Handle with care: Harris pushes pace without turnovers

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Jalen Harris of Arkansas vs Western Kentucky Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Jalen Harris of Arkansas vs Western Kentucky Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson thought of Kareem Reid when he was asked before the season what he expected from Jalen Harris.

"I think Jalen is going to be very pivotal in what we do," Anderson said. "He's one of those guys that can create not only for himself, but for others. Very, very quick. Very athletic. He has a good basketball IQ, and he can get guys in places and set them up.


Arkansas sophomore point guard Jalen Harris ranks second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. Here are the top five players:


1;Justin Jenifer;Cincinnati;senior;9;39;5;7.80

2;Jalen Harris;Arkansas;sophomore;8;58;9;6.44

3;Jalen Avery;Kent State;senior;9;38;7;5.43

4;Terrell Allen;UCF;junior;9;43;8;5.38

5;Frankie Ferrari;USF;senior;9;59;11;5.36



Arkansas men vs. Texas-San Antonio

WHEN 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE Verizon Arena, North Little Rock

RECORDS Arkansas 6-2. UTSA 3-6

SERIES Arkansas leads 5-0.

TV None

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

"I think back to the days when we had Kareem Reid. Kareem got a lot of assists for Pat Bradley. Got easy opportunities for Derek Hood.

"That's not comparing Jalen to [Reid], but I think he'll be one of those guys that can get into gaps and create and find people in the right places."

Through eight games this season Harris -- a 6-2 redshirt sophomore transfer from New Mexico -- is doing all Anderson expected and more.

There is a long way to go before Harris challenges Reid's Arkansas record of 219 assists as a freshman during the 1995-1996 season, but Harris' SEC-leading average of 7.3 assists is slightly ahead of Reid's average of 6.6 in 33 games.

"Jalen knows how to facilitate," Razorbacks freshman guard Isaiah Joe said. "He knows how to be the leader on the court. He knows where everybody should be at all times.

"Just having a player on the court that can do that keeps everybody balanced and where we need to be. It makes it easy."

Western Kentucky 6-11 center Charles Bassey blocked Harris' driving attempt as the Hilltoppers held on to beat Arkansas 78-77 on Saturday, but Harris finished with 13 points, 7 assists and 2 steals without a turnover in 37 minutes.

That performance raised Harris' assist-to-turnover ratio to 6.44, which ranks second nationally behind Cincinnati senior Justin Jenifer's ratio of 7.80.

Going into Arkansas' game against Texas-San Antonio on Saturday night at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Harris has 58 assists and 9 turnovers in a team-high 243 minutes as the team's primary ball-handler.

"I think he can be one of the leading assist guys in the country at that pace," Anderson said. "All he has got to do is trust those other guys and they have to move without the basketball and we have got to keep the tempo up.

"He has got pretty good vision and he's really clever with his passes and he's taking pride in it. I think guys are taking pride in finishing off the passes that he does give to them."

Daniel Gafford, the Razorbacks' 6-11 sophomore who is averaging a team-high 18.5 points, is appreciative of Harris' ability to reward teammates running the floor and moving well without the ball.

"Jalen, what he does is he works on finding people," Gafford said. "He works at finding big men. He rewards big men for running, and he finds people that are hot.

"He has crazy court vision. He finds open people, and he makes crazy plays. That's basically what he came here for, was to come make plays like that."

Harris said he learned a lot while redshirting last season and practicing against Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford, who as seniors were All-SEC guards for the Razorbacks.

"I used to always hit up Daryl and Jaylen and ask them what I needed to do, what things I needed to work on and they always told me," Harris said. "By having those guys around, it really worked out."

Harris, who is averaging 9.1 points, had a career-high 12 assists in Arkansas' 98-74 victory at Colorado State, 11 in a 90-68 victory over Montana State and 10 in a 121-89 victory over Florida International.

"It's unbelievable," FIU Coach Jeremy Ballard said of Harris' floor game. "When you have a guard who's got the ball in his hands that much in this type of uptempo system that Coach Anderson employs, and he takes care of the ball at such a high level, then it really gives them a chance to have nights where they put these kind of points on the board.

"He's a very tough player. He's very heady, and he really keeps things going."

Colorado State Coach Niko Medved said he knew Harris would be tough to handle.

"Harris creates a ton of offense for them," Medved said. "He pushes the ball in transition and gets in the lane to create shots for his teammates.

"A lot of times the guys that make the shots get all the credit, but Harris is a big reason why they're getting the shots that they're getting. I think he's a huge key to what they're doing."

Joe scored 34 points against FIU and Gafford 23. Harris had 9.

"Probably pretty unsung as a player because you've got an electric shooter such as Isaiah Joe and obviously the spectacular talent that Daniel Gafford is," Ballard said. "But the things that Jalen Harris does taking care of the ball, that's invaluable."

Anderson praised Harris' leadership in Arkansas' postgame radio show after the Colorado State game.

"More and more, he's taking command out there on the floor," Anderson said. "He settles them down and he can spur them up with aggressiveness.

"He's a big part of the head of this basketball team, so it's good to see him having fun. It's amazing a guy can have fun getting other guys involved. As a coach, you love that."

Sports on 12/12/2018


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