By LARRY VAUGHT
Sophomore standout Zion Harmon will be back playing basketball Friday night in Marshall County.
No, he won’t be playing for Marshall — he transferred there this season after leading the state in scoring at Adair County last season (32.7 points per game). Instead, he’ll play for Bella Vista Prep out of Arizona against Life Christian of Virginia.
Mike Harmon, Zion’s father, said the move has been approved by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and will not jeopardize Zion’s eligibility at Marshall next season as long as he stays enrolled at Marshall and does not enroll at Bella Vista.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association ruled Harmon ineligible basically because his father told the Paducah Sun his son was considering a move to three schools — along with prep schools — when Mike Harmon decided he wanted to find a better education/social fit for his son. Last week Thomas Russell, a senior judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, denied an injunction from Mike Harmon to overturn Zion Harmon’s ineligibility.
That left Mike Harmon looking for a way to get his son, one of the top-ranked players nationally in the 2021 recruiting class, a chance to play. Bella Vista College Preparatory School’s owner agreed to let Zion play on the basketball team on weekends without enrolling at the school — which is not in an association recognized by the national high school governing board. The KHSAA indicated if he did that and stayed enrolled at Marshall, his eligibility at Marshall would not be in jeopardy next season.
“We just wanted to make sure everything was approved,” Mike Harmon said. “We did everything possible to maintain his eligibility. We just want everyone to have total clarity about what we are doing and why.”
Bella Vista has a talented roster that includes Arizona signee Terry Armstrong, a five-star recruit, and four other seniors (Dayton Holman is a four-star recruit) with multiple Division I offers. Five-star junior Addison Patterson is a top 20 national recruit who has offers from Florida, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Oregon, Syracuse and others. Another junior, Jeron Artest, has multiple Division I offers.
Many have wondered why Mike Harmon didn’t enroll his son — who also has multiple Division I offers — in a prep school immediately when he was ruled ineligible. Zion Harmon would have faced better daily competition and been able to travel to some of the nation’s best prep basketball events at a prep school.
“Everyone has to understand what we said from the beginning was the real reason for the transfer,” Mike Harmon said. “No one wants to believe that we want to keep Zion in a normal high school and social situation. Basketball will take care of itself. The most important thing at Marshall County, or at any school, is the educational and social development.”
Mike Harmon lived in Ohio as a youngster before moving to Washington, D.C. Later he moved back to Ohio to finish high school and he also lived in Pennsylvania later.
“I know the value of growing up in a rural area and have used that as a blueprint for Zion,” Mike Harmon said. “In AAU play, you can pick any city to play as much as you want. But if Zion never plays a game for Marshall County, he’s already got so much from this experience that people just don’t understand. Nothing has shaken him.”
He had a 3.5 grade-point average the first semester while taking four college core classes — World History, English III, Spanish and Science. He’ll have 12 college core classes after his sophomore year with about a 3.65 GPA.
“All he will basically need is four more core classes to clear the NCAA clearing house,” Mike Harmon said.
Zion Harmon transferred to Marshall where a school shooting about a year ago made national headlines. Marshall is also a county with a small African-American population.
“I want Zion to help change the culture,” Mike Harmon said. “Nobody seemed to understand that.”
Not that Zion Harmon is not anxious to get back on the court. Despite the recent cold weather, he’s often been outside shooting basketball and the high school custodian has become his best friend so he can get into the gym to shoot on his own.
“He just loves the game and we’re just glad he’s going to get to play again,” Mike Harmon said.
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Bella Vista will play games Saturday and Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, in the Flyin’ to the Hoop Invitational. Bella Vista plays Huntington Prep Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and takes on ISA at Andrews Osborne Sunday at 6:30 p.m.