Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris knows he needs to shoot more, and good things usually happen when he does
Maybe it was just because Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was in the building on Tuesday night, but Kansas coach Bill Self used a football analogy to describe the Jayhawks’ offense.
Specifically, he was talking about Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris Jr., and how his willingness and ability to shoot the ball from the outside can make all the difference for the 8th-ranked Jayhawks’ scoring attack.
“We’re going to be decent offensively, or pretty good offensively, if they have to guard five guys,” Self said after Tuesday’s 90-78 win over No. 7 Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse. “I mean, let’s just call it like it is. Even if Juan misses, it’s like throwing deep. There’s the threat that he’s going to shoot it.”
By using the phrase, “throwing deep,” Self was referencing football teams taking shots down the field to loosen up the defense even if they don’t need or expect to complete the pass.
That happens all the time in the NFL and college football and it’s amazing to watch what it opens up for the running game and underneath routes on future plays.
Harris’ 3-point shooting is a similar weapon, given the way teams have shown throughout his career that they’re willing to sag off of him and dare him to beat them.
He’s done that, of course. But he also still has the ability to revert to his more passive ways. Tuesday night was not one of those nights.
“They tell me to be aggressive every day, so I just wanted to come in and shoot the ball,” Harris said after scoring 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting in a win over the Wildcats. “Today, I shot a lot of 3s and that’s what my teammates and coaches want from me.”
Harris made two of six from 3-point range, draining the game’s first 3-point attempt on KU’s opening possession and then hitting another one late. He missed the four he took in between those, but no one on the KU bench minded.
“To see guys shoot the shots they’re supposed to shoot, regardless if they go in or not, it’s great,” leading scorer Jalen Wilson said. “I’m all for that. … We’re more complete when we do that.”
Added Self: “No question. (Harris has) got to look to score. We talk about that each and every day. He and KJ both need to look to score.”
Harris understands that and actually is doing it, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
Tuesday’s game marked the midway point of the Big 12 schedule and the 21st game of the season for the Jayhawks. Harris already has attempted 46 3-pointers. Last season, as the starting point guard on a team loaded with offensive weapons, he attempted 62 3-pointers all season.
A career 39% shooter, Harris is now hitting 41.3% from downtown on the season. And there’s a clear connection between his production and KU’s success.
In the Jayhawks’ four losses, Harris has averaged 1.8 points per game while shooting just 16.7% overall and 12.5% from 3-point range.
He typically has been super-selective about when to shoot in the past. But now that he has become a bigger part of the Jayhawks’ scoring, and not just a manager of the offense, his coaches and teammates want and need him to take a more aggressive approach to looking to score.
“I think Juan’s a good (shooter),” Self said Tuesday. “He does it in practice every day. We’ll do shooting drills (and) he’ll make more than Gradey (Dick) and J-Wil. So that’s not unusual to see at all. He just needs to translate that to the game.”