The NCAA ruling Turkish center Enes Kanter permanently ineligible due to receiving impermissible benefits didn't kill Kentucky's season after all. Out of it came the unlikely rise of forward Josh Harrellson, and now the Wildcats are going to the Final Four.
But Kanter, who's soon expected to be a first round draft pick, hasn't been completely left out in this postseason run. Players say he has made an impact as a practice player, with Harrellson going up against him every day.
"Going against him everyday makes me a better player," Harrellson told reporters. "Every day in and out just competing against him, doing drills with him, even if I am not going against him just watching him; I am just trying to match him. Just doing that makes me more confident and being able to stop him in practice make me go into every game knowing I am not going to play someone as good as Enes."
Wildcats guard Brandon Knight indicated that Kanter helped raise Harrellson's confidence, using the future NBA player as a gauge of what kind of offensive moves he could successfully make.
"He is one of the best big men in the country," Knight said. "For Josh to go up against him each and every day it helps (Harrellson) out. He knows what he can and can't do. When you do it against the best of the best, you know what you can and can't do. You can see how (Harrellson) got better."
Guard DeAndre Liggins said he senses Kanter, who is not listed on Kentucky's official roster, wants to be on the court during the postseason. "It's hard for him to admit that, but that is just the way it is," Liggins said.
He also thinks Harrellson changed his mentality after the NCAA made its ruling.
"It kind of got me down a little bit," Harrellson said. "I wanted him to play more than anybody. I would have given up anything for him to come out and play, but he was ruled ineligible and from there I got better as the season went on. Some people are happy now that he didn't play because I have taken full advantage of my opportunity and have done a lot of great things with it. I still wish he could have played though."