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Roger Harden knew he would “have to give up my offense” to play point guard for Joe Hall

By LARRY VAUGHT

Roger Harden had no illusions about what his role as a point guard would be when he came to Kentucky to play for coach Joe Hall in 1982 after earning McDonald’s All-American and Mr. Basketball honors in Indiana.

“The first thing coach Hall got across to me, and he was fair because he told me up front, was that I would have to give up my offense to play point guard for him,” Harden said. “You knew you better get the ball inside to Sam Bowie, Mel Turpin and Kenny Walker.

“When I signed I knew I had taken my last 20-foot shot off the fast break. I knew what I was getting into and I wanted to play at Kentucky. To me, the greatest thing you could do was play at Kentucky.”

Harden played his role well. He had 498 assists in 122 career games. He still ranks third on UK’s all-time assists list behind Dirk Minniefield’s 646 in 123 games and Anthony Epps’ 544 in 141 games. Behind Harden are Wayne Turner with 494 in 151 games, Sean Woods 482 in 91 games and Kyle Macy 470 in 98 games.

“Dirk probably scored more at point guard and had more freedom than anybody coach Hall ever coached,” Harden said. “I am amazed at how Cal (John Calipari) makes things work with new players every year. When I got to Kentucky, Dirk was a four-year, five-star player and he had the athleticism of John Wall or De’Aaron Fox. When you are a freshman and run into that, it is not pretty.

“Then we also had Dicky Beal. You come out of that experience a man and you had time to adjust rather than having to play immediately like guys do today. I was just thinking if I could start by the time I was a junior or senior, I am willing to risk going to UK. I was one of the top two or three players in my (recruiting) class, but that was just the way it was then.”

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  1. One of my favorite players.

  2. It’s a shame that we can’t have players stay for the full four years anymore, but times change, and it doesn’t wait for anybody. I must admit I enjoyed the game much more before agendas, big time NBA salaries, ESPN & NCAA money grubbing, and internet technology. I don’t kid myself, those same things have always been there, but now on such a grand scale and seemingly much louder in my TV/Internet face. Would someone please pass the prune juice!

    1. Times change yes, but there are schools still around today that are having good basketball players stick around for 3 to 4 years in this day of the OAD. If you are going to reload with youth every year, as Calipari does, youth that are supposed to be clearly OAD types, and the most talented players in the nation, then don’t whine about your youth and inexperience when a veteran team of juniors and seniors trounces you. Like Tennessee did to this group of super stars That is the standard answer from Calipari after a loss. My question has been could Calipari and his staff take a solid class of talented basketball players, maybe a group without a single one and done type player on the roster, and mold them into a potential champion? I don’t know.

  3. I’ll be brief in my answer Larry Pup, since my typing skills suffer with aging. If that scenario existed for Cal, I think he would still find a way to win big time. He is not one of the better x & o guys, but he is IMO, the best total package. Enjoy your posting, and admire that they are respectful. Don’t see that quality much on other Boards.

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