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Trezz thinking big: Harrell back in town for free camp, AAU team

052619Montrezlharrell

Montrezl Harrell

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Montrezl Harrell’s knees were almost up to his shoulders.

The Tarboro native and current NBA center looked a little out of place on Saturday while sitting on the metal bleachers at the Rocky Mount Event Center. Actually, he was perfectly comfortable watching his AAU basketball team compete during a tournament that swallowed the building whole as the entire floor was transformed into basketball courts.

Harrell was easy enough to find. The Los Angeles Clippers player sat among the crowd, his pierced nose carried a gold stud in each nostril. He wore blue overalls with a white shirt underneath, and the white-rimmed sunglasses covering his eyes never came off.

 

“I want my AAU team to be a spittin’ image of me,” Harrell said, stretching out his long legs. “I play hard and I’m really passionate about the game so I want guys who want to come and work.”

Harrell is back in town for the early part of the summer as his Clippers were recently eliminated from the NBA playoffs. He plans to hang with family and go fishing with his father, get his fill from several local food stops, and will host a youth basketball camp in June.

Highway 55 Diner (it’s the cheesesteak that now has Harrell hungry), Cookout, Bojangles’ and Zaxby’s are all on the menu.

As for his camp, the free instruction will be held June 22 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rocky Mount High School, and is for area youth looking to gain instruction and hone their skills from an NBA player. Prizes and giveaways are also included. He joins Rams running back Todd Gurley in returning to town to hold a free camp.

“It’s from being here, being from around this area, that I know not a lot of kids have the money to put it all into a basketball camp,” Harrell said. “I just love giving back to the community. I’m not looking to gain money from something like this. I’m blessed to be financially stable and I’m excited to be able to give back to the kids. And maybe for them to be around someone that made it to the NBA from around their area will make an impact.”

Harrell, 25, played basketball at North Edgecombe for three years before going on to star at Louisville. Now, he just finished his fourth season in the NBA. And it was his best one yet.

He averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, done while playing a career-high 26.3 minutes per game. Harrell and teammate Lou Williams were both named finalists for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award — along with Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis.

Williams won last season for the second time in his career. The winners will be announced on June 24 as part of the league’s end of season awards.

“I spent a lot of time working with Lou, getting better, working on our game,” Harrell said. “A lot of people just think that this comes together naturally, but we put a lot of time in this offseason.

“I’m seeing how he’s working, seeing how he wants things done. A guy like that, seeing his mentality is important. He’s in his 30s (32) and that’s when you start to lose a step and you have to figure out the game a little more. So if you can learn to play with a guy so smart and offensively talented and still find your niche in between, you’ll be fine.”

Williams and Harrell became the first pair of teammates to come off the bench and each score 25 points in a playoff game, a feat they accomplished this season in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors.

The pair were un-guardable in the pick-and-roll, and despite being undersized for a traditional center, Harrell said he soon figured out that hard work and grit makes up for that.

Harrell modeled some of his game after Taj Gibson, and the two even traded jerseys after a game. Harrell had Gibson sign the lime green Timberwolves jersey, and he plans to have it framed.

Coming off the first year of his two-year, $12 million deal with Los Angeles, Harrell believes there’s much more to come.

“Most definitely. I’m nowhere the peak. I’ve been in a lot of situations where I had to learn and grow as a player,” he said. “My first year didn’t play, my second year I got some spurts of playing with some guys and not others, and it wasn’t until my third year where I was coming along enough to get an actual role on a team. And this year, I flourished from it.”

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