K-State Wildcats will count heavily on Tre Harris shooing treys

MARCH 2015 – As the roller-coaster 2014-15 men’s basketball season draws to a close for Kansas State, the future still holds questions. Who will anchor the front line? Where will the scoring come from? There’s even a question about who will be wearing the purple and white uniform for coach Bruce Weber. Those are just a few details to determine.

Upset victories over ranked Kansas and Iowa State to end February put the Wildcats back in the discussion as a “bubble team” for the NCAA tournament. This is the same Wildcats that were blown out by Baylor and TCU the week before beating the Jayhawks and Cyclones. This is the same Wildcats’ squad that lost to Texas Southern and Georgia in back-to-back games in December.

One thing seems fairly certain is Tre Harris will be bombing from 3-point range.

Entering March, Harris, a freshman guard, led the Wildcats in 3-point shooting at 44.2 percent (19 of 43). His 19 makes are fourth on the team behind leading scorer Marcus Foster, who has made 58 of 162 (35.8 percent), Justin Edwards (21 of 69, 30.4) Nigel Johnson (20 of 57, 35.1). He may be nicknamed Tre because his given name is Robert Lamont Harris III, but he probably would have earned that moniker anyway.

“I would say shooting is definitely my strength on the court,” he said. “I would say my biggest challenge is getting into the rhythm of the team. We have a lot of guys who can contribute. I just need to find my place. You can’t be hot every night.”

In his senior year of high school, he hit 46.4 percent of his 3-pointers (66 of 142).

“We always need shooters, and that’s why we recruited him,” Weber said. “In this league, you need guys who can spot-up and make shots. As he gets a little stronger, and helps his athleticism through the weight room, his intelligence will help him become a real solid player for us.

“He’s one of our better post-feeders. He has a good feel for the game. He knows where to be in position on defense. The biggest problem is that he needs people to help him get open, whether it’s the ‘penetrate and kick’ or screening action. Athleticism and strength are where he needs to have a great off-season. That will help him compete better against the more athletic guys playing at the wing in our league. He’s had some good experience this year. It’s pretty obvious that we struggle scoring and he can knock down some shots.”

surplusexchange.orgIf he improves the way Weber expects, opposing coaches will have to factor stopping him into the game plan.

“He can shoot the lights out,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s a very confident kid who is not afraid of the big stage. He’ll step up and make shots. That’s a nice luxury to have.”

Texas coach Rick Barnes agrees. The Longhorns led K-State by 12 points late in the first half on their visit to Manhattan before Harris hit three consecutive 3-pointers to help the Wildcats forge a halftime tie.

“When you get a guy who can shoot the ball, whether or not he can do anything else, puts a lot of pressure on the defense,” Barnes said. “They stretch the floor for you and open it up. Shooters cause all kinds of problems. He did not catch us by surprise. The game before, he came in and knocked down some 3’s.”

Harris was a four-year letterman at Edwardsville (Ill.) High School, leading the team to a 31-3 record and a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament as a senior. It was the first time in nearly a half-century that the Tigers advanced to the state semifinals. Harris ranks No. 4 on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,460 points. He averaged 17 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals as a senior.

His grandfather, father and uncle played at the school. He may be the best of the bunch, though his uncle, Jon Harris, might disagree. He was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch High School Player of the Year in 1998 before playing in 113 games at Marquette from 1998-2002.

His mother, LeAnn, who was an All-American basketball player at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. She scored 1,518 points in 83 games from 1991-94. She averaged 18.3 points on 53.3 percent shooting with 6.8 rebounds and was inducted into the SIUE Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.

“I was around basketball my whole life,” the K-State guard said. “I had my parents coaching me my whole life, keeping me around the game. I didn’t really have any choice but to play, you might say. The goal was to play in college, and see if I can make money playing after college is through.”

Family played a key role in Harris’ development, and he said carried over to the reason he chose K-State.

“It was definitely the family atmosphere and the fan support,” he said. “I thought I would fit in well. I thought the transition would be easy because they need 3-point shooters.”

He says the long-range shot is always on his mind, though he wants to take what the defense gives him. “Guys know I’m a capable shooter, so they try to find me in positions on the court where I can catch and shoot and get an easy look,” he said.

The Wildcats will need Harris’ teammates to find him often next year.

Two starting big men—Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson—will be gone. Williams (11.3 points per game) and Gipson (11.0) are the team’s second and third leading scorers, respectively. Not a lot of scoring will return for K-State from the front line.

The strength will be in the back court. In the last few games of this season, Edwards has stepped up big. He had 16 points in K-State’s upset of Iowa State on Feb. 28. And Johnson has suddenly emerged as a very capable back-up point guard, as well as a dependable scorer.

The Cats looked like they were playing out the string entering the penultimate week of the regular season and home games against No. 8 Kansas and No. 12 Iowa State. Johnson led the team in scoring both nights, averaging 18.5 points, and the Wildcats had a perfect week and suddenly entered the discussion for NCAA tournament bid.

There’s been speculation Foster doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Weber and may transfer. No one within the program, including Foster, will comment on that. But K-State has to find answers on the offensive end, whether or not Foster returns for his junior season. Weber will need Harris and Edwards to provide some depth at the 2-guard position. When Foster’s playing well, the Wildcats are solid. But when he’s disengaged—or worse yet, not even in uniform—the Cats struggle.

“We’ll just have to keep working and not forget what happened this year,” Harris said his approach will be next year. “That way we can keep it from happening again and get back to the way K-State basketball should be.”

Article by David Smale

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