Taylor Harrison is hurting. His left knee hurts every day, the reason he decided to retire from playing for Cal’s basketball team.
It hurts him, too, that a career that never really got started is now done.
“There’s really not much I can do,” he said Tuesday, announcing that he is stepping away from the game. “It’s a terrible thing because I worked so hard over the last two years to try to come back and play basketball and be with my teammates and friends and brothers.
“To work that hard and almost taste it . . . there were times when (coach Mike) Montgomery looked down the bench and said, `Taylor, are you ready?’ He tried to throw me in there a couple times. It would have been good to have played this year.”
Certainly the Bears could have used the 6-foot-10 redshirt sophomore this past season. And could use him next year. But two surgeries couldn’t prevent what doctors described to him as “extensive and accelerated cartilage damage.”
Harrison said he talked to three doctors, who agreed that if he continued to play he could face the possibility of knee-replacement surgery five or 10 years earlier than otherwise.
“To me, that’s pretty scary,” he said. “I’m still in pain every day. I want to be able to (someday) play with my kids. I want to be able to have a normal life. It’s really tough to be forced to turn my back on the sport I love.”
Harrison played just one season — 2006-07 — for the Bears, averaging 0.7 points and 1.3 rebounds. He underwent his first surgery days after that season, then had another in June 2008.
Montgomery said several times that the Bears could have used Harrison this past season. His ability to play defense, rebound and just bang opponents would have benefitted a team without depth up front.
“I’m a lot better at basketball player now then I was my freshman year,” Harrison said. “I was excited to see what that was like.”
While the Bears recoup one scholarship, Harrison will continue to attend Cal with financial aid. He has a double major of American studies and art practice. He said he expects to attend every game, but doesn’t think he could stand being with the team on a daily basis if there was no prospect of playing.
He will work this summer as an art director at Cal’s Lair of Bear camp near Pinecrest, and has resumed a music career with his brother Hayden. The two performed their style of electronic music recently at the Whole Earth Festival in Davis.
“It was really fun. People seemed to like our music,” Harrison said. “I’m trying to find things that give me the same adrenaline rush that basketball used to do.”
Harrison said he also recently began oil painting, and plans to branch out to other mediums.
“Even though I can’t play basketball, there’s a lot of things going on for me, things I didn’t see before,” he said.
Harrison talked openly last fall about coping with clinical depression late in 2007 after his first surgery. He’s got that well under control now.
“I’m great. It was a little hard after I found out I couldnt play,” he said. “I’ve learned to cope a lot better. Even though it was incredibly hard leaving the team and not seeing those guys every day, it’s kind of something that needed to happen so I wasn’t holding onto that environment.
“I’m doing really well. It’s sad to kind of look back at the end of my career. At the same time, there’s nothing I can do but accept it and keep moving on.”