This time last year, Josh Harrellson was preparing for the NBA draft and facing the unknown of where he would fit in in the league.
That should sound familiar to Kentucky fans. Darius Miller is in the same position now, and Harrellson, the Wildcats reclamation project-turned-New York Knicks contributor as a rookie, thinks his college teammate has a chance to make a similar or greater impact in his rookie campaign.
"Darius is a tremendous player," Harrellson said Thursday evening after playing in a pickup game in Maysville. "Very smart. He knows his role. He's been in every part of college basketball there is. He's been the leader for the last two years of the Kentucky Wildcats, and he's very, very mature, so he's gonna go in and he's gonna help any team he goes to.
"He's already developed his game. ... There's still a lot of growth for him, but he's gonna help out any team that he goes to right off the bat, probably a lot more than most of the other guys. I'm really looking forward to see what he does this year."
Harrellson finished with 4.4 points per game in 37 games in the lockout-shortened season for the Knicks, who went 36-30 and fell in the first round of the playoffs to eventual NBA finalist Miami.
"My first year, I started off really, really well. I was playing 20 minutes a game," he said. "I had an injury, broke my wrist, kind of had a setback there, but then I ended the season very well. I started well, ended well, so hopefully I can carry over the positive energy into next season."
He likened the playoff experience to playing in the NCAA tournament, which his Kentucky team did his senior year, making the first of back-to-back Final Four runs.
"It was awesome to be able to experience playoffs," he said. "It was a whole different atmosphere, kind of like the tournament, when we played here, so it's definitely different. Every possession counts when you're in the NBA or in the tournament, so you get to see a different side of people."
The St. Charles, Mo., native, wearing a blue and orange Knicks shirt, was in Maysville to get some play in with several locals.
"It's an easy way to stay in shape," Harrellson said of pickup ball. "Nobody likes conditioning, so you might as well do it running up and down the court playing against people. It's a lot better to work on your game that way than throwing up a bunch of shots wide open. Defense always helps."
Harrellson said it was his first time in town this summer, and he came up to play at Miller's father Brian's invitation.
"Whenever I'm in town I'll be sure and make a stop out here," he said.
Harrellson said he splits his summers between his home and his college home. He'll be going to Las Vegas soon for the NBA summer league, but relishes his time in the Bluegrass State.
"Kentucky is the place I want to be," he said. "I love everything about it and a lot of people love me here, so I'll probably reside here when I'm done."