Six weeks ago, Damarcus Harrison feared he'd have to enroll in technical college this fall and take a year off from basketball.
Now it looks like the BYU transfer will play this season in the ACC instead.
Clemson is expected to announce Thursday that Harrison has received a hardship waiver from the NCAA to play right away instead of sitting out a full season, a source told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday night. The 6-foot-5 guard plans to play his sophomore season this year, depart for a two-year Mormon mission and then return to Clemson in 2015 for his final two years of eligibility.
Had Harrison been able to begin his mission this fall as he originally planned, he likely would have resumed his basketball career at BYU when he returned. Instead, the church decided last month he needed to delay his mission a full year, sending him scrambling to find a way to avoid putting his education and basketball career on hold.
He couldn't return to BYU this school year because the coaches had used his scholarship already. He couldn't pay his own way because it was too expensive for his parents. And in mid-August, he worried it would be tough to find another Division I school willing to use a scholarship on him even though there was a chance he wouldn't play for another three years.
Clemson assuaged Harrison's fears when coach Brad Brownell expressed interest upon learning the former top 100 recruit was available.
Brownell had finished as the runner-up to BYU coach Dave Rose in Harrison's original recruitment, so he already had a relationship with the Greenwood, S.C., native. Since Clemson had a vacant scholarship and playing time available at wing due to the broken leg top freshman Jaron Blossomgame sustained in April and the likely season-ending torn Achilles tendon Devin Coleman suffered in July, Brownell decided Harrison was worth the risk.
"Knowing the family and knowing Damarcus, that was a big part of me going ahead and giving him a scholarship without knowing if he's going to play or not," Brownell said last month. "He's an athletic wing player with a good skill set who can play multiple positions. I've followed him enough to know that he fits what we do."
The gamble could pay off in a big way for Clemson now that Harrison will be eligible to play next season.
Harrison averaged 3.2 points and 1.0 boards off the bench at BYU last season, but he showed glimpses of the talent that made him a coveted recruit. In his second-to-last game in a Cougars uniform, he scored a career-high 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting in a come-from-behind 78-72 win over Iona in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
If Harrison can be a difference maker on the perimeter right away, it will be a huge boost to a Clemson team that boasts standout seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings in the frontcourt. Even if he just provides a spark off the bench like he did at BYU, it will add depth to a backcourt lacking many proven options.
The irony for BYU is a scholarship now would be available for Harrison as a result of Chris Collinsworth's medical retirement. It's too late now, though. Harrison will don a Clemson jersey this winter, and BYU will move on without him.
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