When A.J. (Amos) Harris signed with Ohio State on November 12, 2014, several recruiting experts were shocked. Many believed A.J. was too small to compete at the Big Ten level. Not only that, the 5' 9" pint-sized, point-guard received only seven offers and most of them were from mid-majors like University of Dayton and Toledo University. In addition, Rivals.com had him ranked at No.104 in the country.
However, Buckeye boss Thad Matta sees a youngster that plays with heart, passion, and the defensive intensity of former OSU standout Aaron Craft. His Dayton Dunbar High School Coach Pete Pullen can attest:
"A.J. has great court vision and quickness. He is a tenacious on the ball defender. But what you can't measure is his heart. Only he knows what's inside that makes him go."
Pullen ought to know what he is talking about. The 60-year-old has won four D-II state titles, compiled a 249-42 record, and has sent two players to the NBA in a span of 11 seasons. Before that, he was a very successful girls basketball coach.
Just watching him, one can see that he plays with a chip on his shoulder. A me against the world mentality. Anything you can do, I can do better. That attitude has propelled Amos into the Big Ten.
I remember watching him play in the Ohio 2012 State Championship game as a precocious freshman starter. He wasn't intimidated and set the tempo against the big boys, scoring six points and dishing out seven assists as the Wolverines defeated Elida 54-52 in a nail-biter.
This lefty is a big time competitor with lightening quickness, strength, and explosion. He possesses excellent ball-handling skills and is a one-man press-breaker. However, he could be a liability on defense against taller guards. This was evident against 6'5" shooting guard Luke Kennard in regional finals, who is now committed to Duke. Pullen had to make defensive adjustments midway through the first quarter.
Check out the video of Harris and Dayton Dunbar vs. Duke Signee Luke Kennard and Franklin in the D-II regional finals. Dunbar eliminated Franklin 77-76 in an OT thriller. Harris scored 23 points with nine assists and four rebounds. Kennard dropped 41 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a losing effort.
The 4-star recruit has also improved his perimeter shooting along the way. In his first two seasons, he shot 31 percent from three-point land and 61 percent from the charity stripe. However, during Harris' senior season, he converted 121-of-171 free throws for a 71 percent clip and boosted his field goal numbers to 46 percent. Harris averaged 18.3 ppg., 3.3 rpg., and 5.1 apg. to cap a brilliant four-year career.
During his career, he recorded 456 assists with a productive 2.56 A/TO ratio. As evident by his free throw totals, Harris has improved his ability to drive to the rack and draw the foul. He still needs work on his perimeter shooting, especially from mid-range, but that will improve over time with repetition and sound instruction from the OSU coaching staff.
Amos was hoping for bookend state titles, but Dunbar lost in the 2015 state semifinals to Defiance 46-45 to finish the season at 22-6. In that game, Harris scored 19 points with five assists, and six steals.
Despite the knock on Harris, he has given rise to his critics since the 7th grade. And there are two strong points to consider: A.J. plans to stay at OSU for four years and he may be small in size, but he has a B1G heart. He could make a tremendous difference for a team looking for its next leader after major attrition this offseason.