Trent Johnson actually recruited Dennis Harris a little while he was out at Stanford but like many other coaches he had question marks on Harris so he moved on to other players.
“He (Johnson) did recruit Dennis while he was at Stanford and because he recruited him he knew all about him,” said Harris’ coach Tu Willingham. “I’m not sure how heavily recruited he was by Stanford but Coach Johnson remembered him and talked about him from the AAU circuit.”
That was a common theme for the Jonesboro (Ga.) Mundy’s Mill product in the early going of the recruiting process but after he blew up during his senior season where he averaged over 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks a game there were several coaches that regretted their decision.
“It’s kind of funny because at the beginning of the year people were saying they weren’t sure if he was good enough to play at LSU but by the end of the year everybody was like dang we blew it,” Willingham said. “Virginia, Georgia Tech, and all of the big-time schools called me and said they blew it. LSU’s got one hell of a player coming to LSU in Dennis.”
Willingham said that Johnson has not met up with Harris in person since he has been on the job at LSU but the two have spoken on the phone.
According to Willingham, the coaching change may have had a little effect on his star player but it never dampened his spirits or caused him to have second thoughts on his decision.
“He’s excited,” Willingham said of Harris’ thoughts on the future. “Dennis is the type of kid that loves to play. When coach (John) Brady left, obviously, there was a bit of disappointment because Dennis established a good relationship with coach Brady but at the same time he knows that this coach is going to give him a chance to compete. Dennis is a very coachable kid and he doesn’t have that type of personality where he is going to clash with any coach so he’s just as excited about LSU as he was before.
Now that his senior campaign is in the books, Harris has been focusing on adding some muscle to his 6-9 ½, 188-pound frame.
To play in the SEC, Harris is going to have put some more meat on his bones but Willingham doesn’t think that will hold him back or keep him out of the mix.
“The doctor said he still has about another inch to an inch and a half to grow,” said Willingham. “He’s just growing so fast that it’s hard for his body to fill out. He eats like crazy and he’s been in the weight room a lot but when he gets to LSU and gets in their strength and conditioning program he is going to get a lot stronger. By the time he is a sophomore he should be 6-10 and 215 pounds, then he is going to be a beast.”
Harris should have an opportunity to play right away for the Tigers with the departure of Anthony Randolph to the NBA.
Willingham feels that he has many of the same traits that Randolph had just maybe not at the same level at this point in his career.
“He’s long, lean and athletic,” Willingham said of Harris. “That kid has one of the highest basketball IQ’s for a kid his age as I’ve seen. He shoots the lights out of the ball and has really put a lot into rebounding and blocking shots. He’s going to bring a lot to the table.
“I really feel like he can contribute right away and then by his sophomore year be a main player on the team. The rate he has improved from his sophomore to his junior year and then from his junior year to his senior year has been remarkable. He was a steal for LSU.”