For many players, their college careers are filled with many ups and down. The important thing is a player needs to be able to adjust to circumstances and step up when needed. Wake Forest has had a strong basketball history for most of the past two decades, but the past few seasons have forced many players to see what they are made of. CJ Harris was able to not only handle the adversity; he found a way to thrive.
As a freshman, Harris played major minutes, but was relegated to an almost singular role. “I was really just a spot-up shooter,” said Harris. “With guys like Al-Farouq Aminu and Ishmael Smith handling most of the work, that’s all they needed from me.”
That Wake Forest team made it to the NCAA Tournament, but Smith and Aminu left for the NBA, and Harris shifted into a bigger role, one he would carry for the next three years. “I had to step up my overall game,” explained Harris. “Probably the biggest change was learning to work more off the dribble and developing one-one-one skills.”
Though Harris’ game continued to progress, the Wake Forest program has hit a bit of a rough patch the last couple of years, and that can wear on even the best of players. “It was tough and at time, it made it really hard to stick with it every day,” said Harris. “But I kept playing hard, and fighting the adversity definitely made me a much stronger person.”
As a local Winston-Salem product, the time at Wake Forest was a mixed blessing. “It was great to play four more years in my hometown in front of my family and friends,” said Harris. “But there was added pressure, and with the losing, it was tough to still show my face around town sometimes.”
On top of that, Harris had the opportunity to play in one of the nation’s top conferences, the ACC. “Playing in the ACC really helped my game progress,” explained Harris. “If you weren’t ready on a given night, you would be embarrassed. You had no choice but to spend time getting better.”
Though playing for a losing team may limit the exposure, Harris believes his game has plenty to entice teams at the next level. “I think teams will be impressed with my shooting ability, especially my ability to step out and hit the 3,” said Harris, who shot 43% from 3-point range last season, and over 38% for his career. “With the greater spacing at the pro level, I can use it to my advantage and get into the lane and score or create.”
Harris knows his game isn’t complete yet, and he is already at work out at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas on certain things. “I need to continue to get better at reading the game and reading defenses,” said Harris. “I improved on how I come off of screens at Wake, but I still want to do it better.”
His time at Wake did come with some extra benefits in the wisdom of former Demon Deacons who have made it. “Chris Paul has always been generous with his time and his knowledge whenever he comes back to the school.”
Harris understands that he has work cut out for him, but he has stepped up and made adjustments before, and he is ready to do it again at the next level.
“I am a team guy who will work hard and do whatever I have to do. I am a high character guy and that is important for any team to have.”
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