Kansas basketball: Dajuan Harris’ offensive emergence key for tourney run

Dajuan Harris Jr. #3 of the Kansas Jayhawks (William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports
Dajuan Harris Jr. #3 of the Kansas Jayhawks (William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports /

For the Kansas Jayhawks to reach another Final Four run this March, it’s obvious that they’ll need points from their star players Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick.

But perhaps the X factor for this team making a deep run is the player who has surprisingly sparked the recent six-game winning streak for the Jayhawks, Dajuan Harris Jr.

We all knew about Harris’ ability as a point guard when it comes to passing and defense. It’s what earned him the starting role on a team that won the national championship a year ago.

He’s so savvy and skilled in those areas that it often made up for his lack of production when it came to scoring. And for the majority of this season, KU has been able to rely on others to provide that scoring and still win games.

However, the last several games, this team has needed Harris to step up his point production – and not only has he answered the call, but KU looks like a different team when he’s aggressive on offense.

In the past, he’s often deferred easy layups or wide open shots to other teammates but that has not been the case the last few games and it’s paid off big for this team.

Last year, Harris averaged 5.4 points per game while shooting 43% from the field and 32% from three-point range. This year, Harris is averaging 8.4 points while shooting 48% from the field and 42% from three.

He’s also already surpassed last year’s assist and rebounding numbers, going from 166 to 182 assists and 54 to 71 rebounds this year.

Harris becoming a scoring threat has also taken some of the pressure off of Wilson and Dick to be the primary scorers. And when defenses have to account for Harris as a driver or scorer that’s only going to open up more open shots for Wilson, Dick, and others.

In these last two weeks of play Harris has also stepped up as KU’s primary ball handler by contributing a total of 32 assists compared to just three turnovers.

Wilson, a likely First Team All-American, has only averaged 12.2 points the last six games – three of which came against ranked Big 12 opponents – and yet KU was able to win every one.

That wouldn’t have been possible if Harris hadn’t become more aggressive as a scorer.

More importantly, it shows that this KU team can win without Wilson having a big scoring night every game, which didn’t feel like the case earlier this year.

Harris’ confidence on offense appears to be at an all-time high, and if it continues, it could be a big reason why KU repeats as national champions.