Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on incoming Minnesota men’s basketball recruits.
Timeout was called. Maurice Hargrow put his head down and returned to the bench a little shellshocked. He gazed onto the now-vacant court in a fruitless search for answers.
During a Howard Pulley League game last Wednesday, the slender guard got the worst of three encounters in the span of about one minute.
First, Hargrow’s slow rotation allowed his man an uncontested path to the hoop for a score. Next, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound swingman got posted-up for two. Finally, Hargrow stood helplessly as a pair of players bore down on him for yet another basket.
This is Howard Pulley basketball, a summer training ground for college-bound players like Hargrow, players who – surrounded by current and post-collegiate players – learn everyone on the floor got game.
“It’s for real,” Hargrow said. “It’s no longer about my ability, it’s about, `Can I outthink my man?’ You’ve got to out play them the entire game. I accept that challenge; I want to outplay my man.”
After playing bystander to a three-pronged hardwood assault, the athletic Hargrow quickly measured some revenge. The Highland Park High School product drove toward the goal, exploded skyward a few strides inside the foul line, and floated in for a smooth right-handed layup. Sweet redemption? No, just other example of Hargrow’s undying belief in himself.
Maurice, or “Mo,” Hargrow will take his lumps and chart his rise as a member of the Minnesota men’s basketball team this fall. Despite a slew of veteran backcourt talent like Kevin Burleson, Kerwin Fleming and Shane Schilling ahead of him, the indomitable Hargrow chooses to take the high road.
“They’ll be pushing me, but I’m going to be pushing them,” Hargrow said. “I know I’ll have to wait my turn, but if I can come in and help my team from the beginning, I’ll be willing to do that.”
His coaches and teammates are counting on Hargrow to play with fervor and confidence right out of the gate. Hargrow led Highland Park to a Minnesota state Class 3A championship as a sophomore and remained a force throughout his high school career.
Coach Dan Monson envisions Hargrow blossoming into a solid shooter and defender. Excelling in these areas requires players like Hargrow – potent mixtures of talent and self-assurance – to harness their considerable abilities.
“He’s always played better against better competition,” Monson said. “I expect him to make that jump when he plays against those better players on a daily basis.
“He’s got to become a better shooter, get stronger, more aggressive and tougher. Those are things a lot of kids his age need to do when they get to the next level.”
Hargrow’s transition to Minnesota and Division I basketball is being aided by the junior Burleson, who sees much of himself in Hargrow. Whether talking about basketball, discussing college life or just hanging out, Burleson is taking young Hargrow under his wing in the way Terrance Simmons and John-Blair Bickerstaff once did for him.
Burleson and his fellow veterans are also aiding in Hargrow’s on-court development, employing a tough-love approach.
“We’re always going to try and stomp Mo in practice, but he’s not going to back down,” Burleson said. “I told him to have the attitude that he’s going to take someone’s spot. Because I want that kind of competition in practice.
“He’s a steal. I really didn’t know how good he was, I’m serious. And a lot of people are going to know real soon how good he is.”
As he showed last Wednesday, Hargrow remains a good basketball player with great athletic ability and will. He scored 20 points, snatched five steals, grabbed seven rebounds and added three assists. On the other end, Hargrow held his own, defending opponents both large and small.
Most of Hargrow’s points came on layups, and he passed on several perimeter shots – an odd approach for a player trying to improve his outside game. Hargrow said the shots “just didn’t feel right” and were not shunned because he’d lost his nerve.
Instead, Hargrow drove to the hoop or passed the ball, thereby showing belief in his teammates and perhaps empowering each to find conviction within themselves.
Because Hargrow brings such intrinsic qualities to the court every night.
“You’ve got to be confident,” Hargrow said. “From the beginning to end you’ve got to believe in yourself. My mom taught me that as a youngster, you just don’t quit.”
David La Vaque is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]