Shaquille Harrison: A Journey from Obscurity to Eminence

B y Mason Kern

It was 2012 and Shaquille Harrison had a decision to make. He could either play Division I college football at the University of Kansas or go a different route toward Division I basketball at Tulsa University. He opted for the latter, which was a pinnacle decision that has wholly defined his life ever since.

Harrison grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and attended Lee’s Summit West High School. His former basketball coach, Michael Schieber, watched Harrison’s progression throughout high school and, subsequently, at the collegiate level.

“I don’t know of a kid who has worked harder for everything that he’s gotten from the time that he was a 5’7”, 110-pound freshmen to the point that he is now,” Schieber said in a Kansas City Star report. “I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 28, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Shaquille Harrison (10) goes up for a layup against LA Clippers guard Tyrone Wallace (12) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison became a four-year starter for the Golden Hurricane. At 24-years-old and 6 feet 4 inches tall, he is a lengthier point guard than the traditional type. He utilized that length to his advantage while honing his skills in college. For the first two seasons of his college career, Tulsa competed in the Conference USA (CUSA) before switching to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) for the 2014-15 season and beyond.

Harrison’s main prowess throughout his career has been on the defensive end of the ball. His career totals at Tulsa saw him average 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while also maintaining a clip of 1.8 steals. He is the only player in Tulsa history to register 1,300 points, 400 assists and 200 steals in his entire career. In his senior season, Harrison was also awarded the AAC Men’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year.

“I like to go out there and match up and just go at them hard,” Harrison said.

Ever confident, Harrison put himself into contention for the 2016 NBA Draft after completion of his senior season but went undrafted amid concerns about his offensive production. He shot only 21.6% from three-point range and 64.5% on free throws throughout his stint with the Golden Hurricane.

Eventually, Harrison started his professional career by signing with the Phoenix Suns on September 25, 2016. However, he was waived on October 10 of the same year. He then moved to the Suns’ affiliate G-League team, the Northern Arizona Suns. In two seasons with the affiliate, he averaged 10.3 points while keeping up with his defensive production averaging 1.6 steals.

Harrison fortuitously then went on to join the Phoenix Suns’ 2017 Summer League team, during which time he made a notable mark. On February 21, 2018 he was signed to his first professional 10-day contract. That contract was extended another 10 days, and Harrison was signed to his first official NBA contract on March 13, 2018, signing a multi-year deal with the Suns.

During his multiple 10-day stint contracts with the team, Harrison actually made NBA history. In his first four appearances, Harrison had eight steals; four in his debut against the Los Angeles Clippers and then four in the road win against the Memphis Grizzlies–when all four came within a four-minute fourth-quarter stretch to help seal the victory. In the process, he became the first player to have multiple four-plus steal performances in his first four career games since Mario Chalmers in 2008. The only other Suns player to achieve that feat was Alvan Adams in 1975.

“You know Shaq is a guy that can come in and bring that type of energy,” Suns’ backup point guard Tyler Ulis said. “It’s just about playing hard, he has a great motor.”

In his 18 games with Phoenix thus far, Harrison has fought for minutes with Ulis, as well as point guard Elfrid Payton–whom the team received in a trade deadline deal with the Orlando Magic.

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 28, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Shaquille Harrison (10) dunks over LA Clippers forward C.J. Williams (9) during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

After a downward trend by Ulis, and no chance at a playoff push for the Suns, interim head coach Jay Triano has allowed Harrison more minutes on the court, and he has delivered in droves.

Harrison poured in a career high 17 points in 30 minutes of action to go along with four steals in the March 28th home contest against the Clippers. Although the Suns lost the game 111-99, the game was a bright spot for the future of Harrison’s career.

“There’s a lot of people out there that want to be in my position,” Harrison said. “I’m just trying to make the most of it the best I can.”

In the 18 games he has played, Harrison is averaging 5.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 14 minutes per game. He is also contributing 1.1 steals. However, with only five games remaining in the season, Harrison will surely see those averages increase with an uptick in minutes played.

The Suns–who maintain a 19-58 record on the year–will most likely attain a top-3 pick in the upcoming draft. This is the last season that the “tanking” method will work, as commissioner Adam Silver has changed the rules for the NBA Draft going forward after this season.

“I’m just trying to work hard every day and continue to put up numbers,” Harrison said. “Help the team win in any way possible.”

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Mason Kern, Host of “The Sports Watchdog” Radio Show on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 Phoenix, spotlights newsworthy current events and happenings in the world of pro, college and youth sports as well as gadgets and gear suited for sports and fitness enthusiasts. Mason frequently appears as a sportscasting guest on various TV and other radio programs, including Good Morning Arizona, KUSI-TV San Diego, “The Sports Hangover” Show on NBC Sports Radio Phoenix and more. View his TV segment clips online at www.tinyurl.com/TTWVideos. Reach Mason on Twitter @ASportsWatchdog, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SportsWatchdog and on LinkedIn at www.tinyurl.com/TT

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Mason Kern
Multi-platform sports broadcaster and journalist Mason Kern is Host of "The Sports Watchdog' Radio Show" that airs on KDUS AM 1060, which is an NBC Sports Radio affiliate in Phoenix—a station serving all of metro Phoenix (top-ranked as the #14 U.S. radio market). On this fun and fast-paced program Mason spotlights newsworthy current events and happenings in the world of professional and college sports. This includes hot topic headlines; interviews with powerhouse guests like NBA All-Star and basketball Hall-of-Famer Dominique Wilkins and NFL Hall of Famers Shawne Merriman and Aeneas Williams; and spotlights on notable gadgets and gear suited for sports and fitness enthusiasts. Mason also serves as a Sportscaster, Commentator and Host for various other radio, TV and online media outlets across the U.S. This currently includes delivering live sportscasts on AZTV7’s ‘The Arizona Daily Mix’ show, as well as prior live appearances with Good Morning Arizona, ABC13 Las Vegas, multiple KUSI-TV San Diego (as a member of their sportscasting team) and other shows where he’s delivered insightful pro and collegiate sports reports. Before that Mason was a regular correspondent with The CW’s “San Diego Living” show where, in addition to providing analysis on pro and collegiate athletics, he's also showcased sports and fitness product innovations in his own monthly Sports Watchdog-branded segments. In addition to hosing his own "The Sports Watchdog" Radio Show on the NBC affiliate KDUS Sports Radio AM 1060 in Phoenix as well as co-hosting the “Buckets & Dingers” sports podcast, Mason is also a frequent radio guest delivering current event-based sports commentary, with recurring interviews with the “Sports Hangover” Show as their “Phoenix Suns insider,” which also airs on KDUS Sports Radio Phoenix, among others. Past The Sports Watchdog Radio Show interviewees have included a wide array of NFL, NBA and MLB Hall of Famers and other noteworthy sports stars and industry power players. Other of Mason’s career interviews have featured ESPYs-related one-on-one standup interviews with legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk, 2017 ESPY-winning snowboarder Anna Gasser, Dallas Mavericks point guard Seth Curry, FOX Sports analyst Matt Leinart, Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, the “Naughty by Nature” rap group, boxer Andre Berto, and many others.

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