‘He needs to be in attack mode’: How KU guard Dajuan Harris unlocks KU’s ceiling

Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

Kansas guard Dajuan Harris had finally done it.

Harris matched his career-high mark for field goal attempts with 16 in KU’s 88-80 win over Texas Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.

The last time Harris shot the ball that many times? About 12 years ago.

“The most impressive stat line of maybe all of them is that Dajuan shot 16 shots,” Kansas coach Bill Self said postgame. “I asked if he had ever shot 16 shots in a game before. He said, ‘Yeah, I did once in fifth grade.’ I said, ‘Fifth grade doesn’t count, dude.’”

Harris scored 17 points on 8-for-16 shooting Monday. He also had five assists, grabbed six rebounds and stole the ball four times in 34 minutes.

It was just the third time in conference play and fifth time overall Harris had double-digit shot attempts this season.

Harris had an aggressive mindset from the tip.

In the first 15 seconds of the game, Harris scored a layup. In fact, Harris was everywhere in KU’s 6-0 run to start the game. He had two points, one rebound, one assist and one steal over 1:50 of game time.

Typically, Harris plays the role of a facilitator, so he keeps the ball in his hands. However, it was a different story on Monday. Harris showcased his ability to play off the ball and cut to the basket.

On one play with around 12 minutes left in the first half, Harris passed the ball to KU center Ernest Udeh, who stood at the top of the key.

Harris immediately cut to the basket and Udeh rocketed a pass back to the guard, who finished at the rim.

“The way they guard us when you pressure off and deny, it opens up some straight-line drives from time to time,” Self said. “Dajuan got there to start the game, so we did have some good finishes at the rim early in the game, but we also had some misses, too. I really thought we executed well offensively.”

Harris’ start also opened up the floor for KU. Usually, teams guard off Harris, daring him to score and clogging the paint.

Beyond that, without Harris, KU’s offense is more dependent on stars Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick. It forces the duo to take tougher, more difficult shots — and more of them.

“We’re better when (Harris) is aggressive,” Self said. “He’s gone through several games this year, … I think it’s fatigue, but he’s gone through several games this year where his energy level didn’t look like he was aggressive downhill.

“He was just kind of a possession player. He needs to be in attack mode and be aggressive all the time.”

Another view?

“We know what Dajuan can do facilitating-wise and just getting shots for everyone, but ... he can go get his own,” Dick said, noting Harris can score from floaters and long-range shooting. “When he can do that and facilitate the game at the same time, it’s scary for our offense.”

Texas coach Rodney Terry saw firsthand how good KU looks when Harris has a scorer’s mentality.

“When he plays the way he played tonight, any time he has like nine or 10 points in a game and he’s aggressive trying to score the ball, it makes their team a lot better than when he’s not as aggressive,” Terry said. “If he scored two points in the game tonight, it’s probably an advantage for us.

“When he’s aggressive and playing really good in pick-and-roll and trying to get downhill in terms of trying to get something for himself or for his teammate, it really puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team.”