During last year’s Michigan high school basketball playoffs, the eyes of the Michigan basketball program were focused squarely on Lester Abram.
The third-place finisher in Michigan’s Mr. Basketball voting was winding down his final season at Pontiac Northern en route to a Class A state championship while being one of Michigan coach Tommy Amaker’s most highly regarded recruits for the 2002-03 season.
Lined up across from Abram for that title game on the opposing Kalamazoo Central team was Sherrod Harrell, a player who had collected his fair share of awards and headlines during his high school career.
But Harrell had one of his quietest games of the year in the finals, collecting just eight points to go along with 10 rebounds as Pontiac Northern rolled to an 87-71 triumph.
“Lester’s a great player. He’s real aggressive on offense and defense,” said Harrell. “He’s one of those guys that are always willing to sacrifice – he’s a great player.”
Now, seven months later, Harrell has been granted the chance to redeem himself against Abram – in practice at Crisler Arena.
Turning down the option to play large minutes at smaller schools, Harrell opted to sign on with Michigan, and was immediately rewarded with a walk-on role on the Michigan basketball team by Amaker.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play at Michigan, ever since the days of the Fab Five” the 6-foot-3 Harrell said. “I’ve always wanted to come play here.”
Now that he’s gotten chance, Harrell isn’t letting it pass by. Amaker has praised Harrell, saying that he is “thrilled” with the progress the freshman has made.
After helping Kalamazoo Central by playing both guard and forward positions, Harrell has made the transition to playing strictly at the guard spot for the Wolverines and could be a valuable contributor at a position the Wolverines have struggled to gain consistency from in recent years.
“Personally I’m just going to work as hard as I can,” Harrell said. “I’m going to play whenever I’m needed and whenever that time comes, I’ll be ready to help this team earn the victory.”
Helping his team to victory is nothing new to Harrell, who was unquestionably the go-to-guy during his high school days, averaging 21.2 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and more than three blocks per game through his career.
When it comes right down to it, Harrell’s credentials are just as impressive as other member of Michigan’s freshman class. And there’s no doubt that Amaker and the Wolverines can benefit from having an athlete of Harrell’s caliber to the team.
But the attitude Harrell brings to the team might be more important than any of his athletic accomplishments.
Amaker has preached a steady diet of patience and hard work to his team and Harrell, a member of the National Honor Society, his high school’s student government and a four-year honor roll member, is more than ready to buy into that system.
“Before (Michigan basketball) can make that jump back to the top, you’ve got to build a base and we’ve got a real good corps of guys,” Harrell said. “From there you build with the character of the guys – make sure that the whole team is willing to work hard.
“You’ve got to be ready to compete, and we’ve got a bunch of guys that are willing to do that here.”