Jay James WINA Sports
I’ve got to give credit to my brother in law Richard who is a huge basketball fan, and a fan of Virginia Basketball. He made what I thought was a very astute point a few days ago about Joe Harris. People began to ask questions about Joe’s ability to carry a team after his production dipped after a monster 36 point night against Duke last year. Then he has a 1 point outing against Davidson and that really raised some eyebrows. My brother in law said that he didn’t think that Joe was a guy who wanted to be “the man” that he would rather play a role on the team. I happen to agree, because Joe is selfless, humble, and a good teammate. He also happens to be a pretty good player.
When he was recruited out of the state of Washington, we all knew he would be good, but an all ACC performer and one of the best shooting guards in the country I doubt we would have figured that. Joe appeared to get tired last year, and even commented about working through fatigue. When you are the primary guy to stop every night, you certainly will see a lot of attention. But what about Joe’s approach to the game? Is he really a guy that wants to be under the microscope, take the last shot, be the first option ect.? I would tend to assume the answer to that question is no. While under most circumstances, people would consider that a negative, I don’t.
Joe has clearly demonstrated he’s capable of taking and making big shots, but his personality is not that of a “closer”. Which is completely okay in the system that Tony Bennett is running, it is totally a TEAM concept. With Brogdon, Mitchell, and Gill in the fold, as well as a much improved and consistent Mike Tobey, Harris can settle into a role as a guy that can pick his spots, and take what the defense dictates. While Joe can get to the rim, he’s not a guy that you’re expecting to blow by you, and create his own shot, (doesn’t mean he can’t) he’s highly skilled and efficient in the rhythm of an offensive flow. This seems to be what makes him the most comfortable, as we have seen, some kids can be too unselfish, and its not in their make up to want the spotlight, doesn’t mean they’re not good players, doesn’t mean they’re not great players….just means they like to blend in to the identity of their team. Coach K is experiencing that with his phenomenal star forward Jabari Parker. While Parker is the first Duke freshman to score at least 20 points in his first four appearances, even coach K is on his star to shoot more. Both Bennett and Harris are aware of the need for Joe’s offense for the team to be successful. Bennett believes the offense will provide the room for Harris to operate. “ He only scored one point in the Davidson game but he actually did some good things….his shots will come. I like when he’s attacking making nice passes. Some pull ups some threes we certainly need Joe to do that.” Harris also realizes he’s more effective on the attack. “ For our team is not good if I’m passing up shots or not being aggressive. That’s what I kinda talked with some of my coaches about after the Davidson game, and coming into this game [Navy] my mindset was a little bit different, tried to be more aggressive and assertive offensively.” Harris finished with 16 points, in UVA’s 67-42 win.
As far as Virginia’s options for late game heroics, I would look closely at Malcolm Brogdon, he is a guy that even early on in his career before his injury and subsequent redshirt appeared to relish the big moment. With Brogdon there to take late game pressure off of Harris, look for Joe to be far more effective late in games, when teams can’t focus their defense on the senior guard. Virginia hosts Liberty Saturday at 4pm with coverage on 1070 WINA.