BY SETH KLEMPNER
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 13, 2003
CLEVELAND - Eighteen-year-old phenom LeBron James walks around wearing a self-referencing King James shirt, holding court everywhere he goes. On and off the basketball court he has the composure and poise of someone 10 years-older than himself.
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With such an outgoing and gregarious personality it is easy to understand why so many people are attracted to the star. From Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett to basketball great Michael Jordan, many A-list athletes are trying to get close to the man who has been predicted to be the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
But one of the lesser-known athletes to form a close bond with James is Michigan's star recruit, Dion Harris. Harris, a senior from Detroit Redford High School, has been playing against James' St. Vincent-St. Mary's team for the past four years and has developed a friendship with James.
"We started to get closer after playing each other during our sophomore seasons and then seeing each other on AAU trips," said Harris who is considered a top candidate for the Mr. Basketball award in Michigan.
The two, who typically keep in regular contact with each other, have not been able to talk as much this year due to the hectic travel schedule of James' Fighting Irish team. But Harris did note that he was looking forward to talking with James after their game yesterday. Despite their high level of involvement in basketball, James said the two try and stay away from basketball, and instead, talk about life.
"They are the best of friends," Michigan assistant coach Charles Ramsey said. "They have attended camps together since a young age and keep in contact over the phone. And this (was) the last time that Dion will have a real good shot playing against one of his better friends."
Last year's St. Vincent-St. Mary versus Redford game ended in a three-point margin of victory in which Harris shined with 31 points and probably could have scored more had he been more selfish with the ball. But this effort was outdone by James, who scored 43 points in the win.
While Michigan was able to land Harris as its bluechip recruit for next year, coach Ramsey said that the coaching staff decided to "stop wasting the postage" on mailing recruiting material to James two years ago.
In what promised to be a memorable game between the No. 1 high school team in the nation and No. 14 Detroit Redford yesterday, instead turned out to be a lopsided 76-41 loss for Detroit Redford.
Despite getting off to a slow start in the first quarter, the Huskies would cut the lead to six going into halftime. Harris found his scoring touch in the second quarter and forced James into foul trouble by aggressively attacking him.
"In the second quarter, I was pretty aggressive in attacking the basket, and I think their team defense wasn't that good in the second quarter," Harris said. "But in the second half they stepped up, and I wasn't able to get to the basket."
Part of the reason that Harris wasn't able to get to the hoop in the second half was because of a defensive switch by the Fighting Irish, leaving James man-to-man on Harris.
"I love Dion Harris. He is one of my real good friends who I talk to a lot. I just had him contained today," James said. "He is averaging 28 points per game and today he had 18. I hope that he continues to work hard and continues to play hard and go on to Michigan."
In the third quarter, the Fighting Irish put up 26 points in what James professed to be one of the best quarters his team had played all year.
The quarter was highlighted by a play in which James stole the ball at halfcourt and slammed down a thunderous dunk, sending the crowd into an uproar.
Later, in a similar situation, James would lay the ball up, causing many in the stands to boo the senior for having done the unexpected - not giving them something to cheer for.
"I do the unexpected," said James with a smile, indicating that he was in control. "You do the unexpected, like last week when I went between my legs - nobody was expecting it. Today, everybody thought I was going to dunk - and I didn't."
While Harris was disappointed to leave Ohio with his fourth-straight loss to his good friend, he promised that it would not be the last time they see each other on the court.
"Yea, I think we will probably meet back up in the league a couple of years from now," said the typically bashful Harris.