MORGANTOWN, W.Va — A week ago, Eron Harris flipped in a few baskets not long before West Virginia’s NIT game had ended, but long after the loss to Georgetown had been decided. He finished with 10 points and at least as many sighs, arm flails and expressions of exasperation as his sophomore season concluded with another struggle and a seventh loss in 10 games.
Afterward, he stood in a hallway inside the McDonough Gymnasium and answered questions about the offseason awaiting him. Harris spoke optimistically about how he had to get stronger and learn to defend and rebound better so he could do his part to make the Mountaineers as good as he thought they could be next season.
Never once did he say something to suggest that was the end for him in a WVU uniform before he answered the final question and bounced around the gym to find his family, which had come from Indianapolis to watch him play.
Two days later, Harris used Twitter to encourage fans about the future.
“Shoutout to all our fans. #mountaineernation we’ll be back. Best believe that. SQUAD,” he wrote.
The message that came Monday was much more discouraging. Harris and his coach released a statement saying the sophomore has requested and been granted a release from his scholarship so Harris can transfer.
“I have enjoyed my time at West Virginia University the past two years, but I want to transfer closer to home,” Harris wrote. “I want to be closer to my family, especially being around my little brother.”
In the first three seasons following the 2010 Final Four appearance, Bob Huggins added 16 players to his roster who were freshmen or transfers. Harris is the eleventh player to leave by transfer, dismissal or did not qualify. Dominique Rutledge graduated after two seasons as a junior college transfer. Forward Kevin Noreen and guards Gary Browne and Juwan Staten will be seniors, though Staten, who arrived after the 2011 season as a transfer from the University of Dayton, will put his name into the NBA Draft. Terry Henderson, a rising junior, is the only other player still with the program.
There are a number of colleges in Indiana and close to Harris’ home, but Evansville, in the Missouri Valley Conference, was the only college in the state to offer him a scholarship when he was coming out of high school.
Harris and Jack Keefer, his high school coach at Lawrenceville North, did not return a message left Monday afternoon. Huggins declined an invitation to say more about the transfer than what was in the athletic department’s statement.
“We have enjoyed Eron and his contributions to Mountaineer basketball,” he said. “Of all people, I certainly know what it is like to be closer to family and friends, that’s why I did it as a student-athlete then as a coach.”
Huggins, of course, started his college career at Ohio University before transferring to WVU and eventually playing as a captain his senior season. He also took the coaching job at Kansas State before the 2006 season after being out of the business the year before. Huggins led the Wildcats to the NIT, but left to take over at WVU after John Beilein won the NIT and left the Mountaineers for Michigan.
Harris, who deactivated his Twitter account Monday afternoon, was honorable mention all-Big 12 this season. He started 32 of 33 games — he came off the bench on the road against TCU and scored 22 points despite flu-like symptoms and averaged 17.2 points per game and shot 42.2 percent from 3-point range. He was second to Staten on the team in scoring and led WVU in 3-point shooting.
He was a streaky scorer who had four games with at least 28 points and four with less than 10 points as well as eight games with eight or more baskets and eight games with three or fewer baskets. He scored 32 points in a loss at home to Baylor and then scored 15, 18, five, 28, three and 10 points in the final six games. Harris made 25 of 65 shots (38.6 percent) and 12 of 32 2-point attempts (37.5 percent) in those six games. He fouled out twice and played 30 or fewer minutes three times.
WVU has no seniors on the roster. Combo guards Jevon Carter and Dax Miles will be freshmen in the fall and junior college transfer Jonathan Holton, who wasn’t eligible to play this season, will be looked at to absorb some of the available scoring responsibilities.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.