UVa's Joe Harris Having Breakout Season with NBA's Brooklyn Nets
Joe Harris is Averaging 8.5ppg with the Brooklyn Nets
Former University of Virginia basketball star Joe Harris is having a breakout season in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets. He's averaging career-highs in all major statistical categories.
Harris is playing an average 23 minutes per game and averaging 8.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Harris is a big part of the Nets' second-unit coming off the bench, although he has started five games this season.
Harris hardly played during his rookie season with Cleveland and missed most of last year with a broken foot. He signed a two-year partially-guaranteed contract with the Nets in the offseason. Harris is making the most of the opportunity.
Harris says, "My first years in Cleveland I didn't really have the quite the opportunity but it was a valuable learning experience being around a championship caliber team, that experience of being around those guys will really help me out going forward and obviously I'm really grateful to have the opportunity here in Brooklyn."
Harris is shooting 42.3 percent from the field and isn't relying on just his 3-point shot. Harris' ability to drive to the bucket is one reason why he's averaging almost nine points per game.
Harris says, "Part of the NBA is night in and night out guys know the personnel, they have scouting reports so if you are limited to doing just one thing then you're not going to be able to stick around for very long."
The Nets want to run and create as many scoring opportunities as possible. Harris and his teammates shoot the third-most three-pointers in the NBA and lead the league in pace (most possessions per game). It all fits into Harris' game.
Harris says, "Coach Atkinson gives guys a lot of freedom to do what they can offensively, everyone knows what their role is on the team, you play really unselfish basketball so there's a lot of guys making the simple play and the easy pass and that affords me to get a lot of clean looks."
Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson says, "I think he's improving every game. I think he's proven that he has a place in this league and I can see him getting better. He comes from a fantastic program (at UVa), a fantastic defensive program and we knew that. We're thrilled, we think we got a steal there. I get a little emotional talking about Joe, I think it's awesome what he's done and what he's done for us and where he was with Cleveland and kind of out of the league, he's really making a push to have a permanent spot in this league, it's great."
Atkinson says he likes Harris' defense. Harris always is working hard to stay in front of his opponent, just like he was taught at Virginia.
Harris says, "I'd probably be getting reamed after every game if I wasn't playing defense from coach Bennett and those guys at UVa. The pride that we took playing defense night in and night out as really translated for me to this level. Obviously the caliber of player is much higher and guys are going to be able to score tougher baskets but it doesn't mean you can't make it hard and that's something I'm trying to do night in and night out."
The rebuilding Brooklyn Nets currently have the worst record in the NBA at 8-29.
Joe Harris played at Virginia from 2011-2014. He ranks 12th on Virginia's all-time scoring list with 1,698 points. He ranks third on Virginia's games played list with 135.
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Marty Hudtloff is the Sports Director at WVIR-TV. He joined the NBC29 sports team in October of 2003. He has a degree in broadcast journalism from Bradley University. You can reach out to Marty via Email or Twitter.