Dayton Dunbar's A.J. Harris was the first member of the 2015 recruiting class to verbally commit to Ohio State back in August 2013, despite growing up as a Duke fan. It's fitting that Harris was the leader of this year's recruiting class, and he'll also be leading the Buckeye offense for the near future from the point guard position. Harris has said that he would like to play all four years he is eligible in Columbus, and if that actually happens, it wouldn't be surprising to see him become a fan favorite.
Many probably overlook Harris because of his 5'9 height, but don't let that detract from the skills the point guard possesses. What Harris might lack in size, he makes up for in quickness and awareness. Harris has great court vision which allows him to distribute a basketball like an effective point guard should. Harris' favorite player growing up was Allen Iverson, and with the way he handles the basketball, you can see Harris models the way he plays basketball after his idol.
A Look Back:
Harris grew up just west of Columbus in Dayton, and excelled during all four years of high school at Dayton Dunbar. During his freshman season, Dayton Dunbar won a state title, with Harris averaging 8.5 points per game, 7.8 assists per game, and 2.6 steals per game. As a sophomore, Harris was able to increase his scoring numbers to 15.3 points per game, while also contributing 5.3 assists per game, and another season with 2.6 steals per game.
During his last two years at Dayton Dunbar, is when Harris started to tighten up his game even more in anticipation of moving on to Ohio State. After shooting 61% from the free throw line in his first two years, Harris was able to bump his numbers from the charity stripe to 71%. During his junior season, Harris scored 14.5 points per game, 6.1 assists per game, and 2.9 steals per game.
Harris almost was able to end his high school career the same way he started it, but Dayton Dunbar fell just short of a state title back in March. In the state semifinal, Harris barely missed a half-court shot at the buzzer and Dayton Dunbar was bounced from the state tournament by one point. To close out his high school career, Harris finished with 18.3 points per game and 5.1 assists per game during his senior year.
Outlook for 2015-16:
The Buckeyes are going to need Harris to step up early and take ownership of the point guard position, since there are no other true point guards on the Ohio State roster. Harris should get the chance to start out of the gates for Thad Matta's team and be the main distributor to players like Marc Loving, Jae'Sean Tate, and Trevor Thompson.
What'll be most interesting to see is how opponents try to attack Harris when the guard has to play defense. Where Harris has had issues in high school is when he has had to defend bigger, physical guards. Harris is a tenacious on-ball defender, and his quickness allows him to be very effective on the defensive end, but those abilities can only take a player so far when they are having to defend a player six or seven inches taller.
Best Case Scenario:
Harris steps in immediately to take hold of the point guard position and starts for the Buckeyes all year at point guard. There are growing pains throughout the season, as there is with any freshman, but improvement from Harris is seen during the season as he is the floor general of an Ohio State team that does enough to earn a NCAA Tournament bid. The strides made by Harris this year begin to lay the groundwork for the point guard becoming a folk hero in Columbus, especially when he plans to be playing for the Buckeyes for four years.
Worst Case Scenario:
Harris isn't quite ready to take the reins at point guard, which leads to JaQuan Lyle starting over Harris. This leads to Harris coming off the bench for the Buckeyes, and while he'll still get significant minutes, they wouldn't be as much as if he were starting. Not the end of the world since Harris is just a freshman, but without Ohio State having a true floor general on the roster, it would've been a perfect opportunity for Harris to claim the job as his, not only for this year but going forward in the near future as well.