Last week, we got our summer preview series started with the Tar Heels’ lone returning scholarship senior, Leaky Black. Black’s career hasn’t gone exactly as he may have hoped thus far, but he has an opportunity to turn things around with a new coach and a slightly tweaked system that might better suit his game. I’ll include a link below to that article and will regularly provide links to past pieces as we dive deeper into these previews.
Today, we’re going to be taking a closer look at Anthony Harris and what he brings for next season. As it stands now, for the first time since he arrived in Chapel Hill (knock on wood), Harris is expected to suit up for the opening game of the year. Coming into his freshman season, Harris was still recovering from a torn left ACL he suffered in high school. That caused him to miss the first month, before finally making his debut on December 8th, 2019, against Virginia. Just five games later, on December 30th versus Yale, Harris tore his ACL again, this time the right one. He went through the rehab process once again and managed to get back on the court during January of last season.
Although he hasn’t gotten to see as much action as he would’ve liked, Harris make his presence felt when he’s out there. Especially right after his returns from both ACL injuries, he’s given the Tar Heels a major spark in times where they really needed a boost. For example, in the five games he played in as a freshman, Harris averaged 6.8 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 0.8 steals while shooting 55% from the field, 43% from three, and 87.5% from the free throw line. Most notably, he put up 14 points on 5/7 from the field (2/3 from deep) to help give the Heels a big win over UCLA. That particular team was probably doomed regardless, but who knows what kind of impact Harris could’ve had had he stayed healthy.
During the 2020-21 season, Harris played 11 minutes per game, averaging 3.2 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting 44% from the field, 25% from three, and 53% from the charity stripe. His numbers obviously took a step back, but it’s difficult to compare them given such a small sample size from his first year. Moreover, the arrival of some talented guards and the fact that Harris was coming back from a second torn ACL had an effect on his playing time/effectiveness. Roy Williams was vocal about his concern for Harris re-injuring his knees after all he’d been through.
Still, Harris was a key reserve for the Tar Heels last season. He never played more than 15 minutes in a game but he was locked in for each and every second. Harris is the type of player you can count on to make momentum plays, whether it’s diving for a loose ball, creating a turnover, or getting out in transition and beating the defense back down the floor. His defensive potential has long been something people are intrigued by, but naturally, because of the injuries, we haven’t seen him fully unlock that potential. However, he did make big strides as the season went along and he got more comfortable out there.
For next season, I think Harris has a chance to take a massive step forward. You could tell that at many times last year, he was playing not to get hurt. That’s not to say he brought any less intensity, but he was cognizant of those knees with each step he took, and understandably so. As a result, I don’t think Harris was able to fully display his quickness/athleticism. Well, now that he actually has a full offseason (knock on wood, again) to focus on his game rather than constant rehab, I believe he is poised to have a breakout season.