August 1, 2011

Harris offers special skill set

Notre Dame’s fight to land 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard Gary Harris out of Fishers, Ind., is a huge uphill battle. His parents both attended Purdue, he’s being heavily recruited by the Boilermakers, he consistently lists Indiana and Michigan State as two schools which interest him greatly, and he knows several in-state prospects from the AAU circuit with Big Ten ties/intentions.

But Notre Dame remains in the conversation. He visited the campus during the 2010-11 Big East basketball season, and Mike Brey and Anthony Solomon maintained a presence during the summer AAU circuit.

“(The Irish) have been in (for) the last year or so,” said Harris to Rivals on July 8. “Coach Brey and Coach Solomon have been communicating with me, sending me mail, trying to get me to come to Notre Dame.”

Whatever lengths the Irish have to go, Harris is worth it. Listed as the No. 28 player in the country and the No. 6 shooting guard by Rivals, the Hamilton Southeastern standout - who averaged 18.6 points per game as a junior while leading his squad to a 20-4 record and the Noblesville Sectional championship - is one of the most explosive players in the country off the dribble.

Harris is a phenomenal leaper. Give him an opening to the basket and not only will he finish, but he’ll finish with authority. Harris’ game is above the rim when he decides to slash to the basket. He has an array of moves around the hoop that allow him to finish on both sides of the rim with either hand.

What makes Harris one of the more complete players in the country is the fact that his outside game is just as dynamic. He has a soft, feathery jump shot that just seems to nestle into the basket. He can hit the shot off the dribble or the pass, and he does it with exceptional elevation. Those who have seen him play frequently talk about a lack of consistency with his jump shot, but his shooting mechanics appear sound. His free throw has a high arc and is even softer than his jump shot. He’s also earned a reputation as a tenacious defender of the basketball, due in part to his long reach in passing lanes.

Harris put his skills on display this summer. Washington, Ind., Kokomo, Ind., an NBA camp in Virginia, the Kevin Durant Skills Academy in Chicago, one-day tournaments in Indianapolis and at Purdue, the LeBron James Skills Academy in Chicago (with Brey in attendance), the IBCA Top 100 Showcase in Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne, Ind., were the stops Harris made this summer. His reputation continues to grow.

One of the raps on Harris’ game heading into the summer was his ball handling, although he appears to have smoothed out that aspect. He probably doesn’t get a body on the opponent as much as he should in the paint because he is so accustomed to out-jumping people. But he should be a dynamic rebounder from the two-guard position on the next level, and even has the ability to swat some shots in the paint. It’s no wonder that some schools have expressed an interest in him as a wide receiver in football.

Purdue’s Matt Painter, Indiana’s Tom Crean and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo probably have seen Harris the most in person among head coaches. He’s well acquainted with Purdue recruits Rapheal Davis, Ronnie Johnson and Jay Simpson, all three of whom are expected to sign with the Boilermakers. Harris and Davis were D3 Pride teammates and go back as far as middle school as summer ball teammates. Harris also knows Irish commitment Cameron Biedscheid. Louisville is in the competition as well. But as of July, Harris indicated no specific leader, nor a timetable for a decision.

This is one special talent. When all is said and done, the Irish may have difficulty finishing among his top three. But if they were able to land Harris, he would infuse a significant amount of athleticism into a program that constantly fights that battle. This is one athlete worth going the extra mile to land. He is the kind of player you can build a program around.





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