Adding offensive firepower on the wing is a priority for the Xavier staff in the 2017 recruiting class and on Wednesday they picked up a major weapon.
Georgia wing Elias Harden is a 6-foot-5 bucket-getter with a well-rounded game. As a junior at Sandy Creek High School, he averaged 20.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 1.9 assists per game. He will be looked at to replace the scoring and perimeter shooting of Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura on the wing when he arrives on campus at Xavier.
Both Bluiett and Macura are slated to be seniors in 2017-18 but it's expected that Bluiett will leave early. Harden will come in with an opportunity to make an impact right away as a freshman.
Physically, Harden is long and thin. He's not an explosive athlete, but he has solid quickness and great body control. He needs to add strength but he plays with a wiry toughness.
The best word for Harden's game on offense is smooth. He's a good shooter off the catch or the dribble with the handle to create his own shot. He's often effective with crossover and in-and-out moves when attacking off the bounce, and he favors a euro-step where he uses his length well when finishing in the lane. He also does a good job of changing pace to keep defenders off balance and draw fouls. His ability to shoot off the dribble allows him to destroy bad closeouts.
Harden is comfortable and experienced in the role of go-to scorer and he's never passive on the offensive end, but he's also an efficient player and remains effective when he's not dominating the ball. Him playing on an AAU team with two other top 100 recruits, including the No. 4 overall player in the 2018 class Zion Williamson, has proven that. Harden plays with a high IQ and natural feel for the game. He understands how to find openings in the defense, sees the floor extremely well, and knows how to use ball-screens.
One of the reasons the Musketeers' coaches prioritized Harden over other "scoring" wings is that they feel he can be a two-way player that makes an impact on defense. He already gives a solid effort and shows good awareness off the ball. This is another area where his length and his IQ for the game are big assets for him.
Xavier's staff has made it clear to all of their recruits that 2017 is going to be a big class for the Musketeers so don't expect Harden's commitment to limit them with any other top priorities on the wing.
With Jared Ridder already in the fold, Harden's pledge means that Xavier has added two big-time shooters for 2017. That should mix well with talents like current freshman Quentin Goodin and any of Xavier's other top priorities in the 2017 class - Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, and Jermaine Samuels, who are all more known for their ability to get into the lane and their athleticism.