The name first popped up nearly three years ago in one of those common but casual basketball conversations that take place on a regular basis -- this one, at that particular time, the talk was about the then crop of 8th graders.
Morgan Park assistant coach Terry Johnson, who works with the younger players in the Mac Irvin Fire club program in the offeseason, answered rather emphatically when asked his opinion of the top 8th graders he's seen. He gave one name: "Kain. ... Harris."
Boom. Harris was on the City/Suburban Hoops Report radar.
It's not always easy evaluating or even getting excited about most 8th graders or freshmen. The prospect clock has barely started ticking. Even the early rankings of players that young are typically premature. But while Harris didn't make much of a dent on the varsity level for two years, he remained a player full of potential and one to keep an eye on, floating in that 10-20 ranking range as we waited for someone to turn the switch on.
Last year as a sophomore, Harris was one of those players too good for JV/sophomore ball but stuck on a loaded state championship roster, including a backcourt that featured both Billy Garrett, Jr. (DePaul) and Kyle Davis (Dayton), along with freshman Charlie Moore, who received more notoriety and minutes than Harris. Meanwhile, Harris averaged a modest five points a game playing minimal minutes as a role player off the bench.
After a summer and fall where he again showed flashes of the promising prospect he's always been, Harris has taken the opportunity given to him by coach Nick Irvin. The switch has been turned on. He's run with it and has turned the corner -- from prospect to player -- at the start of this 2013-2014 season.
Harris has had multiple 20-plus point games and pumped in an impressive 17 points in the win over Simeon Thursday night. More eye-opening was the fact he was at his best when it mattered most, scoring six points down the stretch of a tight 58-55 road win.
Harris might just be one of those significant counterpoints to the early-hyped, productive freshmen and sophomores that has swept high school basketball over the past decade. Harris has waited his turn and, while far from fully blooming, just might be the player that rises past all the more-talked-about players in his class very quickly.
It's not as if Harris is a mystery -- he's among the top 10 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2015 player rankings -- but he's inching his way towards top five status in the class in a hurry. Yes, that's how high the City/Suburban Hoops Report is on this big-bodied 2-guard, who needs to be on high-major radars yesterday.
As Harris pushes 6-4 with a strong, put-together athletic body, what impresses you immediately is how he's wired to score. He's a shot creator and a shot maker. Not only does Harris score, but he scores efficiently. He doesn't need a high volume of shots, because Harris will get baskets in multiple ways.
Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin commonly refers to Harris as "Baby Kobe," but the Hoops Report likens him to more of a high school version of James Harden.
For starters, he's a tremendous finisher out on the wing in transition and in the halfcourt. With his strength and athleticism, he attacks the basket like few players can in this class, getting to the rim with force and aggression. He's a capable shooter who will become more consistent with his shot over time with the very suitable mechanics he possesses. There aren't very many true offensive forces; Harris is one with that type of capability.
As the cousin of former Crane star and current NBA player Tony Allen, you get excited thinking that maybe Harris has some of that Tony Allen ultra-toughness and competitiveness in his DNA. If you add that to the mix, his ceiling goes a whole lot higher.
With the state's top uncommitted senior, 6-7 Josh Cunningham -- who, by the way, was terrific in the win over Simeon -- along with UMKC recruit Lamont Walker and a host of talented young players in the program, Morgan Park was expected to be a top 10 team and capable of repeating in Class 3A. But the Mustangs are better than people think, and it's because of the development and difference one name has made: Kain Harris.