Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
2019-20 season review: Jalen Harris
Arkansas guard Jalen Harris against Kentucky during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
The fifth in a nine-part series reviewing Arkansas basketball in 2019-20.
Note: Jalen Harris announced his intent to enter the NCAA transfer portal as a graduate transfer on March 24.
Class: Redshirt Junior
Stats: 4.2 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, .3 blocks, .9 steals
37.4 percent FG, 50.0 percent 2-point FG, 27.9 percent 3-point FG, 74.5 percent free throws
Per 40: 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, .4 blocks, 1.4 steals
SEC stats: 3.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, .2 blocks, .8 steals
33.3 percent FG, 44.4 percent 2-point FG, 24.2 percent 3-point FG, 69.2 percent free throws
SEC home: 4.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, .3 steals
29.0 percent FG, 36.4 percent 2-point FG, 25.0 percent 3-point FG
SEC road: 3.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals
38.0 percent FG, 50.0 percent 2-point FG, 23.1 percent 3-point FG
Best month: January - 3.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, .8 turnovers, .6 steals
35.7 percent FG, 42.9 percent 2-point FG, 28.6 percent 3-point FG, 70.0 percent free throws
Worst month: December - 4.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.4 turnovers, 0.8 steals
44.4 percent FG, 71.4 percent 2-point FG, 27.3 percent 3-point FG, 57.1 percent free throws
• Handled new role as best he could. It cannot be easy to see your role change the way Jalen Harris' did in his second season at Arkansas and continue to remain upbeat, but that's what happened. Huge credit to him. Eric Musselman, when asked about Harris during the season, always commended his attitude and the way he handled being assigned a bench role considering he was a guy who started all 34 games and recorded the seventh-most assists (189) in a single season in program history in 2018-19.
Although his playing time decreased 6.5 minutes per game year over year, he was still a solid distributor. His 17.2 percent assist rate was second best on the team behind Mason Jones, according to KenPom. In the five games he did start as a junior, he averaged 3.4 assists. That figure was 2.2 in games he came off the bench. He recorded at least four assists in a game seven times this season, including a season-high six against TCU. He picked up the Razorbacks' pace of play when on the floor.
On March 23, Musselman tweeted, "It’s important to be as enthusiastic about the success of your teammates as you are about your own success." Harris was a good teammate, and you would often find him celebrating a teammate knocking down a shot more than buckets he scored. He really enjoyed watching his guys thrive, and he was very coachable, Musselman said.
• Turnover-free stretches. Harris went on a run to begin conference play in which he took great care of the basketball. Over the first four SEC games, he played 80 minutes without a turnover, and in the first six, he committed just two in 131 minutes on the floor.
Harris did not turn the ball over in eight games in 2019-20, and he played 20-plus minutes in six of them. Arkansas had a 50.9 effective field goal percentage with Harris in the lineup this season and it shot nearly 53 percent on 2-point attempts, according to HoopLens. His advance passes and quick swings led to some high-percentage looks.
• Improved a bit as 3-point shooter. Harris had nowhere to go but up in terms of his perimeter shooting after his sophomore season. He shot under 12 percent beyond the arc, hitting only 8 of 69 attempts. In 2019-20, he took eight fewer 3s but made nine more than the previous year.
Arkansas assistant Corey Williams helped Harris with his shot mechanics last offseason. Williams and Harris agreed that he had a tendency to lean back when releasing a 3 as a sophomore. Together, they worked on Harris staying vertical, and, again, his numbers from deep still weren't great, but his percentage rose 17 percent year over year. He did hit some big, timely 3s as well. I'll remember the left-corner 3 he hit at Alabama to seal the comeback win and the two he hit against Kentucky.
Harris was best from 3-point range on the right wing, where he hit 5 of 13 attempts. He hit most of his 3s, though, from the left wing (8). Through the first 65 games of his college career, he had never made multiple 3-pointers in a game. He did so three times last season.
• Between the legs drop-off passes to shooters trailing in transition. Not only were these flashy passes effective in setting up guys for 3s in a broken floor, it also gives you an idea of how aware Harris was of where teammates - especially shooters - were at any given time. I should have charted how many times Harris made this play and tracked shooting percentages by player on those shots he created, but Jones and Isaiah Joe were no doubt the greatest beneficiaries.
• Turnovers, some costly. According to KenPom, Harris wrapped up last season with a turnover rate of 26.6 percent, the highest mark on the team. In SEC play, that number dropped slightly to 23.0. Still, it's not great considering he played less than 60 percent of available minutes this season.
Harris committed a combined nine turnovers in the Razorbacks' games against Texas Southern and Austin Peay in the first full month of the season, including a career-high six against the Governors. Against SWAC and Ohio Valley competition, you certainly want your guards to have much cleaner floor games.
And the turnover that stands above the rest came late in the second half against Mississippi State in Bud Walton Arena. You hear coaches all the time say that players should never leave their feet to make a pass unless it is absolutely necessary. All in one motion, Harris leapt into the air and spun, attempting to hit an Arkansas guard only for it to be intercepted by Tyson Carter, who threw down a dunk on the other end.
There was another head-scratching miscue late against LSU, also at home, when the Tigers were applying fullcourt pressure. He caught in front of the LSU bench, faked a cross-court pass to an open Joe, then elected to make a more difficult pass, which was tipped and turned into a Tigers layup. His decision making could be shaky at times, for sure.
• Not a great defender. I thought Harris had a pretty tough time keeping opposing guards in front of him on a consistent basis. Really, this was an issue essentially across the board. Again, going back to the Mississippi State loss, he committed an unnecessary foul on Carter on the right wing with Arkansas up 3 because he wasn't quite quick enough laterally to prevent the guard from turning the corner. He gambled a bit too much and banked on being able to poke the ball free from behind.
For a player with Harris' quickness, he did not come up with many steals in conference play. He was last among Arkansas' guards in steals per game at 0.8. Harris had only three in the Razorbacks' nine SEC home games, but was better on the road in league play - 1.2 per game.
Harris' shooter recognition defensively and closeout urgency wasn't always there either.
• Prone to silly fouls. Harris is a fairly aggressive player by nature, especially with the ball in his hands, and that trait could be a downfall for him on the defensive end. He committed the fourth-most fouls on the team this season, and was whistled for 4.2 fouls per 40 minutes, according to KenPom, which led Razorbacks guards. He averaged 4.5 fouls per 40 minutes in SEC games. A number of fouls he committed drove Musselman crazy on the sideline.
Offensively, Harris turned the ball over only six times in January, which over eight games is great, but half were player-control fouls.
• Improved as a 3-point shooter, but still wasn't very effective. Harris finished the season 2 of 14 from 3 in the left corner, 8 of 27 from the left wing and 6 of 17 on the right side of the floor.
On floor: Offense (1,081 poss.) - .98 PPP, 17.1 percent TO rate, 52.7 percent 2FG; Defense (1,084 poss.) - .93 PPP, 21.7 percent TO rate, 52.5 percent 2FG, 26.1 percent 3FG
Off floor: Offense (1,019 poss.) - 1.02 PPP, 13.5 percent TO rate, 48.8 percent 2FG; Defense (1,024 poss.) - .92 PPP, 20.5 percent TO rate, 48.8 percent 2FG, 30.8 percent 3FG
Best Harris quote: "Playing in the Bud is something that I'll cherish forever." - A line in Harris' message on Twitter announcing his intent to graduate transfer from Arkansas
Best quote on Harris: "Jalen doesn't do walk-ups, and he doesn't do look-ats. He just pushes it. We wanted him to play with pace, because he does such a good job of getting other people layups or clean looks with their feet set, guys that have 10 toes toward the rim. He does a good job of delivering the ball at the proper time." - Eric Musselman after Harris finished with a season-high six assists vs. TCU
Season review series
Part 1: Desi Sills
Part 2: Isaiah Joe
Part 3: Adrio Bailey
Part 4: Mason Jones
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