clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is Jamir Harris the more valuable Minnesota freshman?

As Isaiah Washington captures the headlines, will Harris become the better Gopher?

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina Upstate at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

When we speak about the future of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, those close to the program cannot complain. As we stated last week, they have three players coming in next season that may make an immediate impact. However, Richard Pitino has been privileged with two talented youngsters this season. Isaiah Washington, the headline player in this year’s class, has gotten plenty of minutes and attention so far. However, due to the injury to Amir Coffey, the other freshman, Jamir Harris, was forced to step up.

Now, as Washington continues to struggle with inefficiency, he has seen has minutes drop dramatically over the last three games. On the other hand, it is Harris who has taken some of those minutes from Washington. This may be the typical ebbs and flows of a basketball season. Yet, I think that assessment may be a misnomer from the perspective of the Gophers. Richard Pitino has vocally become frustrated with Washington and his inability to be a consistent weapon. Therefore, Harris has now been given a bigger role.

For Harris, it is one part injury, one part lack of depth, and one part Washington’s inconsistency that has awarded him this opportunity. Given how he has performed over the past month, he has a legitimate chance to become the more valuable player to Richard Pitino in the long run.

It is true that Washington and Harris play two different styles, but Harris’ play style makes him more of an offensive weapon. Washington is best when he is going at the basket and finishing with contact. However, when given the opportunity to shoot the basketball, the chances are often squandered. This has led to Washington shooting a team low 31 percent from the field, including an abysmal 19 percent from three. It is not for a lack of attempts, as he hoists up nearly three long range attempts per game.

Harris is the exact opposite, relying on his shooting to score the ball. His 38 percent shooting clip is not much better than Washington’s, but he is far above the Harlem guard in long distance shooting. Harris shoots a fiery 41 percent from the three-point line, best on the team. In fact, if it were not for lack of attempts, he would be one of the four best three-point shooters in the Big Ten conference.

The 6-foot-2 guard has his shortcomings when compared to Washington though. His 29 percent clip from two-point range is worst on the team. The second worst on the roster? Washington at 37 percent. With that being said, Harris is a far more efficient shooter even if he shoots a far lower percentage when he steps inside the three-point line. Harris’ efficient field goal percentage currently sits at a dazzling 54 percent, the third best mark on the team. Along with that, his true shooting percentage is also at 54 percent. Compare that to Washington, who is second to last in both categories on Minnesota’s roster.

In a game that has transitioned its focus to three-point shooters, Harris seems to be more valuable than Washington. If he continues to shoot well from beyond the arc, he will become a dangerous weapon for future Gopher teams. In fact, he may even become the air apparent to Nate Mason. That was a title reserved for Isaiah Washington, but now I am not so sure.

This shift in power should not be an intentional step on Washington’s toes. He certainly has a vast amount of potential, and offers assets to Minnesota that Harris does not have. However, rather than focus on the two battling one another for freshman supremacy, we should imagine them as a tandem.

Think of Washington attacking the rim and kicking it out to Harris for a long range shot. Or have Washington drive to the rim and score with ease because opposing defenses believe he will be looking for Harris on the perimeter. That sort of front court inside-out game is extremely dangerous offensively. Couple that with the incoming freshman (and what they already have) and you may have one of the more exciting teams to watch in the Big Ten.

The rest of this season will be a good showcase of what life will be like next season for Minnesota. For a team that will return Washington, Harris, Coffey, Dupree McBrayer, and Jordan Murphy, they will be tough again. Add in the incoming freshman depth and the Gophers will be back again. Regardless of if it is Harris or Washington who turns out to be the better player, Minnesota has to be excited as they look into the distance.