Auburn’s KT Harrell embraces the roll as underdog, going into NBA Summer League play with the 76ers.
KT Harrell waves to fans; Auburn vs Kentucky during the fourth round of the SEC basketball tournament on Saturday, March 14, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn.
Photo by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics
AUBURN, Ala (C+P) — It must have been a long night for Auburn basketball players and fans Thursday. 30 teams, 60 draft picks, but the 2015 NBA Draft still ended without “KT Harrell” being called by Commissioner Adam Silver.
But, the undisputed leader of the Auburn Tigers basketball program was never discouraged—he’s used to having his talent overlooked:
“I knew it was going to be a tough stretch for me getting drafted,” said Harrell when asked about going undrafted. “I have always been the underdog, and I have been doubted my entire life. There were a lot of things that went on in college that I thought I should have gotten and I really haven’t gotten recognition for the things I’ve done in college or even done in these workouts.”
That’s an understatement—Harrell was the SEC leader in points per game with 18.5 and 3-point field goal percentage with an insane .434. Unfortunately, even that wasn’t enough to make him the first basketball player drafted out of Auburn since Jamison Brewer went 40th overall back in 2001.
“I actually woke up around 6[AM] because I couldn’t sleep and looked at my phone and my agent texted me that Philly wanted me to play summer league on their team in Vegas,” said Harrell describing the opportunity of a lifetime. “I was so happy and excited. It’s an exciting time for me. I’m just ready to show what I can do. It’s a blessing.”
And a well-earned and much-deserved blessing at that. Harrell will join the Sixers draft picks, other undrafted free agents, and current roster reserves in Las Vegas with a chance to showcase his
skills and earn a roster spot the hard way. Anyone that knows Harrell or watched him play could tell you that he goes out and fights when he has an opportunity to prove himself.
A perfect example, the SEC Tournament this season. After an inconsistent season which concluded with a losing record, the Tigers were ranked 13 out of 14 teams and slated to go one-and-done. Well, that didn’t pan out as expected. Three upsets later, the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats finally managed to end Auburn’s miraculous run in the semifinals.
No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 5 Texas A&M, and No. 4 LSU—a game in which KT’s buzzer-beating three ball sent the game into overtime and kept Auburn alive—all fell victim to the wrath of Harrell, who was determined to extend his senior season as long as possible.
“In the coaching profession, you think that players have to answer to coaches,” said Pearl. “Coaches need to answer to players, too. When I came to Auburn, I looked at KT Harrell, and I saw a really hard worker, a Christian kid who has his values right, but he played for a bunch of different coaches in a bunch of different programs, and what is going to happen in his senior year?”
“He just wanted to build and add to the history and tradition in some way, shape or form to Auburn basketball. He was the leading scorer in the SEC, only the sixth time in Auburn basketball history that we have had a leading scorer, and that was from a team that finished near the bottom. That’s a pretty significant accomplishment.”
“Then, for him to go on and train and have all of those NBA workout, he almost got drafted late in the second round, and he’s going to be with the 76ers on their summer league team.”
“He graduated on time and on target, so I am proud of KT.”
Well spoken, Bruce.
No matter what happens in Vegas, KT Harrell will have an army of Auburn faithful supporting him in his future endeavors. And if all goes well, there will be a lot more 76ers jerseys around campus come October.