunity given to effect and inspire people. Coach (Deron) Breeze was great for us and he did a tremendous job.
“Yet it’s easy to see he did have an impact at Adair. You can see kids working harder with their offseason training. But we just have to do what is best for Zion and he’s ready for a new challenge.”
Harmon is a unique athlete. He spends time reading the Bible daily. He wants to be a role model for youngsters.
“People always say I am different, but I like being different. I don’t like being the normal. I don’t like being the same as somebody else. If everybody is the same and wears the same clothes, life would so boring. It’s always good to have your own style, have your own vibes,” Harmon told me during an interview during his freshman season.
College coaches are obviously going to find Harmon, who has played well with USA Basketball, no matter where he plays. He already has scholarship offers from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Southern Methodist, Stephen Austin and Creighton and has extreme interest from Kansas — where he has made an unofficial visit. He also went to Big Blue Madness at UK last October and Louisville has recently been more involved with him.
Mike Harmon says the plan remains for his son to reclassify to the 2020 recruiting class and that he’s more than on track academically to do that.
“He took extra courses this year,” Mike Harmon said. “We are doing all it takes for him to have the opportunity to reclassify if that is what he wants to do. We will take it year by year based on how he develops.”
Mike Harmon admits “we are still trying to stay in state” and hopes scholarship offers will come from Kentucky and/or Louisville.
“He has a good foundation here,” Mike Harmon said. “That’s why we did not want to go the prep school route. He likes playing in Kentucky. I wanted him to stay in a school system so he can have a normal school life. Whatever God has planned for him, we know it will just make him stronger but we think this move to Marshall County is a great fit for him and will present challenges that give him unique opportunities.”
Harmon averaged 32.7 points per game last season and scored 1,014 points. He now has 1,634 career points and if he plays three more years certainly could challenge the all-time Kentucky high school scoring record of 4,337 points.
He’s playing this summer on the Nike EYBL — the only Kentucky player in the elite circuit — with Brad Beal Elite out of St. Lous and will compete at the USA Basketball under 17 training camp in a few weeks for a spot on the World Cup team. He helped Team USA win a gold medal in the under 16 competition last year.