Nevada’s Jalen Harris has put on a scoring clinic for the Wolf Pack.
It has been a season to remember for the 6-foot-5 junior guard from Dallas, Tex. His 21.5 points per game ranks first in the Mountain West Conference. He sports a conference-best 25.9 points per game in 13 conference games this season.
Harris also recorded four straight 30-point games for the first time in Nevada history. He has six 30-point outings this season alone.
“I’ve just been confident,” Harris said. “My teammates have done a good job of finding me and coaches have been putting me in opportunities to make plays. That’s what it’s been, just trying to do whatever I need to do for us to win.”
Harris has carried most of the scoring load for the Wolf Pack down the stretch. Nevada head coach Steve Alford has instilled confidence in the young guard.
“He’s in a special groove right now,” Alford said. “He’s very talented and works very hard at his game. It’s good seeing somebody who works that hard to produce like this on the floor.”
On the floor, Harris’ unique skill set speaks for itself. He gets to his destined spot without any hesitation and pulls up from the three-point range with ease.
“He has a good frame to him and he’s really athletic,” Alford said. “He’s really grown with how he drives the basketball and how finishing at the rim…I think he’s done a great job of that because early in the season, he wasn’t a great finisher.”
Along with his scoring prowess, Harris’ selfless attitude has been on full display throughout the season. He sacrifices shot attempts to find open teammates scattered around the floor.
It’s those special traits that Alford noticed in an 88-54 victory over Air Force on Feb. 4. In the midst of a career-high 38 points, Harris made the extra pass instead of padding his personal stats during the waning seconds of the game.
“Instead of him forcing up shots to try and get 40 points, he makes a great pass to one of our guys down low,” Alford said post-game. “That just speaks to who he is and how he’s grown as a player. That’s what has been a lot of fun is watching him grow.”
Harris has put an emphasis on himself to become a vocal leader and set an example for younger players to follow. It’s translated to success and chemistry on the court.
“We’ve been talking to him about stepping into that leadership role,” Alford said. “Jazz (Johnson) and him were kind of taking that load. When Jazz went out with injury, that puts even more onus on him to lead and he’s doing a terrific job of that.”
Born and raised in Texas, Harris showcased his scoring skills dating back to his high school days at Duncanville High School.
He was twice named District 8-6A Offensive Player of the Year and was named to the Metroplex High School All-Star Game. Harris averaged 23 points per game on 55 percent shooting his senior season and scored a career-high 44 points in an overtime loss to Cedar High School.
Harris’ potent scoring numbers followed Harris during his two seasons at Louisiana Tech. He was named to the Conference USA all-freshman team in 2017-18 after averaging 10.9 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting from the field.
More of the same continued for Harris heading into his sophomore campaign. He upped his scoring average to a team-high 15.3 points and chipped in with 4.5 rebounds for the first 11 games of the 2017-18 season. But he put the rest of his season on hold to transfer from the university.
Harris was forced to sit out his first year with the Wolf Pack in 2018-19. The change of scenery gave him a new perspective of life outside of basketball. He’s grown to appreciate every moment of his historic season in the silver and blue.
“Sitting out that year was a lot for me,” he said. “It kind of gave me a different mentality to appreciate it more and play every game. I just try to appreciate it all, not just everything on the court.”
Nevada has offered a new environment for Harris to establish himself, but he was reunited with his Lone Star roots earlier this season.
Harris poured in a team-high 24 points in an 80-73 victory over Texas-Arlington on Nov. 12, a campus located just a few miles away from Duncanville High School.
“UTA is a good team, that’s where I’m from just a couple minutes down the road,” he said post-game. “I know the players and the coaching staff well. This team comes out and plays hard, so for us to come out with that win at home is a good feeling.”
Scoring 24 points has become a usual routine for Harris over the homestretch of the season. He has his eyes set on finishing the remainder of the year on a high note as the Wolf Pack head into the final games of the regular season.
“We have what it takes to play with the best in the conference,” he said. “We just have to keep playing with consistency and poise.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.