Here's more on the sudden death of John Harrell, who died of an aortal aneurysm Tuesday night.Â Harrell, who was the point guard on the amazing '78 team, left the team unhappily after his junior year, unhappy at how the point guard competition with Bob Bender played out, and feeling, perhaps with some justification, that he had been treated unfairly.Â Certainly if you had led your team to the championship game, you might think you would have a shot at starting. Instead, according to John Feinstein's Forever's Team, Bender was inserted at the point for the first practice of the following season.
Harrell was deeply hurt by this and it scarred his feelings about his remarkable sophomore season at Duke.
It's too bad on many levels.Â On one, he always seemed like a nice guy, and you'd like to see fairy tale endings when you can.Â On another, he was one of Duke's few Durham guys, at least in modern times.Â Duke had a lot of guys in the early days of the program, as Al Featherston has memorably written about, but in modern times, not too many.Â Stu Yarbrough, from Jordan High, attended Duke in the '70s, and Richard Ford was a walk-on point guard some years later, but that's about it.
It might have been aÂ nice thing then to build bridges, but for whatever reason, it didn't happen.
It's also too bad because Harrell was pretty much a poster boy for the term student-athlete.Â He majored in math, which is incredibly demanding.Â He was a brilliant student and a brilliant player and, from all accounts, an eminently decent person.
Although he was bitter about how his career at Duke ended, he maintained an interest in basketball, and last summer worked a youth basketball camp (Gene Banks also was there, according to the Herald-Sun).
The saddest part, aside from the obvious, is that he may never have fully known how much respect Duke fans had for him.