ARLINGTON, Texas -- Every successful men's basketball program needs a player like Julian Harris.
Harris is what UTA men's basketball coach Scott Cross calls "the ultimate role player." He is the reserve player that doesn't see his name in the headlines very often. He might not make the eye-catching play or be called upon to shoot the game-winning 3-pointer.
But, he does excel at the little things that don't generally show up in a box score - the things that help make a program successful on and off the court.
Growing up, like many high school basketball players, Harris set a goal to play Division I college basketball. As a junior, playing for coach Donte Wilson at nearby Lake Ridge High School in Mansfield, he caught Cross' attention with his energy, hustle and attitude - in addition to, of course, his basketball talent.
Cross liked the fact that Harris showed the versatility to step outside and make a 3-pointer, then on the next possession crash the offensive boards and play solid defense. More importantly, however, he loved Harris' toughness and attitude - trademarks that define the UTA basketball program.
"I liked Julian from the very first time I watched him play," said Cross. "He played hard, made a couple of 3-pointers and was aggressive on the offensive boards. He did all the things that led me to believe he would fit perfectly into our program."
The son of Sterlinn Harris and Terrane Holt, going to college near his family was a big factor for Harris. So, when Cross expressed an interest early in the recruiting process it wasn't a difficult decision to become a Maverick.
"Julian is close with his family and wanted to go to school close to home," said Cross. "He wanted to play Division I basketball and felt like UTA presented a great opportunity for him, especially being so close to home. He committed early because he knew what he wanted, stayed true to his decision and I think it has been a great situation for him."
With all five starters returning from last year's team that won 24 games and claimed attention-grabbing victories at Ohio State and Memphis, the Mavericks entered the season with loads of experience.
Even with 10 letter winners returning from that team, Harris hard work has seen his playing time nearly double from last year and his productivity has been on an upswing, as well. He has doubled his scoring output from last season, is making 61.5 percent of his field goal attempts and has developed into one of the best free throw shooters on the team at 74 percent.
Harris' selflessness and strong work ethic obviously have made a major impact on his college basketball career. Cross believes those traits also provide benefits beyond sports.
"Julian is a guy who will be very successful once he is done playing basketball," said Cross. "He is going to do his job, no matter what it is. He doesn't complain, has a good attitude and is going to do the job right. He is popular among our guys and I absolutely love having him on our team."
UTA enters this weekend's road trip to Troy and South Alabama with a 12-4 overall record and has won 11 of its last 12 games. The Mavericks are ranked among the top mid-major programs in the country and own impressive road victories at Texas and then-No. 12 ranked Saint Mary's.
The team returns to College Park Center on Saturday, Jan. 21 against ULM. Tickets are on sale through the UTA Box Office by calling (817) 272-9595 during weekday business hours or by visiting UTATickets.com.
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