MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sophomore guard Eron Harris plans to transfer from West Virginia after averaging 17.2 points per game this season.
Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins announced the move Monday, saying Harris requested and was granted his release.
“I have enjoyed my time at West Virginia University the past two years, but I want to transfer closer to home,” Harris said in a statement released by the school. “I want to be closer to my family, especially being around my little brother.”
The 6-foot-3 Harris, who’s from Indianapolis, played in all 33 games this season and figured to be a key part of WVU’s returning nucleus next year. He ranked fourth in the Big 12 in scoring and was a conference honorable mention.
“We have enjoyed Eron and his contributions to Mountaineer basketball,” said Huggins. “Of all people, I certainly know what it is like to be closer to family and friends. That’s why I did it as a student-athlete, then as a coach.”
With junior point guard Juwan Staten (18.1 points) evaluating early entry into the NBA draft, West Virginia could be faced with replacing the Big 12′s highest-scoring backcourt next season.
Harris was an intriguing player for the Mountaineers, an underrated high school prospect who seemed surprised by his own success in a power conference. During a late-season chat before the Big 12 tournament, he discussed the transformation from high school role player to one of WVU’s biggest weapons:
“My freshman year (at Lawrence North High School) I played on the freshman team. My sophomore year I played on the JV and I got moved up to varsity for one game. I wasn’t too confident, but I was trying to find my way. I was trying to find what my game was, how athletic I was, what was my niche specialty. Everybody else was getting ranked, everybody else was getting recruited, but I really wasn’t.
“I have never been that guy. And now that there’s a suggestion that I am the guy or that I could be one of the guys, it’s crazy for me mentally.”
Harris was prone to these long, reflective ruminations, especially after trying to cope with poor performances, and it revealed a lot about a player who didn’t want to viewed solely as a jock:
“Basketball is a sport. I’m not going to have basketball forever. This is for fun. Some people take it more seriously than they should, probably because they have nothing else to worry about but basketball.
“Sometimes my dad has to remind me that it’s not as big as I make it sometimes. When you don’t succeed all the time—when you get down on yourself, and you think that the world’s over and I’m not a good basketball player and I’m not getting as much hype as this other guy, my team isn’t winning—I’m not worth anything. Sometimes you think that.
“It’s about learning how to live life. That’s why I’m here in Morgantown, W.Va., of all places.”
Harris wasn’t riffing on West Virginia with that last comment, but rather commenting on how Mountaineers coaches offered him at a point when only mid-major programs around the Midwest were interested.
Now, following his breakout season against Big 12 competition, Harris certainly has more options as he seeks his next college destination.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR NEXT SEASON
Is there a gunner on next year’s team who can match Harris’ 42-percent 3-point shooting (third-best in the Big 12)? Yes, and his name is Terry Henderson, who just happened to be Harris’ roommate and a fellow member of the 2013 signing class.
Presuming Staten returns as a senior (a 50-50 prospect), Huggins could play Henderson at the two guard, with Jonathan Holton at the three spot and Devin Williams and Elijah Macon at the four and five.
Losing Harris, however, costs Huggins a big dose of continuity, which can be an overvalued commodity at times—Iowa State’s status as “Transfer U” doesn’t seem to be suffering much. Though after hearing Huggins harp on his newcomers’ inability to make proper defensive rotations and properly align in offensive sets, continuity seems rather consequential in this case.
Harris’ exit also costs Huggins the flexibility to run a high-powered, experienced three-guard lineup. Plugging in a freshman like Jevon Carter or Daxter Miles won’t immediately concern defenses to the same extent.
Of course, losing Harris means gaining a scholarship. His decision to leave so soon after the season affords WVU time to dive into college basketball’s unofficial free-agency period and seek a graduate transfer who could impact next year’s team, or the more conventional undergrad who would be eligible in 2015-16.