The Lobos didn’t want Jalen Harris to slip through any more cracks.
The 6-foot-2 high school senior from Word of God Academy in Raleigh, N.C., announced Sunday he would accept a scholarship offer from the University of New Mexico basketball team for the coming season, teaming with rising sophomore Jordan Hunter to man the point guard position.
“Proud to announce I’ve committed to New Mexico!!! #GOLOBOS” Harris posted on his Twitter account shortly after noon on Sunday, about 45 minutes after news of his decision initially started making the rounds on social media.
Harris is the fourth, and presumably last, member of UNM’s 2017 recruiting class as the program currently has no more scholarships available and no immediate indication of other players opting to transfer.
Lobo coaches cannot yet talk about their latest addition since he has not yet signed a National Letter of Intent (he plans to do so on Wednesday). Still, it is clear they are high enough on his potential to be an immediate impact player that they offered their final available scholarship to him rather than an older, more college tested point guard from the junior college or graduate transfer ranks.
And that’s a decision that his high school coach believes will pay off big for the Lobos.
“He’s a high, high character kid,” high school coach Brian Clifton said. “He shows up early, stays late and he’s committed to developing his game and representing his family on and off the court.”
Harris initially gave a verbal commitment before his senior season to play at Buffalo, but reopened his recruitment shortly after. More recently, Clifton said, programs such as Alabama, Baylor and Utah had come to see Harris in person.
The initial commitment to Buffalo, Clifton believes, led to Harris dropping off the radar. But by the end of his senior season, it was clear he had developed into a high-level “set the table” type point guard after playing with a more ball-dominant point guard as a junior.
Scout.com, Rivals.com and 247sports.com each rate Harris as a 3-star prospect who had scholarship offers, from among others, Kansas State, DePaul and Tulsa.
Rivals national basketball analyst Eric Bossi described Harris on Twitter as a “bounce and quick playmaker who can score.”
Clifton says Harris has “got world class speed with the ball in his hand” and by the end of his senior season was “probably averaging just over seven assists per game.”
As for defense, the area UNM coach Craig Neal has made the offseason’s No. 1 priority, Harris has plenty of growth potential there, according to Clifton.
“I’ve known coach (Craig) Neal for a number of years and I know about the history of development that he’s had,” Clifton said. “… (Harris) understands angles. He understands how to play defense. With the knowledge he’ll gain from the staff there on what they want out of him defensively, he can become a very good defender.”
Harris is the fourth member of the Lobos 2016 recruiting class, joining 6-10 power forward Connor MacDougall from South Mountain Community College in Phoenix and Arizona State before that; 6-5 wing Damien Jefferson of East Chicago (Ind.) High School; and 6-7 forward Aher Uguak of Harry Ainlay High School in Edmonton, Canada.
In addition to departing walk-on point guard Tim Jacobs, a senior who has exhausted his NCAA eligibility, the Lobos had four scholarships open this season due to the career ending injury suffered by Devon Williams and the transfers of point guard Cullen Neal, and centers J.J. N’Ganga and Nikola Scekic.
ELIJAH BROWN: Among the immediate public well wishes for Harris was a tweet from Lobo guard Elijah Brown.
While Brown is currently testing the NBA Draft waters, he has not hired an agent, leaving his college eligibility open and is taking part in all offseason workouts with the Lobos. His tweet to Harris certainly hinted that he intends to be a part of next season’s roster.
“Them Bo’s up to somethin!! Sound like @Jay5Harris want a ring next year! Congrats 2 my young bull we got big things ahead & glad you a part,” Brown posted.
GOING CAMPING: Registration is open for three summer basketball camps put on by Craig Neal at the Rudy Davalos practice facility.
For more information go to GoLobos.com or call Ben Sanders at 512-415-0602.