Monday, August 3, 2009

the recruit: Joe Harris

Back from vacation. Back and ready to attack. And I was going to kick off the season previews around the ACC right away, but I figured it'd be better to do some actual Virginia stuff first since that's what we do here, and today's news - Tony Bennett's second verbal commitment in SG Joe Harris - is the perfect excuse.

Name: Joe Harris
Position: SG
Hometown: Chelan, WA
School: Chelan High School
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 200

Rivals: 3-star
Scout: 3-star
ESPN: 91, #40 SG

Let's go back a couple months. Back when all the talk around Virginia basketball was which glamorous, millionaire coach was going to beat down our doors for the chance to coach here. Suppose someone came to you from the future and told you all about it: Your coach will not be anyone on that star-studded list. He will come from a basketball backwater in the hills of the state of Washington, and his first two recruits will be two white guys named Will and Joe, one of which is a holdover recruit from Washington that the coach had already been recruiting to his old Washington school and whose offer list included the in-state schools (and not even Gonzaga), Portland, and San Diego. This doesn't sound too appealing, does it?

Fortunately, you and I know better. Will Regan is, of course, excellent to say the least, and here's what I figure about Harris: Tony Bennett clearly knows what he's doing on the recruiting trail. He's going after all the right players. He's almost got Mychal Parker back to where he was before Leitao was fired, and he's even got us in the race for five-star point guard Kyrie Irving. There are plenty of targets with very stiff competition here out east that we need to be recruiting, and Bennett's doing a fine job of it so far. So the fact that he's got this target-rich environment on the East Coast to work with and still thinks Harris is worth bringing in all the way from BFE, Washington (and believe me Chelan is not part of anything remotely resembling a major - or minor - metropolitan area) says something to me.

Now, the other part of the truth in the first paragraph is that Harris isn't just a complete unknown except to the West Coast Conference. Georgetown, Gonzaga, and Notre Dame, among others, were in touch, so speaketh Rivals, and they tend to know. ESPN, besides being a little more generous in their ranking than the other two (91 roughly means a low four star or high three) thinks he should be a "high-major recruit," which he pretty much is, now. And Scout notes that he was the 1A player of the year in Washington, 1A being the fourth-highest of six divisions. Scout also points out he was earning first-team accolades as a sophomore, but it doesn't stop there: look, there he is as a li'l freshy, grabbing all-district honors. Didn't take him very long to become Chelan's big fish.

I also happen to like that very bottom bullet on that last link there: "Team Sportsmanship: Chelan High School." You might know that Chelan is coached by the elder Joe Harris, and he's been doing it for a long time, unless it takes no time at all to rack up 400 wins. So the Harrises know a little something about sportsmanship which I mean there's absolutely nothing not to like about that.

Now, as for Harris' projection to college. Hard to tell, to be honest. It doesn't take a very extensive Googlesearch to find all sorts of game recaps where Harris was the leading scorer, dropped 30+ points, whatever. He's basically the 800-pound gorilla of 1A basketball in Washington, at which I have no idea what kind of competition he's facing, but it probably doesn't include too many other D-I talents. He plays quarterback on the football team, which I think isn't actually all that telling because Chelan has like 3,000 residents and it's not hard to figure what you'd have the most athletic one of those residents between the ages of 15 and 18 doing during the fall. He did go down to the Rose City Showcase in Portland and earn all-tournament honors, FWIW. There's some quality talent on that list; that Terrence Jones is the same one with five stars and offers from Oklahoma and Florida and Indiana and everyone. Aaron Bright is going to Stanford. It's not a schmo tournament.

Fact is though, all this stuff is par for the course for any ACC recruit. It means you can get past the velvet rope and in the door; it doesn't get you all the ladies once you're inside. Harris' development floor should probably be labeled "Keith Friel" - you remember him, came off the bench and shot three-pointers for his bread, did it very well, and had few other marketable basketball skills, and it still made him one of the more popular players of his day. Damn could we have used Keith Friel last year, we had nobody who could shoot. Well, Harris can shoot, and if he doesn't lose his touch, he will be an asset to the team, there's no doubt about it. But I don't think the competition he's faced is enough to tell us (or me, anyway) how the rest of his skill set will translate to the ACC. The good news there is I'm just the blogger banging away at a keyboard, and Tony Bennett is the guy who's seen him play and thinks differently.

So three slots left. Why three? Earlier I was thinking it might be wise to hold one back for 2011 - five is a big class, and I think you want to spread things out some and not have to have a year where you have a little tiny class because your other ones were huge. You know, like this year's with just Spurlock and Evans. But then I bothered to look at the roster and realized if we hold over a scholarship, we'll still have five slots in 2011 anyway, and you never know what Sylven Landesberg is gonna do. So I think Bennett fully intends to sign five and only leave it at four if all his targets go elsewhere. We're sitting pretty right now, too. We have two recruits we like a lot, and enough open spots to still be very aggressive with quite a number of other targets we also like a lot - in many cases, much more - and what's more, we're well-positioned with several of them. It's a great place to be in, recruiting-wise.

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