Dash Harris

by Justin Walsh

On February 24, 2009 in Lincoln, NE, Texas A&M faced off against Nebraska. Two middle of the pack Big 12 teams facing off in conference play. The game was physical. In the first half, Nebraska held a steady 13-point lead. The Aggies weren’t hitting shots, couldn’t control the ball and were getting torched by the Cornhusker backcourt. The first portion of the second half was much of the same—the lead was still at 13, the Aggies couldn’t chip away at the lead.

Ten minutes into the second half, a reserve PG hits a jumper. Cookie Miller takes the ball up the court, passes off. The telecast is quiet; the fans are reserved. A few passes later, Cookie has the ball once more and… a blur. Two Aggie guards blindside Cookie like a tandem of wolves. One of them steals the ball. He bounds down the hardwood. He’s side by side with the Cornhusker guard. He rises. Miller rises. SLAM.

The color commentary has their jaws agape. The home team fans shout in complete confusion. One of the commentary crew still can’t contain his composure—Doug Gottlieb is howling into his headset for the world to hear. The benches are going wild. The camera pans in… Dash Harris with the dunk. And one. Cookie Miller is shaking his head, smirking to his team. He knows he got domed. Gottlieb runs the replay of the dunk three times. He sounds just as shocked each time he watches it. He calls it the Cookie Monster.

After that dunk, Dash hit the free throw. Poised, he cut the lead to 8. Nebraska was never the same after that point. They gave up a double-digit lead. They had been leading almost the entire game. Since the score was 5-4. With 2.4 seconds to go in the game, all the swagger in the possession of the Aggies, Josh Carter hits a game winning three-pointer. Texas A&M goes on the win column.

That was a statement game for the Aggies. Without that win, they might not have gotten into the NCAA tournament. Not everybody remembers random conference games. But don’t doubt for a second that the committee didn’t have that slam in their mind when they were reviewing A&M’s accolades. Trust in this: That game sealed the deal for the Aggies. Thanks, in large part, to a strategically placed dunk by One Dashan “Dash” Harris. You know him by his SLAMADADAY. Now…

ALLOW ME TO RE-INTRODUCE MYSELF, MY NAME IS…

Dash Harris: I was born in New Orleans, LA. I moved out here to Los Angeles when I was 3 years old with my family, and we’ve lived here since that point. I’ve always played basketball, no other sport. My dad played basketball and football in high school… He broke his neck playing football. My mother ran track, so I come from an athletic family.

I grew up under the tutelage of Baron Davis; I first met him when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I’ve always been around him, working out with him since then. We always hang out, stuff like that. We’re like brothers now, so I am blessed to have a great relationship with him. Actually, Dash Harrismany of the guys that got drafted this year are people that I grew up with. Whether it was playing with them or against them, I’ve been around and a part of the highest levels of basketball my whole life.

SLAM: Now, whenever you link up with Baron, seeing as he’s taken you under his wing, are there any specific facets to your game he has you working on this summer?
DH: Every summer we find something to focus on to improve my game. Over the course of this summer, we’ve been doing a lot of shooting. Shooting on the move, spot shooting, all at game speed to make sure I have the ability to shoot in game conditions. Growing up, we always worked on ball handling. That was a huge part of the workouts from day one. So we’ve been doing that for quite some time, but we’ve also been working out in the weight room so I can maintain my strength, and get stronger in areas where my body’s weak. This summer though, more than any summer, we worked on shooting. I’ll have an opportunity to make a big impact for the team. I need to be ready.

SLAM: You have had a nomadic life. You were born in New Orleans, raised in Los Angeles, but you played your high school ball in Florida.
DH: That’s where I went to school my junior and senior years of high school. I went to Montverde Academy in Montverde, FL. That’s right outside of Orlando.

SLAM: What was it like going from the west coast to the east coast? Transitioning into an entirely different atmosphere where the style of play in the region was completely different than what you were accustomed to?
DH: I think it was one of the best moves I ever made. I played for a great coach in Kevin Sutton, who’s a disciplinarian and expects a lot from his point guards. My junior year in high school we went 30-0, played alongside Solomon Alabi, who’s at Florida State right now. We went undefeated; we won the Hoops USA national championship—ranked No. 1 in the country. That was ahead of Montrose Christian, Oak Hill, Mater Dei and schools like that. I feel like that year really jump started my game. I averaged 13 points 10 assists with some really talented guys on our squad, so I felt confident going into my senior year. Now, I had to change my role on the team that year. Our team needed me to take more initiative on offense. [Dash averaged 18 points, 7 assists and 4 steals –Ed.] It was good to have to change my style of play year to year. That was a really good way to prepare me for college, you know? All around, transferring to school there was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. You have to live on your own, manage your time, and really make a point to practice self responsibility.

SLAM: When you transferred out there, was the majority of the decision to get your academics in check, and possibly move upDash Harris & A.J. Price to the next level in the recruiting game? Or was it to get away from the stereotypical L.A. lifestyle?
DH: To be honest, in part, all of it. I was always an Honor student. In fact, my school in L.A. was a college prep school just like Montverde. But I really transferred there for basketball purposes. I wanted to get out on the national scene for basketball. I needed a bigger stage to play on, get recognized more; I needed to be on a team where we traveled around playing some top teams and players in HS basketball.

SLAM: When you did transfer, how was your recruitment during the HS and AAU seasons?
DH: Everything was pretty smooth. I was recruited fairly heavily; it ended up coming down to Texas A&M, Kentucky, the University of California, USC and Indiana. I actually took official visits only to A&M, but I did take unofficial visits to Kentucky, USC, Cal and Florida State. But once I took that official to College Station, I felt like that was the right place for me. I was lucky not to have any of the recruiting horror stories that sometimes end up on ESPN and whatnot.

SLAM: Now, when you got to A&M, did you have trouble going from being a high school point guard to being a Division 1 point guard in the physical Big 12?
DH: For me, during the summer I always played against NBA guys when I’m around Baron, so I’m always around some of the top talent. Not just the NBA though, L.A. area guys—there are so many talented young basketball players that come out of Los Angeles. So when you really think about it, you have all these NBA guys from Los Angeles that come back during the summer and play, you’re also playing against top high school and college guys during the summer who are bigger than you, faster, stronger and better at basketball than you. The transition to A&M; I’m not going to say it was easy, but it wasn’t a difficult task as far as being a point guard. The game was faster, but it wasn’t totally foreign. It just took some time for me to get into a mindset where I was comfortable and ready to make plays. Just some fundamental things mentally I had to get used to. It was mainly a system change. I wouldn’t say it was anything where I didn’t have the talent or the will to play at the highest level.

SLAM: What was the main change in the A&M system that you had to grow accustomed to?
DH: I’m an up and down, run and gun guy. I like to get out in the open court, fast break, score easy baskets. You know, make a large chunk of our scores in transition. Last year at A&M, we weren’t slow, but we were more of a half-court team. I think next year that’s going to change, we’re going to become a team that gets out on the break more than we used to. Our team is going to press most of the game; we’re going to be looking to run and gun. But back to your question, it was just slowing my pace down to the half-court game.

SLAM: Even though it was a difficult move to be in a more conservative offense, do you feel that will help you out? Being able to play more than one style of basketball?
DH: Definitely, I feel like I can play in any system now. These days, it seems like there are only a few ways teams are playing—the slower half-court game and offense based on the fast break. I’ve got a good grasp on both of those offenses now. It makes me feel like I can get past anything that comes my way.

SLAM: How is the team chemistry on the offense for you? Now that you’re going to have a biggDash Harriser role this year, do you have anybody that’s a go-to guy for cuts?
DH: I think the majority of the guys on the team are pretty much on the same page as me at any given point. I’ve played with them my freshman year, we’ve all played together in practice. And I don’t necessarily need to be on their team during practice to know what they like to do, what their tendencies are. I make an effort to have a strong relationship with all of my teammates. As a point guard, it’s essential to have a connection with them. You have to earn their respect and trust. You don’t just gain it once you have point guard next to your name on the roster.

SLAM: What kind of coach is Mark Turgeon for you and the team?
DH: Coach Turgeon is a real family oriented guy. He treats us like we’re all a family and I think that helps us out as a team, being like that. We say we’re all brothers. We all have each other’s back and I think that all starts at the base with Coach Turgeon. He’s a real players coach, being that he played point guard at Kansas. He knows what players go through with fatigue and injuries during the season, and he’s great with point guards, so I really like having him as my coach. I’m glad I chose to play for him.

SLAM: Now, most people remember you from when you dunked on Cookie. Outside of that, what are you most proud of in your college career so far?
DH: [Laughs] Man, like you said, that dunk was definitely one of my favorite moments; not just in college but in basketball period. But it wasn’t as big to me as making it to the NCAA tournament as a freshman on the team was. And making it past the first round was a great feeling. I wish we could have gone further, but you only get one shot. We’ll have to make sure we take advantage of it better next time. Selection Sunday was so exciting for my teammates and me, so I can’t wait for that Sunday again. I can’t wait to go deeper this upcoming season. We have a great team this year, we’re deep, we have chemistry that’s built up over the past few years and we have young guys to step in and contribute where it’s needed. One of our main goals is to win the Big 12 conference, period. We play in a tough, stacked conference every year, and we want to win the conference.