Getting a point guard was a high priority for the East Tennessee State basketball team during recruiting season. Getting this point guard was even a higher one.
ETSU coach Murry Bartow announced the signing of Devin Harris, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound point guard from Tampa, on Monday. Harris had signed last Wednesday, the first day of the signing period, and his paperwork arrived on Monday to make it official.
“We targeted Devin way back,” Bartow said. “He was a high priority for us. We were thrilled he decided to come. We obviously wanted to get a point guard and we wanted it to be a high school point guard. It was a fun recruitment.”
Harris will add some versatility to the Bucs’ backcourt, which is losing senior Jarvis Jones and freshman Mario Stramaglia, who is transferring.
“I love him as a kid, No. 1,” Bartow said. “He’s a fantastic kid with a fantastic family. Secondly, when you think of the term student-athlete, he’s that in the truest sense.”
ETSU was the first Division I school to recruit Harris. But as he put together a solid senior season, other schools got into the hunt. Central Florida and South Carolina were interested, and Georgetown and Wyoming wanted him to visit.
“I can’t wait,” Harris said Monday. “I liked the coaching staff. I’m able to be myself with them, joke around a little and be serious too. They had the right fit for for me on the court and off the court. I enjoyed my official visit. I got along good with the team.”
Harris’ brother, Ramon, played at Kentucky from 2006-10, and offered a little advice during Devin’s recruitment.
“He told me ‘Just don’t rush it,’ ” Harris said. “He said wherever I fit, I should go there, and that I should enjoy it while I can.”
Harris was a first-team all-state selection after leasing Jesuit to the Class 5A state championship. He averaged 15.5 points, six rebounds, 2.4 steals and 3.5 assists per game.
“He’s 6-4, almost 200 pounds and he’s left handed, which are all pretty intriguing things when you think of a point guard,” Bartow said. “He is very smart, has an incredibly high basketball IQ.
“He can do a little bit of everything. He’s one of those guys who can stuff the stat sheet a little bit. He’s not gonna go for 25, but because of his size, he gets a lot of different things done. He can really get into the pain and make plays. He’s a really good passer.”
Harris’ high school coach, Neal Goldman, had plenty of praise for the leader of his state-championship team.
“I am pretty certain that I have not coached a better overall basketball player than Devin Harris,” Goldman said. “The great players care. The great players strive for perfection. The great players know how to take their level of play to another gear when the game is on the line. And the great players have the ability to draw the best out of their teammates. That great player for us was Devin Harris.”
Meanwhile, Stramaglia has decided to transfer after a freshman season during which he played 12 minutes a game and shot 27 percent from the field.
“He and I met,” Bartow said. “I don’t think it was more me or more him. He met with (assistant coach) Richard Johnson, too. Kind of through those discussions, he made the decision to ask for his release and made the decision to look elsewhere.”
The Bucs signed A.J. Merriweather of Jackson and Maurice O’Field of Cleveland during the early signing period.
Harris’ signing and Stramaglia’s departure leave one scholarship open for ETSU.
“All I know is we’re gonna have 13 on scholarship when the school year rolls around,” Bartow said. “We’re busy recruiting right now. We’re right in middle of the signing period. Hopefully we can make some things happen over the next couple of weeks.”