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February 18, 2014

Montrezl Harrell is Louisville's new dunk king




Louisville basketball is known for the dunk. In fact, after dunking was made legal in 1976, Louisville has been known for spectacular dunkers.

After Tuesday night, no player in Louisville history has more dunks in a single season than sophomore Montrezl Harrell.

"There are a lot of great guys on that list," Harrell said. "Coming in here I didn't know too much about it, but then once it started to dawn on me that I had a chance to break it, it is a blessing. Now I hold that record and it's just a matter of how high I'm going to set it."

"It's really remarkable that he set this record as a sophomore," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "And especially when you consider that he didn't play that much as a freshman so for him to set it as a sophomore is really something. You'd think Doctor Dunkenstein would have this record by 100 or something, but (Montrezl) set it as a sophomore."

Harrell set the new Louisville season record in just 26 games, and he almost set the new record in 25. Harrell got a dunk in the first half Sunday night to tie the single season record of 59 (also set by Chane Behanan in 2012-13 and Pervis Ellison in 1987-88). He then missed an alley-oop slam with 16:40 in the second half. With Louisville leading by more than 30 points for most of the second half, Harrell was taken out of the game. But he checked back in with 10 minutes left, but he left the game again with 7:29 left and never returned.

"I'm confident I will get the record," Harrell said after the game. "Now it's just a matter of how high I'm going to set it."

And he did. Harrell broke the record with his first dunk Tuesday against South Florida. With 14:24 left in the first half, he grabbed an errant pass from Russ Smith and slammed home a two-hand dunk to make Louisville history.

"I knew coming in that my first dunk tonight would break the record, so I definitely knew," Harrell said.

Harrell, who finished the game with four dunks to move his total to 63 on the season, pushed past Ellison and Behanan on the school's all-time list. Behanan, a junior who helped Louisville to two Final Fours and a NCAA title during his first two seasons at Louisville, was dismissed from the team in December.

"No, I haven't talked to him in a while, but I probably will heard from him now," Harrell said after he tied the record Sunday. "If not, I'll call him and let him know."

Harrell is averaging 12.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this season. He has scored 126 of his 329 points this season via dunk.

"It's just an aggressive play, and I'm an aggressive player," Harrell said when asked why he likes to dunk so much. "If I have an opportunity to dunk the ball it will be a sure two points. There are not too many dunks that I've missed."

Harrell's most-famous dunk was in the national championship game against Michigan. He said his brother still sends him that dunk after games.

"That was a really big one," Harrell said. "That was big in the national championship game."

Harrell said his favorite dunk this season was his reverse alley-oop against Rutgers, but his favorite all-time might be significantly earlier in his career.

"When I played in a high school all-star game called the Jordan Brand Classic I was on a break and windmill dunked then," Harrell said. "I'd been trying to windmill for a while and couldn't quite get it, and so to get my first windmill in a game like that was big."

Harrell has now moved into sole possession of sixth place on the Cardinals career dunks leaderboard with 107. He needs 10 more to equal Cornelius Holden (1988-92) for No. 5 on Louisville all-time career dunks chart.


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