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
With new bleachers installed, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker brought the Maize Rage right behind the benches. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily)

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 as 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. 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 said 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.”

Looking farther down the road: Tommy Amaker has locked up the top in-state recruit for the 2004-05 season. The Wolverine reported that rising junior Ronald Coleman has given early commitment to Michigan. A 6-foot-6 small forward, Coleman averaged 17 points and nine rebounds last season for Romulus.

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