Harrow vs. Mann: In battle of guards, the point might go to Georgia

semerson@macon.comMarch 6, 2013 

ATHENS -- There aren’t many college basketball programs that win recruiting battles against Kentucky, and Georgia lost one a couple of years ago. In this case, however, it might turn into one of the best things to happen to Georgia.

The player in question, Ryan Harrow, will be in the building Thursday night when Kentucky visits. It will be the typical Kentucky road show, with ESPN broadcasting the game, Bob Knight serving as the color analyst and an expected heavy contingent of Wildcats fans.

But for the first time in three years, Kentucky isn’t coming to town as one of the nation’s top teams. In fact, the Wildcats aren’t even ranked and might need to beat the Bulldogs to get into the NCAA tournament.

Part of the reason Kentucky, the defending national champion, hasn’t been as good as expected is because Harrow has struggled to be steady at point guard. The sophomore, who sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules, was expected to provide a veteran presence on a typically young Kentucky team. Instead, he lost his starting job for five games.

Two years ago, Harrow, a native of Marietta, decided to transfer from N.C. State, where he started 20 games as a freshman and averaged 10.2 points per game. Georgia was initially the favorite to land Harrow, but then Kentucky became interested, too, and that was it.

A short time later, Georgia got a commitment from Charles Mann, a 6-foot-4 point guard from Alpharetta. Mann was only rated a three-star by the major recruiting services. But, arguably, Mann has been better for Georgia this year than Harrow has been for Kentucky.

Mann has emerged as perhaps the team’s second-best player this season, and the point guard position seems in good hands with Mann going forward.

He had 18 points in Saturday’s win over Tennessee, as well as eight assists and no turnovers. That was after a bit of a rough start to the season, which is why he’s still only averaging 6.6 points and three assists per game.

“I’ve just been trying to work hard and keep my head up throughout the season,” Mann said.

Georgia offered Mann as a high school junior -- when Harrow was still at N.C. State -- so it’s always possible that Mann would have come to Georgia anyway. But he might not have played as much this year. And with Harrow only a sophomore this year, the situation might have been thorny during the next few years. Or Mann would be playing off the ball more.

In any case, the Bulldogs like the situation they’ve had this year, with Mann coming off the bench behind senior Vincent Williams -- with whom Mann has formed an unusual bond.

“Charles Mann, he’s a great player. He’s a freshman but in my eyes he doesn’t even play like a freshman, to be honest with you,” Williams said. “I enjoy every practice I have with these guys, especially Charles, because he plays the same position as me. It’s kind of fun: He plays more minutes than me, but I look at it as (I’m) coaching him as well. Telling him some things to do. But he has a great mind for the game. I think they’ll be pretty good.”

Head coach Mark Fox said Williams and other seniors have been “unbelievably selfless” this season.

“I had an NBA guy come and stop me after the game Saturday to compliment Vincent,” Fox said. “He said, ‘No. 11, he’s really cheering on No. 4.’ And that was so impressive to him.”

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