It was defensive tenacity and an ability to get to the rim that got Juhwan Harris-Dyson his offer his week from California, but a bit of lobbying from his Earl Watson Elite teammates Jemarl Baker -- a Cal commit who Harris-Dyson has known and played with since March -- and Ira Lee -- a Bears target Harris-Dyson has known for two years -- certainly helped the process along.
"Ira and Jemarl, they were pretty content; they were happy," Harris-Dyson said. "They were happy for me. Ira and Jemarl have been a big part of me getting the offer, really. They're always pushing me to do better, and they were just always talking to the coaches for me, like, 'You've got to look for this guy,' and I just went on the court and just played. The coaches liked what I brought to the table."
Harris-Dyson said that hearing about Berkeley from his two AAU teammates certainly has endeared the program to him, and he said that he's close to a commitment, but needs to visit Berkeley first. That visit will happen on June 13. Having Baker already committed, and Lee in the dead center of the Bears' crosshairs, certainly makes Cal an attractive place.
"It has a little bit of weight, but every school right now is an option," Harris-Dyson said. "I have to really sit down and talk to my parents and my coaches and see if that would really be the best fit, but I'm 70 percent on Cal right now. I have to go out there, visit, get a feel for it in person, and just talk with the coaches face-to-face, and go from there, after that."
Harris-Dyson has visited Pepperdine, Santa Clara, UC Davis, UC Irvine and USC already. The sacramento-born wing grew up in Southern California, but doesn't have any childhood favorite. He's just a hoops junkie.
"I just love watching basketball," said Harris-Dyson. "I'll watch whatever game is on. It could be Stony Brook -- I watched them play in their conference tournament. Basketball is basketball, to me."
Even though he's on an Under Armour Association AAU team, the logo on his jersey or shoes doesn't matter much to Harris-Dyson, nor does Cal's deal with Under Armour, which begins next July.
"Whatever jersey I put on, I'm going to fight the same way," Harris-Dyson said. "It really doesn't matter, about the brand, to me; it's just the four guys I'm on the court with."
He's definitely got the Cuonzo Martin impression down, and that's why Martin and assistant Tracy Webster are so attracted to him, off the court. That similarity in personality is what draws Harris-Dyson towards the Bears, as well.
"They're building their program to be a contender for a championship," Harris-Dyson said. "[Martin] is easy to talk to, and it seems like they're very trustful, they have a family atmosphere. If I end up going there, I'm most likely going to be there for three or four years, so it's going to be somebody I'm going to be spending the majority of my time with."
Harris-Dyson likes how Martin is "direct and straightforward," and the ease with which he can converse with the third-year Cal head coach.
"He talks from his heart," Harris-Dyson said. "He just gets it out there. Doesn't sugarcoat it."
There's no mystery why he and Martin get on so well. Both Martin and Harris-Dyson are plain-spoken and direct. Harris-Dyson's approach to defense is simple: "I just focus on not letting the guy in front of me score."
Having played against Lee in high school -- how the two first met -- was certainly a tall task, but, Harris-Dyson said, "It makes me better, so if I have to guard him, I guard him."
Our Evan Daniels broke down what he saw of Harris-Dyson's game this January:
Harris-Dyson, who is young for his grade, is a good all around athlete that bounces off the ground quickly. He's quick and attacks the rim at a good pace and with purpose. In the second half, he was particularly aggressive going towards the rim and totaled 14 free throws in the game.
At this stage, he's not ultra confident in his long distance shooting, but he did connect on one of his three three-point attempts. Majority of his baskets came off half court drives, but he did work in a mid-range pull-up from 18 feet.
Harry-Dyson was active and showed quite a bit of potential on the defensive end as well. He's smart, moves his feet well laterally and does a good job of contesting shots and not fouling the opposition. He's also a quality rebounder that takes pride in going to the glass.
At this stage, Harris-Dyson is at the very least a a top tier mid-major prospect and has a chance with development to jump into the high-major category.
Lee ranks third in the Under Armour Association in rebounds per game (7.8), and Baker ranks seventh in the UAA with 16.8 points per game, while Harris-Dyson has been pulling down 3.2 rebounds per game, but scoring just 4.8. It's for a good reason.
"I think I could have improved a little bit more, but I worked on my ball handling and getting shots up," said Harris-Dyson. "I haven't been taking a lot of shots in the [UAA] games. I've been working on knowing when to shoot, and when not to shoot, because, in high school, it's really easy for me to get to the basket."
That's an understatement. Harris-Dyson averages 14.7 points per game on 54% shooting for Anaheim (Calif.) Heritage Christian, and though he has the ability to stretch out beyond the arc, he only took 11 three-pointers all season (hitting five).
"I've got to stop relying on getting to the basket, because at the next level, I won't be able to just get to the basket," Harris-Dyson said. "I'll have to shoot a little bit more."
While his shooting game is still a work in progress, Webster and Martin like Harris-Dyson's aggressiveness. He averaged 13.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game this past season in high school.
"Coach Webster, especially, said he liked my defensive intensity," said Harris-Dyson. "They both like how I attack the basket."