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Lions set to host JUCO guard

The Penn State basketball program will be hosting a visitor next weekend when Olive Harvey (Ill.) College guard Jerome Harris makes his way to State College.

Harris will visit Penn State next weekend.

Harris has been on quite a journey since graduating high school in 2009 (the graduation year of Penn State senior-to-be Tim Frazier), when he was named fourth team all-state in Illinois. The Chicago native had some legitimate interest and offers coming out, but didn’t find the right fit and chose the junior college route, attending Spoon River Junior College in Canton, Ill., for the 2009-10 season.

“It was pretty cool, it was a good experience,” Harris said of his time at Spoon River. “We didn’t win a whole lot of games down there, I had a solid freshman year, I got a lot better I had a lot of growing up to do, but it was beneficial for me.”

After his first year, Spoon River actually disbanded its basketball program, forcing the 6-foot-3 point guard elsewhere, with Harris ending up at NCAA Division I program Mississippi Valley State for the 2010-11 season. Bad fortune struck again, this time early on during a practice. While going up for a dunk, Harris was undercut by a teammate and landed on his wrist, which broke the bone and forced him to the sidelines. Coupled with recurring back spasms as a result of the fall, Harris was sidelined for the rest of the season.

Following the injury-shortened campaign, Harris transferred again, this time to Olive Harvey Junior College back in Illinois. However, he was not granted a hardship waiver despite playing just three games the previous year due to injury, thus suiting up in a game for Olive Harvey would burn another year of eligibility. Instead, Harris practiced with the team in addition to working with a personal trainer this past season.

“This past year was like an off-season but just for an extended period,” admitted Harris. “I really kind of conditioned my body a lot, just staying in shape and adding more muscle, trying to get stronger and quicker. As far as my skill set, I really worked on my defense. I never in my life did a defensive drill until this year.”

In November of 2011, Harris actually signed on to play ball at the University of Alabama Birmingham, but was recently released from his letter of intent after head coach Mike Davis was fired. This was the second time Harris committed to Davis, with the first verbal coming as a freshman in high school when Davis was coaching at Indiana.

Now free to look around, Harris has been hearing from the likes of Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Penn State, Maryland and Washington, among many other high-major and mid-major programs.

Harris has developed a good rapport with Penn State in particular, speaking at length with both assistant coach Eugene Burroughs as well as head coach Pat Chambers.

“Coach Chambers has been telling me what he is looking for in a guard to come in and make an impact,” Harris explained. “He said he needs another guard that can get in the lane and create, to be a complement to the players Penn State already has in place.”

Despite all the time off, Harris can see himself thriving in Chambers’ guard-oriented offense, and still hasn’t lost that competitive edge.

“I'm a point guard, a true point guard,” he said. “I look to make plays first and can be an assist guy, but if the defense plays off me I'm going to make them pay. Whatever needs to be done, I do everything to win, that’s really my game right there.”

With a visit set up to Seton Hall after Penn State and others still in the planning stages, Harris is looking to perform his due diligence, but is also trying to get his future settled in a timely manner.

“I want to make a decision as soon as possible, but I'm not going to rush to make my choice.”

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