Player preview: D`Angelo Harrison's redemption song

John Alber

D`Angelo Harrison returns to the Red Storm with a need to lead the team to NCAA play.

It's been a rocky, well-documented road back for D`Angelo Harrison. Suspended near the end of last season, D`Angelo Harrison has worked himself back in the good graces of coach Steve Lavin and the staff with a combination of good behavior and anger management training in Houston with John Lucas.

Early returns are good on D`Angelo's attitude and behavior. "His attitude has gotten a lot better. He doesn't complain any more," Sir`Dominic Pointer said.

And from JaKarr Sampson: "I can say he came back a better person. I get a different vibe from him."

The hyper-competitive Harrison is not only the team's leading scorer. He's the never-give-up engine that powers the team, the constant 15-20 points that gives the team a base to work with offensively. He's smart, insightful and passionate about winning. You could even see him in the preseason games, on his feet cheering on his teammates.

The vibe is different, but he's still passionate about the game, and about winning. He's matured, like Phil Greene and Sir`Dominic Pointer.

He still has growing to do.

The two sides of D`Angelo Harrison... on the court

Enough has been made of the D`Angelo attitude; his methods of staying calm and not yelling at referees, opponents, coaches and teammates (if you've been near the sidelines, you've seen the antics) will hopefully work.

But his on-court game needs work as well.

Masked by a team where offense is hard to come by like pork in a vegetarian restaurant, D`Angelo Harrison's last month with the program was a scoring struggle that saw him drop from just under 21 points per game in non-conference play to 11.3 points/game in five contests.

Across the board, D-Lo's game hit a wall.

Some fall-off is normal when conference play comes around. But the fact that he was hitting shots in the first half of Big East season (granted, against easier foes) and was simply missing from everywhere in the games before he was ousted from the team is a sign that something was off.

Too much willing the team to win? Frustration at his teammates? Personal issues?

It was a hard time for the team and the staff, with Lavin losing his father in the middle of that time. Having a player whose selfish and showy responses demanded attention was the last thing the team needed.

After his suspension, the Red Storm struggled, losing five of six games. Sir`Dominic Pointer lost his cool at the end of a lifeless second half by the Johnnies and was suspended after punching a player. The Red Storm looked like a wild, uncontrollable team, a squad off the rails, a crew of loose cannons.

Redemption

Almost all of the team is back, with some essential additions in the frontcourt and backcourt. D`Angelo's job should be easier on the court. But his frustrations as the team meshes new and old players could resurface.

If he can keep his emotions in check, be the supportive leader off the court, and be the patient but aggressive scorer on the court, a very good full-year D`Angelo Harrison that could emerge.

Everyone thinks a team is full of thugs when they're frustrated and losing. That same team is beloved when they're winning, dunking, and on the highlight reels.

He's not an island; he knows this team has potential to be nationally adored, to win. He's excited about the team, and willing to do what it takes to be part of a winner on the college level. "Honest, nobody cares about minutes," Harrison said reminding us of the player who brashly talked about a Final Four before setting foot on campus. "We want to win. We want to win bad."

The ceiling for Harrison is high. He shot 35% from beyond the arc in non-conference play, and he was actually off his percentages from the year before (he shot 28% in Big East play). If Harrison finds his stroke early, he could and should be a national name and a leader for the Red Storm.

And we'll all put together our favorite songs about redemption for his gauziliy-filmed human interest story during NCAA Tournament coverage.

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