Dajuan Harris displays more assertiveness in KU’s win over Oklahoma State

Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (3) claps after a bucket against Oklahoma State during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

In 2024, players are more aware than ever before of what people are saying about them. That’s probably especially true for Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris Jr., who often posts highlights on his personal Instagram after each game.

For Harris, the outside noise is usually about how he should be doing more. Many people want him to be more aggressive and look for his shot, which is something even his own coaching staff has asked him to do in the past.

Tuesday’s 83-54 win over Oklahoma State was an example of what that looked like, as Harris matched his second-highest scoring output of the season with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.

But the performance was sparked by a completely different message.

“He needs to quit listening to me and needs to quit listening to everybody else on what they think he should be doing to play well,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the game. “That’s ridiculous.”

“You know what he needs to do? He needs to make sure his team wins,” Self added. “And that’s what he does.”

Of course, the Jayhawks do seem to win more when Harris is looking for his chances to score. After Tuesday, Kansas is now 31-1 when Harris scores at least 10 points, including a 6-0 clip this season.

In some ways, Harris’ assertiveness should come as no surprise. He’s always been willing to do what his team needs to do to win, and Kansas needed an offensive boost with Kevin McCullar Jr. sidelined due to a knee injury.

Harris set the tone with a 3-pointer on the game’s opening possession, helping ensure the Jayhawks led from start to finish. His 2-for-3 effort from long range marked his first multi-triple effort in Big 12 Conference play. The only time Harris has hit more 3-pointers in a game this year was when he went 4-for-5 from deep en route to a 23-point performance against Kentucky.

Harris scored seven of the team’s first 18 points before the second media timeout, which allowed Kansas to establish complete control of the contest out of the gate. For comparison, Harris is averaging 7.4 points per game on the year.

“He shot two balls behind ball screens and I think he made two, which is good (because) we want him to shoot the ball,” Self said. “I think he was more aggressive.”

But it wasn’t just the fact that Harris looked to shoot more on Tuesday. He passed the ball with plenty of confidence as the team’s only option at point guard, as McCullar usually spells him for a couple minutes each game.

Harris recorded seven assists and just one turnover. He linked up with KJ Adams Jr. for multiple alley-oops, the last of which perfectly punctuated the blowout. With just over six minutes left in the game, Harris launched the ball from beyond halfcourt and right into the hands of Adams, who rose up and flushed it home with two hands.

The reason why it was so fitting, however, was because the sequence came just 90 seconds after Harris airmailed a lob to Adams from a similar distance. The broadcast immediately turned to Self, who shook his head in disapproval. But Harris was playing his game on Tuesday, and that’s really what his coach wanted.

“All he’s done is win a state high school championship, won Peach Jam, and won a national championship. He wins every pickup game,” Self said. “I told him to just trust your instincts. Just play and trust your instincts.”

Harris now has 21 points, 14 assists, three steals and three turnovers over his last two outings. If this is the version of Harris that the Jayhawks are getting at this point, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Jayhawks will welcome Big 12 odds favorite and conference newcomer, Houston, to town this weekend. Saturday’s showdown between No. 4 Houston and No. 8 Kansas is the start of a stretch that will ultimately determine KU’s chances of winning another regular-season conference championship.

Seven of KU’s final 10 games are against teams currently ranked in the latest AP Poll. KenPom’s latest projections have the Jayhawks finishing 5-5 down the stretch, with losses to Houston (twice), Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Baylor.

After Kansas went 5-3 during a favorable eight-game stretch to begin league play, it’s hard to argue with that projection. But Harris leveling up his game during the final month could certainly adjust that overall outlook.


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