Lost here in the hubub of the start of the season and the seemingly unending wait for Jai Lucas and Patrick Patterson to do the right thing (for us, anyway) has been the ongoing saga of that Masta from Alaska, Ramon Harris.
Word everywhere seems to be coalescing into the fact that Harris -- a 6'6" high riser and four-time state prep basketball champion -- has received his NCAA clearance and will announce his intention to sign with Kentucky at a press conference on Thursday. Unlike Patterson and Lucas, however, Harris apparently intends on enrolling this season and being eligible to help the Cats beginning in December.
Let the record state that I am all for this devlopment. This team needs depth in the worst way, even if it is a rather raw but athletically gifted freshman. Media reports have given the impression that Harris was one of the better players in early team summer pickup games. But even if he's only good for a few minutes a game, he offers a non-Sheray option at the small forward/power forward slot. And with this team lacking many options, they could use any coordinated player they can get.
There's still a dearth of good info on Harris, but here's what we know.
Harris had some trouble getting eligible in time for the fall semester. From what I understand, it was a test score-grades issue, and once he got the approval he needed, it was already too late for him to enroll for the fall semester.
Harris was named Alaska's 4A Boys Player of the Year for 2005-06, and led West Anchorage High to a third state title in a row. He had also been on Bartlett High School's title team as a freshman.
A long 6'6", Harris put up good numbers, averaging 16.3 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks a contest. Lightly recruited by major players, despite being from Alaska, Harris did participate in some AAU events, and that could be UK's connection, which is still somewhat hazy to me.
In 2004, Harris was part of Bob Gottlieb's Branch West program, which helps get lower-profile recruits attention in addition to having a few big names. Gottlieb is the father of ESPN analyst and former Notre Dame and Oklahoma State guard Doug, and is a former Division I college coach at UW-Milwaukee.
The senior Gottlieb has connections to former UK target Deon Thompson (UNC), Louisville signee Jerry Smith Jr. and Kansas signee Cole Aldrich, among many others.
Harris' coach at the Branch West event in 2004 was a guy by the name of Kevin Klein, who was the assistant coach at Louisville St. Xavier and at Jeffersontown High. So there's a state of Kentucky connection there.
The Masta from Alaska also played very well in a July AAU event in Teaneck, NJ. The Reebok East tournament got the attention of a few schools, apparently including Kentucky. Harris was apparently set to prep a year at National Christian Academy in Ft. Washington, MD, and that surely would have raised his profile significantly.
How Harris became such a huge Kentucky fan has not been readily clear to me. Maybe someone else has the answers. I'm all ears. Regardless, athletic swing forwards are always useful, and Kentucky has room after the defections of Shagari Alleyne and Rekalin Sims from the roster.
For now, we'll have to be pleased with the news that Harris wants to be a Wildcat, which is all but set in stone, according to media figures at KSR and TCP. It'll be interesting to see what Ramon can bring to the team, if anything. He's already behind the curve missing a semester, but, as I noted, warm bodies with any talent at all are welcome. And by all accounts, Harris is a dunking and shot blocking machine who, sounds familiar, traveled well "under the radar."