The Virginia Cavaliers didn’t get as far as they hoped in the NCAA Tourney, but they still turned in one of their best seasons in campaign history. Their success was in no small part due to the play of senior Joe Harris, who helped keep defenses honest with his dangerous outside shooting. The senior terrorized the ACC in his final season and he’s anxious to try and do the same at the next level.
“I can shoot the ball and defend at a high level and I think that’s a pretty good combination for any NBA team. You can never enough shooters on any team. i’m fortunate enough to bring that ability to the table,” Harris told HoopsRumors.com.
Harris, who averaged 12.0 PPG and shot 40% from beyond the arc this season, stands apart from a lot of the other 2014 draft hopefuls. While this year’s class is deep overall and chock full of intriguing athletes, the general feeling is that there aren’t a ton of great shooters in the first round. If you want to come away with a jumper you can count on, you’ll likely have to scour the second round for players like the Virginia star.
Harris arrived on campus with an automatic shot but his play on the other side of the floor left much to be desired. He was tasked with upping his D and, with time, he morphed into a stout defender.
“I think the system that I played in taught defensive principals and the defensive mindset that you need to have. Of course, defense is more than a mindset, you have to have the lateral quickness too, but the principals and that mindset and helped me become a much better defender. Coach [Tony Bennett's] program made me better and I’ll carry that with me to the NBA,” said the small forward.
The 22-year-old is confident but knows that there is still a lot of work ahead of him. Harris says he’ll be working to improve his ball handling and overall athleticism, two of his commonly cited weaknesses. He’s currently training alongside fellow Mark Bartelstein clients Doug McDermott, Nik Stauskas, and Sean Kilpatrick in an effort to improve in not just those areas but “all areas.”
As a wing with range, some have been quick to compare Harris to Kyle Korver. Harris, who called the Hawks forward an “unbelievable shooter,” doesn’t see it, but he stressed that they are similar in that both can bring much more to the table than three-point shooting. In the coming weeks, Harris will be traveling to the West Coast for individual workouts with the Suns and at least one of the Los Angeles teams before heading to the Lone Star State for auditions with the Mavs and Spurs. Between those sessions and the combines, Harris is hopeful that he’ll find not only an NBA opportunity, but the “right fit” to help make his transition to the Association a seamless one.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.