Cavalier Corner

April 2012

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T BY WHITELAW REID OUGH. GRITTY. WARRIOR. They're just a few of the words Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett has used when talking about second-year guard Joe Har- ris this season. Harris' teammates — not to mention UVa fans — would probably echo the sentiments. After all, how many players fracture their hand and continue playing? Better yet, how many players fracture their hand and continue producing? Harris' perseverance has been a major TOUGH CUSTOMER reason why Virginia (22-8, 9-7 ACC) has posted its best regular-season record since the 2006-07 season. The Chelan, Wash., native ranks second on the team in scoring (11.2 points per game) and third in rebounding (3.9 boards per game). for myself that, 'It's broken, nobody really ex- pects me to do anything,'" Harris said. "I was kind of not expecting that much from myself. Second-Year Sharpshooter Joe Harris Has Helped UVa To Its Best Season In Five Years Harris suffered his injury in the first half of Virginia's loss to North Carolina Feb. 11 when his left (non-shooting) hand was stepped on. Many people expected Harris to miss some time. However, after being fitted with a protec- tive cast, he was playing against Clemson just three days later. Despite obvious discomfort, he kept his streak of 55 consecutive games played intact. Since the Clemson game, the 6-6 Harris has become more and more comfortable with the cast. After Virginia's 54-51 loss to North Carolina Feb. 25, Bennett singled out Harris for his grit. In the game, Harris — due to the injury to Assane Sene — found himself guarding 6-11 John Henson at times. "Joe was in there knocking around and it didn't even faze him," Bennett said. "He was tough, which is what we need to continue to add to this program." The UNC game was Harris' most productive since fracturing his left hand. He finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. But the most surprising part of his perfor- mance was a career-high three blocks. "I have never seen Joe do that — espe- cially not [multiple times] in the same setting 20 ◆ CAVALIER CORNER So I just had the mindset of forgetting all that. Regardless of having the broken hand or not, I still need to contribute and help the team out." Harris is from Chelan, a small town in Washington with a population of 3,522 that is known for its apple orchards. Harris' senior class at Chelan High — a place his father at- tended and a number of family members work — had less than 90 students. It didn't take long for Harris, who has three sisters, to become accustomed to Charlottes- ville, though he badly misses his mother's home cooking. "There are a lot of differences between East Coast and West Coast, but I really love going to school here," he said. "It took a little time to get adjusted, but that's the same with every freshman really. I've gotten to meet a lot of really cool people and I have a lot of really good friends here now. I just love going to school here." Harris, who plans to major in sociology, says the academic challenge has been every- thing he expected it to be, maybe more. One of the toughest classes that he's taken was one called Leadership and Discipline. Harris said his favorite class was one in business ethics he took last year. "It's enjoyable when your team wins and has the potential to play in the postseason." Harris is especially fond of his teammates. "We're a really close-knit team," he said. "We have great team chemistry. It's not one of those teams where everybody just goes and does their own thing. "Everybody's close. I'm just glad that I've been able to become such close friends with them." Of course, Harris is a little bummed that four of the members in his 2010 recruiting class are no longer in the program, including team- mates KT Harrell and James Johnson, who transferred in late December. "With all these injuries, it would have al- lowed for guys like them to be able to contrib- ute and maybe have a more positive impact for the rest of their season and maybe change their mindset a little bit," Harris said. "But it's OK. We've got to deal with what we've got. We're happy to keep fighting along." Harris has certainly done that. ◆ Heading into the postseason, Harris ranked second on the team in scoring (11.2 points per game) and third in rebounding (3.9 caroms per contest). PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA like that," Virginia second-year forward Akil Mitchell told The Daily Progress. "I was impressed." Late in the first half, UNC's Harrison Barnes, an expected top-five pick in the up- coming NBA Draft, drove into the paint and had his layup attempt swatted by Harris. Early in the second half, Harris blocked a layup attempt by projected first-rounder Ken- dall Marshall. For good measure, he rejected Henson (also a projected first-round pick) later in the game. Harris' performance brought a sigh of relief from Virginia fans, who had been wondering how much his hand would restrict him. Harris admits the injury initially threw him for a loop. "I was using my hand almost as an excuse "It's tough," said Harris, when asked about his course load. "Virginia is a great, great school. Some of the classes are definitely re- ally challenging … "You have to dedicate a lot of time to do good — just like in anything." During his rare spare time, Harris says he likes to get out and enjoy the city as much as he can. "I'm kind of a food connoisseur," said Har- ris, who named Riverside Lunch as one of his top spots. "I try to go out to different places around Charlottesville. "And Charlottesville is such a nice place — I love being outside. It's a really pretty place." With the exception of his hand, Harris said his second year in Charlottesville couldn't be going much better. "Year two has been great," he said. "The ex- perience from my first year was invaluable …

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