© Star file photo
Ryan Harnett is shown in this undated photo.
ANTIGONISH, N.S. — Rick Plato believes Ryan Harnett has the skillset to play the game, but feels he has to adjust to life as a student-athlete to find his groove as a freshman.
Harnett, a point guard who excelled with the Corner Brook High Titans on the Newfoundland and Labrador high school basketball scene, is trying to earn his way as a rookie with the Dalhousie Tigers varsity men’s basketball team.
Harnett had already been on the radar of the Tigers before head coach Plato arrived on the scene, but the former head coach at Mount Saint Vincent University had heard a lot of good things about the Corner Brook native before he saw him at his first practice with the team.
Coach Plato believes life as a freshman will require adjusting to a hectic pace while trying to juggle both academics and athletics. He believes it’s important for freshman like Harnett to understand there will be a culture shock to endure with going from being a star player in high school to finding your way at the college level.
“Right now for Ryan it’s a big learning curve,” coach Plato said Monday from Dalhousie University.
Harnett has been hitting the hardwood with the Tigers for a couple of weeks in preparation for the regular season and he admits it’s been a challenge trying to adjust to life after high school. But, it’s not like he didn’t expect things to be different, and he’s confident he will adjust to playing against bigger and stronger players.
“I’m getting used to it more every day,” Harnett said of the transition. “It’s hard to get used to, but it’s getting easier every day. In a few weeks it should be normal.”
Plato has seen enough of Harnett to realize he can play at the college level, describing him as a player with a lot of confidence and great natural instincts. He believes Harnett will challenge a number of returning players looking to lock up the point guard position as long as he becomes a sponge and becomes familiar with the program and the expectations of the coaching staff.
“He’s playing hard and he doesn’t back down from anybody,” he said. “You can tell he’s just a sound player.”
The Tigers will open the season Oct. 4 against Carleton University, so coach Plato will use that matchup to have a good look at his players.
“From what I’ve seen so far, I like,” the coach said.
It appears Harnett is also content with how things have unfolded since he arrived at his new school.
“I’m stacking up not too bad, but all the other guards are a lot older and have way more experience than me so that’s the hardest thing,” he said, noting that attention to defence will also be something he will have to embrace at the college level.
He also knows he will have to add some meat to his six-foot-one, 155-pound frame if he wants to be a force at the next level.
“Guys are all bigger, stronger and faster so it’s harder,” he said.
Harnett has worked hard over the summer to improve his physical fitness and the next couple of weeks will be all about gaining strength and bulking up as the Tigers prepare to open another season.
Of course, becoming a part of a close-knit group is always important for fresh faces in the mix.
“Everyone’s been real nice and I’ve been fitting in with the guys,” he said. “It’s been really good so far. I’m happy I came.”