Dajuan Harris is the silent force behind Kansas’ success’
Call him stable. The nickname is fitting for Dajuan Harris of Kansas. KU loses money this season, but adversity to the door of Jayhawks more than most people imagine for a 30 winning team. And the light presence in Lawrence is Harris.
Ochai Agbaji is one of the country’s elite talents. Christian Braun can hit the clutches almost at will. However, it was Harris’s under-radar current that somehow kept Kansas’ path to No. 1 seed alive throughout the season. Harris acted as the Jayhawks’ starting point guard, replacing Remy Martin, who suffered a knee injury in early February and did not leave the reins for several weeks afterward.
Martin is now healthy and serving as best bench player in the NCAA Tournament. Harris’ role isn’t to lighten the scoreboard but his effectiveness would be greatly missed and make Kansas feel frustrated if he didn’t play for Bill Self. Harris played as many sixth minutes for the Jayhawks in their 79-72 win over Creighton on Saturday, to advance to the show’s first Sweet 16 since 2018.
The guy with the sixth most minutes might not sound like a serious contributor, but Harris’s efforts are comparable to that of a set man in baseball, a trusted member of a bullpen was responsible for throwing the eighth inning, keeping the lead while generally failing to score the last three. You’ll read about it in the papers if the setter takes the lead, but he’s rarely mentioned when he does his job effectively. Harris has had a few moments throughout the season where he’s been in the spotlight, while trailing Braun and Agbaji in terms of statistical feats.
Harris’s journey to trigger Self’s offense is an interesting one. I’ve known, ever since I first watched him play basketball in 2018. I’m a high school sports reporter for my hometown newspaper in Harris’s hometown is in Columbia, Missouri. Oddly, he’s from Mizzou’s hometown and is now indispensable to Kansas but I digress. I watched more of his senior season at Columbia’s most populous high school, Rock Bridge, than anyone, and it wasn’t particularly close to second place.
When I moved to town, Harris had a reputation as one of the best players in the state. He is an elite distributor, has lightning speed and is a defensive attacker, a trait that has been likened to Kansas’ best perimeter defender. Harris is constantly up against any of the opponent’s best scorers and knocks them down on almost every occasion. There’s no better effort from Harris than in the state championship game, when assigning a player also starting on the Sweet 16 team.
Cau Da is facing the St. Louis prepares for the Christian Brothers, led by North Carolina guard Caleb Love. Dropping eight points to start the fourth quarter, Harris is part of a comeback effort that helps Rock Bridge win the state title. At the time, Harris was committed to Missouri State with the semifinals and title games taking place on the Bears campus in Springfield. An even bigger part of Harris’ reputation at the time was his presence on the ugliest three-headed monster in Show-Me State High, alongside Isiaih Mosley and Ja’Monta Black, both playing for Missouri State.
After Harris shone at the EYBL Peach Jam U17 Championship in July 2019, one of the top amateur leagues in the country, Self made contact and he switched to the Jayhawks. Now, he’s teammates with Agbaji, who happens to be playing for Harris’s high school coach’s son. They have won four national titles.
I spoke to Harris after he committed. 32 months ago, he mentioned that he feels Self is “the best coach in the country” and that KU has the best tradition in the country. Now the most relevant of the other reasons he wants to be a Jayhawk: “I want to win the national championship.” Kansas’ season ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak in 2020, and the Jayhawks got out NCAA tournament in Round 32 last season. These are the moments that Harris dreams of and KU wouldn’t be in the big games to come without him.