Chenel Harris Joins Jimmy Dykes' Arkansas Staff

Energy and enthusiasm were the qualities that attracted Jimmy Dykes to Chenel Harris. But the ability to recruit north of the border was a major attraction, too.

It was a bit past hello, but Chenel Harris had Jimmy Dykes early in the first phone call when the search process started for the assistant coach opening on the Arkansas staff.

Dykes, head women's coach at Arkansas, told of a discussion with a staffer soon after that first phone visit with Harris. He said it's all about getting in the door in recruiting and it generally starts on the phone.

"I told Tara Cummings that there was still a long way to go (in the hiring process), but that the impression Chenel made on the phone, I knew she was going to be in the top two or three. The first impression you get to make as a recruiter is on the phone."

Chenel was introduced Wednesday as the replacement for Christy Smith, now head coach at Incarnate Word.

Dykes was impressed by energy and enthusiasm on that phone call, something that was listed by everyone as they recommended Harris.

Harris joins the Arkansas staff after two seasons on staff at Stony Brook and two years at Robert Morris. She worked with the post players and served as recruiting coordinator at both stops. She is a native of Ontario, Canada, and a graduate of Kent State.

It was the Canadian background in recruiting that fascinates Dykes. He pointed to her background playing for her father in a strong AAU system as a key asset.

"She has a ton of recruiting experience and great ties in Canada," Dykes said. "Her father coaches one of the power AAU programs in Canada.

"It was important that she gives us a new geographic area. We have seen players come from Canada south to the SEC. It's important that she brings something new."

Harris said she's recruited very little in the south, but that it shouldn't be difficult.

"Recruiting is about building relationships," she said, noting that's her strength.

Dykes said, "The common thread in all the calls I made about her was energy and enthusiasm, and the ability to build relationships. That's important in recruiting and with coaching. I was told that players are always in her office."

Dykes then turned to Harris to inquire about the needs for recruiting in Canada.

"All you need is a passport," Harris said.

Dykes covered what is actually the start of the basketball season, summer practices. Team workouts have begun. Most of his talented newcomers are on campus already, including McDonald's All-American Aaliyah Wilson from Muskogee, Okla.

"We are quicker and faster," Dykes said. "We improved our size, too. (Wilson) is going to be one of the all-time greats here. I told her she needs to work like she's a walk-on trying to make the program and that's what I've seen. I've also been impressed by (freshman Jailyn Mason)."

Wilson and Mason bring much needed shooting ability to the team. That was a weakness in last year's 12-18 squad. The Razorbacks shot just 26.2 percent on threes.

Jessica Jackson, All-SEC forward, returns for a senior season. She's wearing a cast on her broken shooting wrist sustained with two weeks left in the season.

"She can't do some things, but she is doing all of the running," Dykes said. "She's in the best condition of her career. She wants to be in the WNBA and she is working hard to get there. The light has come on for her."

Kelsey Brooks has elected not to return for her senior season. She started 17 games last year, but has finished her class work for her degree and only needs an internship in the fall.

Khadijah West will not return after major knee reconstruction. She will receive a medical hardship.

"It's officialy a medical DQ," Dykes said. "She played last year, but could only practice 20 percent of the time. She needed a total knee reconstruction to prevent from having a knee replacement down the line."

Dykes said he's encouraged by the health of the program as he starts year three, but noted he's still in a building process.

"I was standing with Jessica on the side as we scrimmaged yesterday," Dykes said. "She said, 'Coach, we have more players.' We do, but we still are young. Next year, 10 of our 14 are either freshmen or sophomores. We will still be one of the least experienced teams in the league. But we will be quicker and faster. And we shoot a little better."

Dykes said the nonconference slate will continue to be tough. The home schedule will include Butler, Texas Tech, Stetson and South Dakota State. There will be road trips to Tulsa and Missouri State.

"I believe in a tough schedule," he said. "I believe in playing hard teams."

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