Nothing gets between a boy and his Air Jordan’s. Detroit Redford junior and Michigan recruit Dion Harris taught his mother that at an early age.

Paul Wong

When Dion was just six years old, he grew so fast that he needed new shoes constantly. His mother, Rischon, bought him a new pair, but they weren’t Jordan’s. Instead of playing with the new shoes, Dion took the old Jordan’s out of the trash can and kept playing with them despite the uncomfortable fit.

Dion’s mother asked what the difference between the shoes was, besides the size. Dion’s response: “Mom, they make me jump higher.”

Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker will let Harris wear whatever he wants in the 2003-04 season. Harris is an extremely important piece in Amaker’s effort to rebuild the Michigan program. He joins Daniel Horton and Lester Abram blue chip recruits that Amaker is using as a foundation for the program. It could also lead to an exciting backcourt consisting of Harris, Horton, Bernard Robinson Jr. and Dommanic Ingerson.

Harris also considered other top programs such as Michigan State, Duke, North Carolina, Missouri and Florida. Michigan has always had the edge on recruiting Harris because he has attended Michigan’s youth basketball programs since he was nine. Harris is the first person in his class to commit to Michigan and is one of the top prep shooting guards in the nation. But after the indictment of former basketball booster Ed Martin, Harris gave the Michigan coaching staff a scare when he told the Detroit Free Press that he needed more time to decide where to go to school. Amaker reassured Harris that NCAA sanctions are unlikely, and as a result, Harris committed to Michigan last week. Unfortunately for Amaker, if sanctions are imposed, Harris can still attend another school without violating NCAA rules because Harris has just verbally committed.

Amaker played a big part in Harris’ decision to become a Wolverine. Harris was immediately impressed with Amaker when he came to watch Harris play just weeks after becoming Michigan’s basketball coach. The three other people involved in the decision – his parents and his coach at Detroit Redford High School, Derrick McDowell – were equally impressed with Amaker. Harris’ mother and coach both described Amaker as “sincere,” but what impressed Harris’ mother the most about Amaker was his dedication to academics. When recruiting her son to Michigan, Amaker talked about academics first and basketball second, the way she thinks it should be. Harris’ mother consistently contacts McDowell to check on her son’s academics because she expects a coach to monitor how the players score in the classroom.

Harris also apparently learned something from the Ed Martin scandal. According to McDowell, the decision was kept within this small group because Harris did not want people involved in the decision that did not have his best interests in mind. Harris said he committed to Michigan so early to avoid those people and the hassles of recruiting.

Judging by the way he has impressed prep magazines and college coaches alike, his commitment saved him a big headache. Harris, who averaged 22 points a game, 4.5 rebounds and four assists last season as a junior at Redford, is ranked as one of the top 20 players in his class by prep publications Hoop Scoop (No. 5), Prep Spotlight (No. 12) and School Sports (No. 20).

He is also a leading candidate for next year’s Mr. Basketball for the state of Michigan after being the only non-senior to be named to the Detroit Free Press’ All-State Dream Team. According to Harris, becoming a Michigan man has given him extra motivation to win the award.

“The last four Mr. Basketball’s have gone to Michigan State,” Harris noted. “I want to change that.”

McDowell thinks if Redford had a more open offense, Harris could score 30 or 35 points a game. Harris models his game after Kobe Bryant and takes pride in getting all of his teammates involved in the game. He can distribute the basketball so well that Harris and his coach think he could play point guard in the future.

In fact, McDowell said that Harris can actually be too unselfish at times. McDowell also wants Harris to play better defense, be more consistent, get in the weight room and be more vocal during his senior year.

Said McDowell: “He has got to become a better defender and has got to play harder on a consistent basis and rebound more… He was a better defensive player his first two years, and he can be a tremendous defensive player. He is quick, long and understands the system. He could be as good as anybody.”

McDowell also said Harris has a tendency to play down to the competition, but Harris’ biggest problem is his lanky frame. The 6-foot-4 guard is currently 190 pounds, but he should be much bigger next fall after going through McDowell’s weight-lifting program over the summer.

McDowell will do his best to help Harris reach his potential during his senior season but it could be a difficult task.

“The scary thing about (Harris) is that to reach his potential is scary,” McDowell said. “Most kids can reach their potential quickly, but (Harris) has so much potential, that he hasn’t reached it yet. The sky is the limit.”

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