Virginia Beat: UVa’s New Go-To Guy

Joe Harris

It always hurts when your hoops team loses an NBA-caliber senior.  Mike Scott was the very definition of the heart and soul of a basketball team; he was the Hoos’ scoring leader, rebounding leader, and emotional leader, and not only one of the best players in the ACC, he was one of the best in the country.  There wasn’t much he couldn’t do.  So his graduation, after leading UVA to the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years, meant UVA had to find someone new to fill his leadership role.

In many ways, Joe Harris is an unlikely candidate.  Harris came to UVA from the mean streets of Chelan, a tiny hamlet in central Washington that nobody ever confused with a basketball hotbed.  He wasn’t even close to being the most-heralded member of the class.  Lightly recruited, Harris had offers only from the instate schools, a small handful of WCC programs, and UVA.  He was essentially a complementary member of the class and expected to play a similar role, probably as a bench shooter.

Here he is in his junior year, though, and is leading the team in scoring with almost 15 points a game.  He hit the court running when he arrived and hasn’t stopped.  His reputation as a shooter has proven well-founded, but he’s also proven he can score in more ways than one; he can drive to the hoop, pull up for a mid-range jumper, or spot up a three.  He’s scored in double digits in eight of ten games this year, and reached 20 points in three of them.

Harris is more than just a scorer, however.  Though not really athletic enough to defend opposing point guards, Harris has proven capable of running the offense as something of a point forward.  UVA’s most recent game against Mississippi Valley State is the perfect example; the Hoos blew out the Delta Devils without the benefit of a single made field goal by Harris.  Instead, he gathered six assists against just one turnover.  Quality of opposition notwithstanding, the game was evidence that Harris is capable of playing multiple roles.  Perhaps his importance to the team is better illustrated by UVA’s losses than their wins, however; Harris fouled out of one and set a personal season-high for turnovers in the other.  (He had four against George Mason; only one other time in his career has he ever had that many.)

Possibly the best news for UVA fans, though: Harris is a junior.  It’s basketball, so an early departure is always a risk.  But Harris doesn’t seem the type.  It’s one thing for a guy to grow into the role of the team’s go-to guy and embrace it as a senior, as Scott did.  It’s another – and very helpful – thing entirely to have a year to get acclimated, and then as a senior, to be able to play the leading role with some experience.  Tony Bennett’s recruiting class of 2010 was supposed to be the foundation of UVA’s return to glory.  Even with four of the six-member class transferring out, it is; with apologies to Akil Mitchell, an invaluable piece of UVA’s success this year, Harris is carrying a load for five.


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Brendan’s bio: I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space. Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes. And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

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