Jeremy Harris finds home at Buffalo after searching for 3 years

first_img Comments BUFFALO — Buffalo players huddled on the blue bull in the center of Alumni Arena, after UB’s starters had finished scrimmaging its scout team. It was Nov. 19, two days before its first home game since cracking the AP Top 25 poll. Head coach Nate Oats, enclosed by his players, spoke to them briefly before a “family” chant ended practice.But Jeremy Harris stayed, and moments later he lingered to the left-end hoop and shot free throws and 3-pointers. After some time, he ventured down to the other side, where others casually dribbled and joked. Then a shout came from associate head coach Jim Whitesell on the sidelines, asking if anyone had classes soon.Harris turned to Whitesell, laughing, and yelled.“Coach, nobody has class on Mondays.”Harris, a senior in his second year at UB, was surrounded by the basketball family he spent three years looking for. The one that kept him focused in the classroom and successful on the court. After not having the grades to fulfill a potential Division I scholarship, Harris had pit stops at a military school and junior college. But finally, after landing at No. 14 Buffalo (10-0), he’s transformed into the program’s latest junior college success story. Entering Tuesday’s trip to the Carrier Dome against Syracuse (7-3), Harris is averaging 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season, playing a major role in UB’s ascension to its highest ranking in program history.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Down-to-earth, humble, high-character kid that just wanted to find the right fit,” Oats said of Harris. “He wasn’t all about the accolades.”Before Harris found where he belonged, poor grades sent him to Fishburne Military School in Virginia after attending Page (North Carolina) High School in 2014. At Fishburne, he was part of a strict military routine.Each day began at 6:00 a.m., when rooms were prepared for inspection. After that, Harris dressed in his military uniform and entered formation for the flag raising before class. Ed Huckaby, then-postgraduate coach of Fishburne’s basketball team, acknowledged the maturity Harris gained from his time there. Now, Harris likes his room clean, although he’s eliminated the fresh-shaved beard.After one year, the maturity was there, and Harris earned interest from Maryland and Coastal Carolina. But his academics weren’t. Forced to take the JUCO route, he and Nancy Griffith, his mother, visited schools in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Florida. But at Gulf Coast State College, in Panama City, Florida, the two connected to head coach Jay Powell. GCSC played in the Panhandle Conference, which currently has three teams in the NJCAA Division I Top 25.At GCSC, Harris and his teammates packed into 15-passenger vans and drove up to five hours for games, and ate “Steak ‘N Shake” fast food as opposed to catered hotel meals. His time there lacked the luxuries that accompany Division I programs, something he would experience down the road.After earning subpar grades in the past, Harris started to ask for help from tutors. Any hesitation that existed during Harris’ recruitment because of grades, vanished during his time in Panama City.“I’m pretty sure that when I’m on my deathbed,” Powell said, “I’m going to be pretty pleased with guys like Jeremy and what type of men they became.”When the time came to again find a school, more lined up. NC State and Texas Tech were some of the frontrunners, and Oats didn’t think UB had a chance to land Harris.The Bulls were coming off their first NCAA tournament appearance in program history when Oats took over in 2015. Bobby Hurley had bolted with star player Shannon Evans to Arizona State University, and the Bulls had five scholarship spots to fill. Oats and his staff chose three from the JUCO ranks, largely because of assistant coach Bryan Hodgson’s connections from past coaching. Two seasons later, Harris was on their radar.Both Oats and Hodgson visited Griffith and Harris, the No. 2 recruit in his class according to JucoRecruiting.com, multiple times. Hodgson went to Harris’ showcase in Florida, where an assistant from another school in pursuit didn’t show. After Oats and Hodgson kept in contact with Harris, he eventually bought in and committed to Buffalo.Two years ago, Harris and Griffith sat inside Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams’ office during an unofficial visit. At one point, Williams pulled out the Bible and read Matthew 25:14-30 aloud to Harris. It was the “Parable of the Three Servants,” where three men are entrusted with bags of silver and branch out in different directions. One invests it, one adds to it by working, and one hides it all. Use your talents, and find even more. Waste them, and they will be taken away. Its message resonated with Harris, and he’s followed it at UB.Harris went from averaging 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds his final JUCO season to 15.5 points and 5.9 rebounds last year. He’s a part of the Mid-American Conference championship and NCAA Tournament banner that was raised Oct. 26, celebrating UB’s success last season.With just over five minutes left in the Bulls’ first-round NCAA Tournament game against Arizona in March, Harris received the ball on the right wing. After he called for isolation, the only thing that stood between him and the basket was future No. 1 NBA draft pick DeAndre Ayton. Harris crossed over four times, stepped back, and swished a jumper over Ayton to put the Bulls up 17, a lead they would never surrender.But before he could score 23 points against Arizona, before he could lead the Bulls to their first NCAA tournament win in program history, Harris needed to actualize his potential. And Buffalo gave him that opportunity.“When he got here, all the other guys realized how talented he was right out of the gate,” Oats said. “But he’s also one of our harder workers.” Published on December 17, 2018 at 2:50 pm Contact Andrew: arcrane@syr.edu | @CraneAndrewcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img