Dajuan Harris, one of Kansas’ shortest players, is the main reason the Jayhawks are in the Big 12 tournament final

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Dajuan Harris made four of the biggest plays in this Big 12 tournament. Not as a rebounder. Certainly not as a goalscorer. Not even as a conventional passer, because what the Kansas redshirt junior guard does goes beyond just passing.

One of Kansas’ quieter players on the court had the biggest impact. At least lately. Four times in KU’s first two games of the tournament, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Jayhawks point guard threw spectacular lobs over the edge for dunks to his bigs. They changed momentum and shook the rim for the 6-7 KJ Adams and 6-11 Ernest Udeh.

“It’s always a look,” Udeh said of the instinctive looks that start such pieces.

A look that goes both ways.

“I just saw Ern, his eyes got big,” Harris said.

Iowa State had cut the lead to three with 12 minutes left in Friday’s semifinal when Harris calmly stood beyond the 3-point line and found rookie Udeh for a thunderous jam. Kansas was in the middle of a 10-2 run that put the game away in an eventual 71-58 win.

“It’s chemistry,” Adams said.

It’s actually more than that. It’s instinctive. It’s vision. It’s a skill for one of the best point guards in the country. Sometimes it’s being Also accurate with passes.

“Last game, he hit me in the head,” Kansas freshman guard Gradey Dick said. “I did not expect that.”

He should have been. If Kansas is going to become the first team to repeat as a national champion in 16 years, Harris is going to have to play like an All-American. That’s the level he’s at right now. In his last eight games, Harris has had 58 assists, just nine turnovers, 24 steals and 92 points.

On Friday, he had a full stat line — 11 points, six assists, four steals. Harris also led the team with a differential of more than 17 points when he was on the floor. Someone will have to explain why Harris — also the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year — isn’t one of the finalists for the Bob Cousy award that goes to the nation’s top point guard.

“It’s unbelievable,” said KU interim coach Norm Roberts. “He’s got the best hands in college basketball. He steals. He’s got longer arms than you think. He’s stronger than you think. And he’s got incredible anticipation.”

Kansas is in the Big 12 Championship Game again in large part because Harris has posted back-to-back stoppage performances. First, in the tournament opener against West Virginia leading scorer, Erik Stevenson was held to 1 of 7 shots from beyond the arc.

On Friday, Harris controlled 6-4, 200-pound Gabe Kalscheur, the Iowa State guard for most of the game. That height and weight doesn’t matter as Harris is generally lighter and shorter than most of the players he’s assigned to.

Kalscheur was harassed in a 3 for 12 shooting night (1 for 7 of inside the arch).

“He’s the heartbeat of the team,” Iowa State coach TJ Otzelberger said of Harris.

“If you stop the snake’s head, then it’s game over,” Harris explained.

Except Harris has the look of the least menacing basketball assassin out there. He speaks in a low voice. This baby face would make a mother cry. Looks like Harris has at least one Cousy vote.

“It’s a small pest,” Dick said. “That’s what you want in a defender. You want a pest to annoy the attacking player. I think he’s the best playmaker in the country. See him in the summer [when I arrived] and see what he did last year on the national championship team. I feel like no one else deserves this more than him.”

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