Saturday, in addition to bringing back veteran point guard Jamaal Tinsley, the Utah Jazz released five players in order to get to their final Opening Day roster. After the dust cleared, Mike Harris was the lone training camp free agent left standing.
So who is the newest Utah Jazz player? Harris is a 6’6″, 240 lb. forward who was born and raised in Hillsboro, Texas.
He stayed to play college ball locally, starring at Rice University from 2001 to 2005, competing in 121 games. He improved from season to season, going from 12.8 PPG his freshman year to 20.6 PPG in his senior campaign. Harris finished his career as the Owls’ all-time leading scorer with 2,014 career points, and was also the top rebounder in Rice history with 1,111 boards. He’s part of the impressive group of collegians who amassed 2,000+ points and corralled 1,000+ rebounds. Despite his gaudy stats, Harris went undrafted in the 2005 NBA Draft.
The 30-year old Harris has played parts of three NBA seasons, including three stints with his hometown Houston Rockets. He also had a cup of coffee with the Washington Wizards, as well. His rookie year in 2007-08 was his most productive, as he chipped in 3.6 PPG and 3.2 RPG in 9.4 MPG for the Rockets. There were three times he played preseason basketball (Milwaukee Bucks, Rockets, and Minnesota Timberwolves) before being waived prior to the regular season.
Beyond that, Harris is a world traveler, having spent time in a number of locales: Ukraine, China and Puerto Rico (which was his favorite place to play outside the NBA. We also learn in this interview that he loves to eat.). He is one of 103 current NBA players who has spent time in the D-League (Colorado 14ers, Rio Grande Valley Vipers). Harris was the 2009-10 D-League Most Valuable Player (27.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 58.2% FGs).
Harris appeared in seven preseason games for the Utah Jazz, averaging 2.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg in 9.0 mpg. His on-court play was rather pedestrian and only two players saw less playing time. That made his roster spot somewhat surprising, but he obviously impressed head coach Tyrone Corbin. The great Jody Genessy of the Deseret News shared some of Corbin’s thoughts on why Harris earned a spot on the roster.
Harris will be an extra big who will work hard in practice and given the current injury situation, may even earn some spot duty. Few people thought much of the Jazz’s signing DeMarre Carroll two seasons ago, and Carroll ended up being an integral role player. Perhaps Harris will be another diamond in the rough.