Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 1/22/12
AKRON, Ohio - What had been a sold-out crowd at James A. Rhodes Arena eventually cleared out Saturday night, but for the guys still in white jerseys walking the hallways, the glow remained. This was the first Akron-Kent State backyard rivalry game for Nick Harney, and it turned into an Akron runaway in part because Harney wouldn't miss in the second half. "I felt like every shot was going in," Harney said, and he was more shrugging his shoulders than gloating. Around the corner, Akron coach Keith Dambrot -- a guy who's been through a lot of these -- talked about how this one was different. In particular, he talked about how Harney is different. "He's one of the most talented guys I've ever coached," said Dambrot, who's coached four NBA players and isn't much for hyperbole. "I have to get him to practice better, but the talent is there. The confidence is there. He's got a chance, if he works at it, to be special." A basketball journeyman despite not yet being 20 years old, the 6-foot-7 Harney was an academic non-qualifier last year, a spectator when Akron made its second NCAA Tournament in three years. He spent the year in the books and started playing basketball with his teammates only in informal spring and summer activities. Akron took an NCAA-endorsed trip to Canada at the end of last summer, and that's when Harney made his actual first impression. There have been hiccups, but he's kept going since. Dambrot gave him a five-game suspension in December, and two weeks ago he gained a measure of redemption for that when he hit the biggest shot of his young career to beat the buzzer and beat Bowling Green. But the Kent game was Harney's biggest moment yet, the kind that might be looked back upon as a launching pad. Harney made 10-of-12 shots and scored a career-high 21 points in just 14 minutes Saturday night. He had 2 points in 5 minutes in the first half, when he was yanked because of a defensive lapse. Dambrot is going to keep pushing him, and he's going to have to keep responding. Harney is still growing -- and growing up. He's extremely gifted. Harney's personal 6-0 run in the Kent game came as the Zips pulled away in the final eight minutes. In 228 minutes on the season, Harney has scored 146 points. He's scored 62 points in five MAC games, 46 in second halves. He's a weapon -- no longer a secret one. "Even just being able to practice, people don't know what that means to me," Harney said. "I think we're the deepest team in the MAC, so if I have to come off the bench I'll do whatever I'm asked. I've learned a lot since I've been here and the suspension was good for me. I have to decide that I'm just going to make good decisions and handle my business." Akron's bench was key in turning a 9-point second-half deficit into an 84-75 win over Kent. Swingman and part-time point guard Quincy Diggs hit a pair of big 3-pointers. Demetrius Treadwell -- like Harney, a Cleveland native and 2011 non-qualifier -- provided a spark on the glass and Harney just kept scoring, turning steals into driving baskets and turning spin moves on the block into easy points. Dambrot called those three "thoroughbreds" who make this Akron team "the most athletic team we've had here." "When those guys get going like that, we look more like a high-major than a mid-major," Dambrot said. Harney started at Shaker Heights High School, then transferred to Cleveland Glenville as a sophomore. He didn't play as a junior after another transfer, this one to Cleveland Benedictine, where he played in the shadow of Cameron Wright (now playing at Pitt) and Derek Jackson (Central Michigan). Harney played his one year at Glenville with Kent point guard Randal Holt, Saturday night's leading scorer with 27. "Nick has always been a great player," Holt said. "I knew he was eventually going to be a great fit at Akron." All that moving, all that chasing a dream happened because Harney has always had the ability to do this. Dambrot's been willing to stick with Harney because he has the ability to do this. "I had to do what I had to do with the suspension," Dambrot said. "I still believe in him. I think he's a good kid and I know he's a good player. He knows he's a good player, too. He thinks I'm nuts for not playing him more." Harney is usually the third player off the Zips' bench, and he's yet to play more than 20 minutes in a conference game. It's fair to say he's the backup power forward, behind senior Nikola Cvetinovic. It's more accurate to say he plays two or three positions, changed the Kent game with his athleticism and versatility and usually ends up on the block because, well, he does a lot of scoring from there. His game-winner against Bowling Green started outside the 3-point line. After a couple dribbles, he showed off his athleticism by avoiding a charging call while sinking an 8-foot runner in traffic. "He's a tough matchup because he's very, very quick," Dambrot said. "His best spot at this moment on this team is at the four, but he is going to be a wing for us by the time he's done." Right now, he's just getting started.
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