Harrison focused on helping Lady Cards

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, February 14, 2018

By Keith Taylor

Special to the Sun

Hayley Harrison has already made her college choice and is focused on playing basketball for the remainder of her high school career without any distractions.

Email newsletter signup

The George Rogers Clark junior forward has committed to go to the University of Tennessee at Martin following her senior campaign next year and has been an integral part of the Lady Cardinals’ success this season.

Harrison scored 28 points to lead GRC to an 81-43 victory over Madison Southern Friday night. The Lady Cardinals (20-6) conclude the regular season against Frederick Douglass and Louisville Male this week.

Harrison said making the commitment to play for the Skyhawks during her junior season eliminated the stress of going through the recruiting process for the next 15 months.

“It feels really good,” Harrison said. “I don’t have that pressure on my back and I can just play.”

The 24-point performance against the Lady Eagles was Harrison’s second 20-plus outing this month. She tallied 24 in a 59-48 win over Covington Scott on Feb. 2 at Norton Gymnasium and Clark coach Robbie Graham hasn’t been surprised by Harrison’s recent performances.

“Hayley is a two-way player,” Graham said. “She does a good job on the defensive end and the offensive end. She’s always been a good shooter, but one thing we’ve talked about improving from last year to this year is attacking the basket.”

Graham said Harrison’s athleticism gives her more options to score whether it’s in the post or on the perimeter, but the Clark coach likes the way she’s taking the ball to the basket in a fearless manner.

“She’s got a strong build and she’s really athletic,” Graham said. “She gets to the rim really well and so we want to focus on that. She’s such a good shooter people want to take that away, so she’s doing a really good job of shot-faking and driving to the basket, shot-faking and pulling up. She’s becoming an all-around player on the offensive end.”

As the postseason nears, Harrison doesn’t plan on letting up on the offensive end and plans on building on her recent success.

“I’ve gotten better and I can get better at it if I put more work into it,” she said.

A struggle for Harrison early in her career, Graham said her confidence level has soared this season, leading to breakthrough scoring performances.

“She’s become more confident,” Graham said. “That’s the biggest thing with her. Sometimes she lacks confidence in herself. We tell her all of the time, ‘you’re as good as anybody on the court, but you’ve got to lead as good as anybody on the court.’ At times she has stepped up and done that very well. She’s a very talented young lady and her confidence level needs to stay high and (keep) believing in herself.”

Harrison credits Graham and his coaching staff for the ability to compete at a higher level.

“My confidence has really improved this year,” Harrison said. “That’s what I really needed. (My coaches) help me a lot throughout the year to be more confident in myself. This year they’ve just told me to be more confident in myself. It’s a lot harder by yourself, but somebody behind you, like four or five coaches, that’s nice to have.”

The Lady Cardinals are one of the favorites to win the 10th Region title this season. Long-time nemesis Campbell County, along with Harrison County also are expected to challenge Clark, the defending champion for the region title, but Harrison and her teammates are hoping to retain their region crown.

“If we focus and put our mind to it, we can go as far as making it to the Sweet Sixteen,” Harrison said. “We’ve just got to focus in and repeat.”

Harrison said last year’s Sweet Sixteen run was “a great memory” and she is eager to return to the big stage.

“We just have to get everybody together, just go and be hungry,” she said.

Clark defeated Harlan County in the opening round of the state tournament before falling to Mercer County in the quarterfinals last year. Despite the early exit, Harrison said the Sweet Sixteen was a learning experience.

“Anything can happen,” she said. “We learned that this might be the last game that you play and to put everything on the line. That’s what I try to do. I know I have one more year, but I like to be able to say I accomplished everything I wanted (each night) and I wouldn’t want to go back (to a certain) night.”