Will Harris To Transfer From UVA

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IAugust 3, 2008

With Virginia coach Dave Leitao constantly searching for recruits this offseason, despite a full load of scholarships, it was only a matter of time before the news came out that the Cavaliers' men's basketball team was going to lose one of its players.

The name may not be familiar to many outside of Charlottesville, VA, but Will Harris will be missed by those that got to know the 6'6" forward.

Harris was a solid prospect coming out of Queens, New York. Harris originally accepted an offer from Nebraska coming out of high school, before his mother's illness forced him to play closer to home. 

Harris, instead, decided to go to prep school at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, where he averaged over 20 points and 10 boards per game.

His energy and positive attitude garnered him interest from many highly-rated teams like the University of Connecticut, but he was told, early on, that he could not be assured a top spot in the rotation. 

This came early enough that Harris still had options, and one of those options happened to be the University of Virginia.

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Dave Leitao had his eyes on Will Harris back when he was coach of DePaul University, and believed in the young man enough to make him part of his first recruiting class, along with Jamil Tucker, Solomon Tat, and Jerome Meyinnse.

Harris looked like he might become the prize of that first class. His ability to play defense impressed Leitao and earned him playing time early on as a freshman in the sparkling new John Paul Jones Arena.

Harris had a career-defining moment in his first ACC game against N.C. State. The freshman went 5-6 from the floor for 14 points in 17 minutes, en route to a 67-62 victory.

The win was the first time the Cavaliers had won their ACC opener since 1994, and Virginia fans had reason to believe Harris would be the future of the program.

However, that proved not to be the case for Harris and the Cavaliers.

As frustrating as last season was for the Cavaliers, when they finished 17-16 (including a stretch where they lost 10 out of 11), it was even more frustrating for Harris.

The typically smiling and jovial Harris could only sit on the sidelines with an injury that perplexed the team's physicians. 

His back felt good most of the time, but had a tendency to flare up. A pain that made it hard to walk, let alone run up and down the court.

Listening to coach Leitao talk, you could sense both the confusion and disappointment as to how to rectify the situation.

Surgery was not the answer, but apparently, neither was playing. Harris only played 15 games last season, averaging just nine minutes each time out.

Harris did not complain. He could have easily asked for a medical redshirt, but he wanted to be out there, giving whatever he could for the cause. 

With two other players out for the season, and many others nursing smaller injuries, Leitao needed whatever Harris could give him, and that is exactly what the forward did.

His heart is what made Harris such a special player. He was not the most talented player on the roster, but he gave so much each and every play. Even on the bench, he rarely sat down, as he would jump up and down and be one of the first to congratulate his teammates. 

You could tell the love he had for his team and teammates every second he was on the court, whether it was coming out of the tunnel or his reaction in 2007 to hearing Virginia would be dancing for the first time since 2001.

I wish Harris a happy and healthy career, wherever his future destination will be.  Hopefully, he can find success like Gary Forbes and Derrick Byars, who also transferred from Virginia in the past few years. 

Both became stars at UMass and Vanderbilt, respectively, and had impressive postseason runs their senior years.  

I know that Virginia has an assortment of talent that play essentially the same role as Harris, but I can only hope they possess half the amount of determination and glee Harris expressed when he played.

If they do, barring a few injuries, Virginia may just surprise a few people this upcoming season.

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