LITTLE ROCK — One of the best assist-to-turnover point guards in the nation a season ago was Arkansas’s Jalen Harris, and as a junior in 2019-20 he’ll look to improve on his perimeter shooting to increase his value for first-year Razorbacks head coach Eric Musselman.
Harris is the fifth of 12 scholarship Hoop Hogs to be highlighted as a lead-up to the ’19-20 season.
What we already know: Harris was one of the best facilitators in the SEC, ranking in the top 5 in assists (5.6 per game) while being the second-best in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9-to-1) … really the only thing missing last season was a perimeter shot — he was an anemic 8-of-69 for 11.6% through 34 games in ’18-19 — and as it turned out that was a HUGE missing piece because it allowed defenses to focus more on scorers in Daniel Gafford, Isaiah Joe, and Mason Jones while also choking off Harris’s preference to drive the ball into the paint and create as defenses sagged off and waited on him … Harris was an adequate defender (38 steals was second-best on the team) and rebounder as a lead guard (2.9 per game was second-best among guards), and his downhill end-to-end speed with the ball gave the Hogs many numbers-advantage opportunities in transition … Harris had 2 points, 3 steals, and 1 assist in the annual Red-White intrasquad scrimmage on Oct. 5.
What to look for in ’19-20: Reports out of practice have been that Harris has consistently knocked down shots from the perimeter, including beyond the new extended trifecta arc (full disclosure: reports from practice last season were that Harris was a much better shooter than what he brought to games) … some things aren’t complicated, and simply put Harris MUST find a way to make his practice shooting translate to games to keep defenses honest … will be interesting to see if he can become a 25-to-30-percent shooter from 3, and it will also be interesting to see how much the pace-and-space offense with crisp ball movement via the pass will enhance downhill driving opportunities for Harris, who thrived when he could drive straight ahead and attack the cup … Harris will share point-guard duties with senior graduate-transfer Jimmy Whitt, Jr.
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman talks about Jalen Harris (late September): “I think a lot of it with shooting is mental. He’s been getting in reps, he looks really good and shooting the ball on his own. I feel like his confidence is growing. Having said that, now I think anytime with any upperclassman, it comes down to whether you’re a baseball hitter, you get in grooves or get in slumps. I think with J5, it’s really just getting him into a game and him knocking down a couple 3s and then what we see behind closed doors. Hopefully he’ll shoot the ball at a much higher rate this year.”
2019-20 Projection: Starter or Top 7-8 rotation with starter value.