Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
UA forward ready to roll in NLR
Arkansas' Alandise Harris (2) defends Southeastern Louisiana's Antonnio Benton (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. Arkansas won 111-65. (AP Photo/Sarah Bentham)
Arkansas freshman forward Bobby Portis was among the crowd at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock two years ago when Alandise Harris led Houston to an 87-78 victory over the Razorbacks.
“The one thing I remember is Alandise’s top-10 play off the rim,” Portis said. “It was pretty crazy.”
Harris, a 6-6 forward from Little Rock Central, came down the lane untouched and soared into the air for a right-handed dunk off a missed shot by J.J. Thompson to stretch the Cougars’ lead to 80-72 with 1:44 to play. The dunk became ESPN Sports Center’s No. 1 play of the night and has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube.
Harris finished the game with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots despite being limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble.
“I remember the dunk,” Harris said Friday. “It was crunch time, and I had to make a play. Our point guard drove and put up a floater that missed, and I just followed up.”
Harris seems surprised the dunk has drawn so much attention.
“It was a big play, but I’ve made plays like that all the time,” he said. “They just don’t all get recognized on TV. It’s something I’ve done 100 other times.”
Harris, a redshirt junior, will be back in Verizon Arena tonight for the Arkansas-South Alabama game, and this time he’ll be making plays for the Razorbacks instead of against them.
After two seasons at Houston, Harris transferred to Arkansas last year and redshirted. This season he’s helped the Razorbacks to an 8-2 start while averaging 11.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 blocked shots in 21.5 minutes. He is shooting 49.3 percent from the field (36 of 73) and 71.4 percent from the free-throw line (40 of 56).
“I never thought me and Alandise would be on the same team,” said Portis, from Little Rock Hall. “It will be cool [tonight], because both of us are from Little Rock. Our whole town will come and support us.”
Portis said there is no doubt how much tonight’s game means to Harris.
“All year this is all he’s been talking about, the Little Rock game,” Portis said. “So I think he’ll be action-packed down there.”
Harris said that two years ago he never expected to be playing for the Razorbacks, but circumstances changed with his family and the Arkansas program.
Harris’ mother, Alberta Harris, died in November of 2010 during his freshman season at Houston. After averaging 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds as a two-year starter at Houston, Harris said he wanted to be closer to his two older sisters who live in Little Rock. He was given a scholarship release from Houston Coach James Dickey - a Valley Springs native and former Razorbacks assistant- and transferred to Arkansas to play for Coach Mike Anderson, who replaced John Pelphrey after the 2010-2011 season.
Harris and Houston handed Anderson his first loss as Arkansas’ coach.
“We’re glad to have Alandise on our basketball team,” Anderson said. “He is an impactful player and certainly he wants to be here, so that makes it even better.”
Harris said before the Arkansas-Houston game that when he was at Little Rock Central, it was his understanding from Pelphrey that after he became academically qualified a scholarship would be waiting for him.
“Then when I got qualified, it didn’t work out with Coach Pelphrey,” Harris told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette two years ago. “That was hard, because Arkansas is where I really wanted to go my whole life, and that’s where I thought I was going.”
Pelphrey, now a Florida assistant coach, has declined comment on Harris’ recruiting.
Harris said earlier this season the important thing is he made it to Arkansas, and that he’s a better fit for Anderson’s system than he would have been playing for Pelphrey.
“Everything happened for a reason,” Harris said. “It’s just really a better situation overall.”
Razorbacks senior guard Mardracus Wade played against Harris two years ago.
“When we first played him against Houston, he impressed me with how athletic he is and how tough,” Wade said. “When I found out he was coming here, I was like, ‘Man, that’s going to be a big addition, that’s going to help us out a lot.’ “
Harris has started four games this season and has come off the bench in six.
“To me, he is a starter,” Anderson said. “He’ll certainly be one of the finishers.”
Today’s game ARKANSAS MEN VS. SOUTH ALABAMA WHEN 7 p.m.
WHERE Verizon Arena, North Little Rock RECORDS Arkansas 8-2, South Alabama 6-5 SERIES Arkansas leads 5-1 RADIO Razorback Sports Network TELEVISION Razorback Sports Network on KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock, KFTA, Channel 24, in Fayetteville and KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro.
Sports, Pages 19 on 12/21/2013