Former Seahorse Standout Enters Year Three in Catamount Country
Next up in the Vermont Catamount roster preview series is junior guard and local Vermont prospect Kevin Garrison. The 6’0, 180lbs Burlington, VT native checks in near the tail end of the Catamount roster, but don’t let that fool you – this cat can ball. As a two-sport athlete for Burlington High School, Garrison led the Seahorses to a state title in basketball (2016), while also being twice named to the BFP first-team all-state selection in both football and basketball.
After rushing for 1,450 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior, there were whispers that Garrison would look to continue his gridiron career at the next level. After much consideration, Garrison ultimately decided that he’d rather pursue his hoop dreams, as his passion for basketball outweighed that of football. During his senior year on the hardwood, Garrison would average 21 points and 7 rebounds for the Seahorse’s, while being dubbed one of the best players in Vermont at the time.
Garrison was also a star for his AAU team, who along with fellow Catamount teammate Deng Adiang would lead them to a division two national championship. After an overwhelmingly successful high school career Garrison would originally commit to playing collegite basketball for local division two school St. Mikes. However, this would all change after one meeting with head coach John Becker, leaving Garrison to reconsider his options. John Becker saw something special in the Burlington native, which in turn helped Garrison decide that the chance to play at divison one level was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
After spurning St. Mikes for the University of Vermont, Garrison joined John Becker’s Catamounts as a walk-on prospect at the start of the 2018-19 season. Without a doubt Garrison is oozing athletic talent, but unfortunately has been stuck behind some pretty incredible guards during his time at Vermont so far. Similar to fellow teammate and local Vermonter Deng Adiang, Garrison is an undersized walk-on who could have easily chosen to play a lower level, but decided that the chance to be a part of such a winning program was the right fit for him even if it meant accepting a lesser role. The soon-to-be-upperclassman will be heading into his third year at Vermont – what type of role will the Burlington native have for the Cats for the 2020-21 season?
How Garrison Can Make an Impact
Much like fellow walk-on teammate Deng Adiang, Garrison’s biggest impact on the Cats will come from supporting and challenging his teammates throughout the season. As a walk-on prospect that’s to be assumed, but on the flip side of the coin, there have been plenty of walk-ons who have exceeded their expectations a la Benny Shungu. Coach Becker has taken note of Garrison’s athletic talent and shooting skills – is this the year the young guard puts in all together?
Even with a great offseason of training under his belt, it might not be enough for Garrison to crack the rotation. Along with Shungu, Stef Smith, Robin Duncan and Aaron Deloney are all expected to be featured heavily, while incoming transfer Justin Mazzulla and Eric Beckett will also be battling for minutes. That’s some incredibly strong guard talent ahead of Garrison. Barring any injuries, the majority of Garrison’s action will come during the yearly division three contest and final 60 seconds of blowouts. Luckily, Garrison has performed quite well during his abbreviated time on the court. He’s got a silky smooth jumper and has been able to find the back of the net against legit division one opponents. Catamount fans should feel a sense of security knowing that if Garrison has to check-in for short spurts he’ll be able to hold his own out on the hardwood.
Continuing to encourage and challenge his teammates should be Garrison’s primary focus, but on the flip-side he needs to be ready should any injuries strike. “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” (I can’t believe I just quoted Will Smith). It’s cliche, but cliches are cliches because they’re true. Garrison should approach every game with the mindset that he’ll be checking-in at some point and needs to play with a sense of urgency while staying focused and composed. Composure is key. In all likelihood Garrison’s biggest contributions to the team probably won’t be coming from the stat sheet. His attitude and energy off the bench will be his greatest impact on the Cats moving forward into the 2020-21 season.
Room for Improvement?
As is the case with every walk-on prospect, there’s always going to be room for improvement. Unfortunately it’s not easy to pin-point any specific areas of Garrison’s game without much relevant tape to go off of. Despite his small stature, Garrison can get buckets. He’s got a smooth jumper and quick release point which helps overcome his lack of height when defenders are nearby. However, what’s actually going to help him see floor time is defense.
John Becker is known for his stout defenses and demands excellence from his players at that end of the floor. Former walk-on Benny Shungu was able to carve out a role in John Becker’s rotation because of his stingy defense and ultimately became one of the top defenders in all of America East. Garrison might not be able to accomplish such a feat, but if he can flash the ability to lockdown an opposing player, it’ll do wonders for his chances of seeing legit playing time. Based on his athletic aptness alone, Garrison should be able to stay one-on-one with his man on the defensive end. The tricky part comes when opposing teams start switching for mismatches and expose Garrison’s lack of length.
While there have been plenty of undersized guards who have gone on to produce memorable careers, time will only tell if Garrison is destined for a similar path. If the injury bug runs deep next year and Garrison is thrusted into action, John Becker will have to get creative with his defensive schemes by sliding additional help towards Garrison to cover any defensive liabilities. In all likelihood it’s hard to envision such an occurrence, but better to prepare just in case. Garrison is athletic enough where he could get creative on defense by even baiting his man into making mistakes or turnovers. Most likely Garrison won’t crack the rotation this year, but focusing on an offseason of training from the defensive side of the ball should give him a real chance of breaking through once senior guards Stef Smith and Benny Shungu move on.
Garrison will once again be sequestered near the tail end of the bench come game day, so any type of individual statistical goals seems somewhat irrelevant. UVM has a plethora of talent from the guard standpoint and realistically Garrison will be on the outside looking in. Although his ceiling is fairly low, Catamount fans should hope that Garrison continues to progress as a player throughout the year. When the young guard makes his appearances the game will all but be over, but even in those final seconds a small victory would be shutting the other team and not letting them get any easy buckets.
A goal like that probably won’t show up in the final stat sheet, but coach Becker will surely take notice. Likewise, Garrison needs to keep being a rock for his teammates to lean on. His energy and excitement off the bench play a huge factor in rousing up the crowd and motivating his teammates throughout the game. Garrison is another high character, strong locker room guy who is beloved by his peers. The support and encouragement Garrison brings to the Cats is insurmountable, as his value shouldn’t be viewed solely from the score sheet.
Garrison has a good chance at going 3/3 for America East Conference Title Championships. Being able to say that you were part of such an incredible winning culture would be an amazing feat and quite the humble brag. Obviously that’s one of the top team goals every year, but for Garrison the team’s success is far more important than him needing to average double-figures every night. Overall Garrison just needs to keep doing what he’s being asked and stay patient. Hard work pays off and eventually his time will come.
Garrison will be going into his junior year for the 2020-21 season. While nothing is set in stone, it seems highly unlikely that any transfer or redshirting rumors would take place. Former Missisquoi High School standout Matt St. Amour was another Vermont success story who could’ve walked-on at UVM, but chose the division three route instead, where he had a dominating career playing for Middlebury College. Garrison could always decide that he’d rather be a big fish in a small pond and nobody would fault him for making the jump to a lower level. That option will always be on the table for Garrison, but at this point he seems more than content staying where he is.
Based on last year’s rotations and mix of talent on the roster, it seems like Garrison’s role for the 2020-21 season won’t be changing much. Realistically he’ll be featured in the yearly division three match-up, but shouldn’t see much action elsewhere. Last year Garrison would make six appearances, while finishing with averages of 0.3 points, 0.3 assists and 0.7 rebounds per game on a 3.5 minute basis. In similar fashion, here’s how Garrison projects to cap the upcoming year:
2020-21 Statistical Prediction
- 3.7 minutes per game
- 1.3 points per game
- 0.3 assists per game
- 1.0 rebounds per game
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