Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Olympiacos on Friday night (21:00 Israel time) on Gameday 4 of the Euroleague as the Yellow & Blue will look to put and end to their two game losing streak after to falling last week to CSKA in Moscow and this week to Bayern Munich at Yad Eliyahu. The Piraeus based club who are sitting in 4th place with a 2-1 record will look to build off of their impressive 86-75 win over Milano on Wednesday night as head coach Giorgos Bartokas had his squad firing on all cylinders by the Athens port.
One of the club’s brand new players, Aaron Harrison has made a favorable impression so far this season averaging 10.3 points per game and helped his team defeat Milano with solid second half play. In fact, with the Italians had a 53-52 lead midway through the third quarter the shooting guard hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to send the Greeks on their way to victory as the San Antonio, Texas native scored 14 of his 16 points over the final 15 minutes of the contest.
Ahead of the clash against Maccabi Tel Aviv, The Sports Rabbi spoke to Harrison about his time with Kentucky and coach John Calipari, playing in the NBA, the keys to beating Maccabi and his goals for the upcoming season with Olympiacos, his first in the Euroleague.
“My goals are to make the playoffs. Contribute to the team and help us win. Olympiacos sounded like the best opportunity to me. It’s a great opportunity.”
Harrison ventured overseas for the first time in the 2018/19 season when he signed with the Istanbul based squad, Galatasaray. Following two seasons in which he averaged 15 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists along with shooting 40% from beyond the arc it was time to move on to greener pastures. But the time in Turkey and in the EuroCup competition definitely set the stage for Harrison’s European development, “My experience in Galatasaray helped me with getting used to European basketball. My coach and teammates were very helpful and I will always remember the time I played there.”
However, prior to beginning his continental career, Harrison spent some time in the NBA with the Charlotte Hornets and the Dallas Mavericks while also featuring in the G-League for a number of various franchises. Playing in the NBA for any player is a dream come true and that was no different for Harrison whose twin brother Andrew also played in the “World’s Greatest League”.
“Playing in the NBA was definitely a dream come true. I didn’t experience it the way I wanted to but it definitely was a dream come true to play with players like Kemba Walker in Charlotte and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas and to see what it takes. That was a dream come true and a good experience.”
Despite playing over 25 minutes a game with Dallas and averaging 6.7 points per game in 9 appearances, Harrison wasn’t offered a contract to return to the club which led to his eventual departure for Europe.
“I had a really rough time with the Mavs I didn’t play well and I wasn’t sure about my future. It’s hard to know about your future in basketball. As for one day returning to the NBA I can’t think about it like that now. I’m about to be 26 years old and I’m enjoying playing basketball. So if that happens great if it doesn’t, it’s still great.”
Harrison played at Kentucky between 2013-2015 and hit a pair of game winning 3-pointers in back to back knockout games in the 2014 NCAA Tournament against Michigan and Wisconsin but John Calipari’s team just came up short in the National Title game versus the University of Connecticut. However that didn’t take anything away from the college experience and having the opportunity to play with his brother, “The competitive spirit and learning how to win are the biggest things I took away from coach Cal. It was great playing with my brother and it was a great experience that we went to two Final Fours in college. It was amazing to see our success together.”
Harrison played with a number of NBA stars at Kentucky including Karl Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Willie Cauley Stein to name a few and he isn’t surprised one bit as to how they have progressed in the pro game, “I think they all had great confidence. The main things are confidence and opportunity. Those guys had a lot of confidence and the opportunity and put the work in. I’m not surprised at all.”
After the win over Milano, Harrison was happy that he was able to contribute and that the team had the confidence in him to keep shooting the ball, ”My teammates and my coaches stuck with me. Shooting is my thing, so I just have to stick with it, stay confident, and use that to try to help my team win.”
As for the keys to beating Maccabi on Friday night Harrison is well aware that they’ll have to play tight defense to stymie the Yellow & Blue attack, “We have to share the ball, play defense and playing hard. We’ve got to just keep feeding off of each other, keep playing together and keep playing tough.”