One of Kansas’ shortest players, Dajuan Harris, is a big reason the Jayhawks are in the finals of the Big 12 tournament

KANSAS CITY, MON – Dajuan Harris has made four of the biggest games of this Big 12 tournament. Not as a rebounder. Certainly not as a goal scorer. Not even as a traditional passer, because what the Kansas Redshirt Junior Guard does goes beyond just passing.

One of Kansas’ most unassuming players on the court had the biggest impact. At least lately. Four times in KU’s first two games of the tournament, the Jayhawks’ 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard has thrown spectacular lobs to the rim to make dunks his bigs. It was swing-changing, rim-shattering passes to the 6-7 KJ Adams and 6-11 Ernest Udeh.

“It’s always a look,” Udeh said of the instinctive looks that start such games.

A look that goes both ways.

“I just saw Ern, his eyes widened,” Harris said.

Iowa State had cut the lead to three in Friday’s semifinals with 12 minutes left when Harris stood calmly behind the 3-point line and found freshman Udeh for a thunderous jam. Kansas found themselves in the midst of a 10-2 run that ended the game in a 71-58 win.

“It’s chemistry,” Adams said.

It’s actually more than that. It’s instinct. It’s vision. It’s a skill for one of the best point guards in the country. Sometimes it is to accurate with passes.

“He hit me in the head last game,” said Gradey Dick, the Kansas freshman. “I did not expect that.”

It should have been him. If Kansas becomes the first team to repeat itself as a national champion in 16 years, Harris needs to play like an All-American. That’s the level he’s at right now. In his last eight games, Harris has 58 assists, just nine turnovers, 24 steals and 92 points.

On Friday, he had a full stat line — 11 points, six assists, four steals. Harris also led the team by a plus 17 point difference while he was floored. Someone has to explain why Harris — also the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year — isn’t a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, which goes to the nation’s top point guard.

“It’s incredible,” said KU interim coach Norm Roberts. “He’s got the best hands in college basketball. He steals. He has longer arms than you think. He’s stronger than you think. And he’s incredibly excited.”

Kansas is back in the Big 12 championship game largely because Harris had back-to-back shutdown performances. First, top scorer Erik Stevenson was saved with a 1-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc in the tournament’s opener against West Virginia.

On Friday, Harris checked most of the game with 6-4, 200-pound Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur. That height and weight doesn’t matter, as Harris is typically leaner and shorter than most players he’s assigned to.

Kalscheur was pushed into a 3 for 12 shooting night (1 for 7 from Inside the ark).

“He’s the heartbeat of the team,” Iowa State coach TJ Otzelberger said of Harris.

“If you stop the snake’s head, it’s game over,” Harris explained.

Except that Harris looks like the least threatening basketball hitman out there. He speaks in low tones. This baby face would make a mother cry. Sounds like Harris has at least one Cousy voice.

“He’s a little nuisance,” said Dick. “That’s what you want in a defense attorney. You want a pest to annoy the offensive player. I think he’s the best point guard in the country. to see him in the summer [when I arrived] and see what he did on the national championship team last year. I feel like nobody deserves that more than him.”

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