WVU's Harris learns a lesson
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Eron Harris will be the first to admit that when last he stepped onto the basketball floor it was not a pretty sight.
Well, at least during those moments when he actually got a chance to step onto the floor.
It was last Thursday at Missouri and Harris, then but not now the leading scorer in the Big 12, scored just two points through the first 31 minutes of the game.
Harris spent much of that time on the bench, including the first 11 minutes of the second half. Bob Huggins yanked his sophomore guard and just made him watch.
Afterward, when a Missouri-area reporter asked Huggins if he would like for Harris to attempt more than the six field goals he attempted that night, the answer was fairly predictable.
"It's hard to shoot from where he was most of the game,'' Huggins said. "You're not going to get many shots from over there.''
As for Harris? Well, he understood completely.
"I wasn't doing what I usually do,'' Harris said. "So it was my time to sit.''
So what was Harris doing that got him one of the best seats in the house? In short, he was doing too much. Perhaps it was his lofty spot atop the Big 12 scoring list or maybe it was just Harris feeling good about what he'd done so far, averaging 20 points. But Harris was trying to show how good he was, and in doing so he showed nothing.
"I need to realize I have teammates,'' Harris said.
Indeed, as West Virginia attempts to get on with the meat of its schedule in tonight's late-night home game with Gonzaga, Harris figures prominently. There's a reason he was averaging 20 points - and still is second in the league at 18.9 points per game - and it wasn't because Harris was out there proving how good he could be.
"Eron is very, very good when he lets the game come to him. He's not so good when he doesn't,'' Huggins said. "But that can be said for anybody. That's not an indictment of Eron. That's basketball.''
The indictment of Harris was that against Missouri he forgot to let the game come to him and was trying to win it by himself. Very quickly, Huggins looked out there and saw his best scorer attempting to be a one-man show.
He wasn't the only one, either. That's one of the reasons West Virginia was pretty much run over by Missouri, losing an 80-71 decision that could have been much worse.
"I asked them, 'You ever see Ray Allen dribble between his legs and shoot fade-aways?' No,'' Huggins said. "He's the greatest 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA. You do what you do. You do what you're good at.''
As far as this West Virginia team is concerned, that doesn't mean showcasing individual skills. Harris is no different.
"Eron is good. Eron's a good player. But you can't get out of character,'' Huggins said. "Honestly, that's what defense is, right? It's trying to make people do things they can't do. They made us do things we can't do and Eron was probably at the top of the list.''
That was Huggins' objection early against Missouri when WVU wasn't making a field goal in the first seven minutes and only two in the first 11. Oddly, the basket that finally got the Mountaineers going and was at the start of a brief run that made the game close for a while late in the first half was an easy layup by Harris on an inbounds play.
Not only was that Harris' only field goal of the first 30-plus minutes, it was in a way a perfect example of what Huggins was talking about. Granted, not all of Harris' baskets are layups -he's tied for first in the Big 12 in 3-pointers and third in 3-point shooting percentage - but that he got one unguarded out of a designed play speaks to the value of working within the system.
In fairness to Harris, those scoring numbers he put up through the early part of the season drew far more attention to him.
"It's something I have to learn how to deal with,'' Harris said. "I mean, I've faced that before, in high school. But it's different now. But the more games we play, the more I'll get used to it.''
As far as Huggins is concerned, Harris will fare best if by getting used to it he means realizing that more attention on him means less somewhere else.
"Eron Harris is pretty good, but he's got to be Eron Harris,'' Huggins said. "He can't be somebody else. When he tries to be somebody else he's not very good.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.