Julio Cortez, Associated Press
Kentucky's Josh Harrellson greets fans as he leaves the court after Kentucky's 76-69 win over North Carolina in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament East regional final, Sunday, March 27, 2011, in Newark, N.J.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky center Josh Harrellson said in October he'd give up his eligibility if it meant freshman big man Enes Kanter could play.

Comment on this story

The NCAA declined Harrellson's offer, however, and declared Kanter permanently ineligible for accepting improper benefits while playing for a Turkish club team two years ago.

The decision was supposed to doom the Wildcats. Instead, it helped transform Harrellson into one of the most improved players in the country.

Kentucky is heading to its first Final Four in 13 years behind Harrellson's energetic play and leadership. The Wildcats will play Connecticut Saturday in San Antonio.

Harrellson has taken the freshman-laden team under his wing; one coach likened Harrellson to a "mother hen." He says the moniker is a sign that he's doing his job.