2015-16 Season in Review | Aaron Harrison
By Sam Perley, hornets.com
2015-16 Review | Aaron Harrison
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Oftentimes, the excitement and pageantry surrounding the players selected in the annual NBA Draft can overshadow rookies like Hornets guard, Aaron Harrison, who end up earning their place in the league through less glamorous methods. One of two first-year players for Charlotte this season, Harrison impressively defied the odds by joining a select handful in the league who landed on an NBA roster despite going undrafted last June.
Road Less Traveled to the NBA
After spending two years amongst a handful of other future professional players at the University of Kentucky, Harrison declared for the 2015 NBA Draft following consecutive Final Four runs with the Wildcats. Unfortunately, Harrison did not hear his name called in either of the draft’s two rounds but was able to latch on with the Hornets for the 2015 Summer League in Orlando, FL. Harrison averaged 13.4 points on 42.1 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals in five games for Charlotte, a stretch which led to the Hornets offering him a two-year partially-guaranteed contract with the team. He would go on to claim the last remaining spot on the team at the end of training camp, becoming one of the few undrafted rookies to make a season-opening NBA roster this year.
Harrison made his NBA debut in a 113-88 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 20, finishing with one rebound in two minutes of play. He appeared in nine total games for the Hornets by the midway point of January, averaging 0.8 points and 0.9 rebounds in 4.3 minutes of action.
Harrison Hits the D-League
On Jan 21, Charlotte assigned Harrison to the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA D-League in order to get him some increased playing time and further accelerate his development. He finished with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes of a 118-107 loss to the Los Angeles D-Fenders on Jan. 22 before being recalled back to Charlotte the following day. On Feb. 1, he was reassigned back to the Blue for three more games, eventually finishing out his tenure in Oklahoma City with overall averages of 9.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 18.3 minutes. He was brought back to Charlotte on Feb. 7.
Just over a month later on March 13, the Hornets sent Harrison back to the D-League, only this time to play for the Erie Bayhawks. He averaged 21.3 points on 37.7 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 35.1 minutes across nine games for the Bayhawks. His best performance during his time with Erie took place on March 26 as he knocked down a career-high 34 points, four rebounds and two steals in a 122-111 loss to the Canton Charge. This nine-game stretch also included three contests against his former collegiate teammate and identical twin brother, Andrew, who spent the year playing for the Iowa Energy.
Harrison was recalled back to Charlotte on Apr. 3 but continued to see limited playing time with the Hornets. He did manage to tally six points and five rebounds, both of which were career highs, in the team’s final regular season game of the year, which ended in a 117-103 home win over the Orlando Magic on Apr. 13. In 21 total games with the Hornets this season, Harrison averaged 0.9 points and 0.7 rebounds in 4.4 minutes. He played 13 total games in the D-League, managing 17.6 points on 36.3 percent shooting, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.9 minutes.
2016-17 Season Outlook
Harrison is under contract with the Hornets going into next season. During postseason exit interviews, Charlotte general manager, Rich Cho, indicated that the organization’s new NBA D-League team, the Greensboro Swarm, will be a much more effective alternative for Harrison’s development rather than what he was forced to do this year.
“It’s a huge benefit [to have our own D-League franchise]. So for example, we sent Aaron to the D-League and we sent him to Oklahoma City first, and then to Erie. When he went down there, he had to learn totally new terminology and schemes. If we had our own D-League team [this past season], it would’ve been the same sets offensively and defensively and would have made his transition much more seamless,” said Cho.
Harrison was also able to reflect on his NBA rookie season in Charlotte during his own exit interview on May 2.
“I had a great rookie year. We won a lot of games. We had a really close team. I really enjoyed myself on and off the court. It was a great experience just to get my NBA career started,” said Harrison. “[This group was] amazing. Of course they’re a little hard on me sometimes, but they definitely helped me a lot. [They] taught me a lot, which I think was the most important thing. It’s tough to get a group of guys so established in the NBA to be so helping and stuff like that. I definitely got lucky with the group I ended up with.”