With all the predictions that I have missed while writing for this site, I have to occasionally give myself a pat on the back. Heading into last season, I thought that Elias Harris would be a starter the day he stepped foot on campus, and even had the potential to compete for WCC Newcomer of the Year. My belief was that with his experience playing in Germany, Harris would be accustomed to the physical nature of Division I basketball. Also, due to his maturity, he wouldn't be overwhelmed playing against some of the top competition that is seen on the Gonzaga schedule ever year.
After taking the time to think about some of the tremendous plays we saw from Elias last season, it made me consider that he exceeded even the lofty expectations that I had set. After just one year at Gonzaga, Harris cemented himself as a future 1st round pick in the NBA draft and earned himself a spot on the German National Team. Elias demonstrated the ability to score from the perimeter, while also showing the skill set to dominate on the interior. Frankly, there are few guys in all of college basketball that are as tough to defend as Harris.
So what do I expect as an encore? Simply, I expect to see Elias take his game to a superstar level and lead Gonzaga to its first Final 4.One of the unique aspects that has emerged during the tremendous run that Gonzaga has had over the past 10 years is the ability of Mark Few to develop a superstar type talent. Whether it be Dan Dickau, Blake Stepp or Adam Morrison, Few and the coaching staff have shown the proven ability to utilize an elite talent. For the first time since we saw Morrison absolutely dominate during his junior season, I think that Gonzaga has one of those rare talents again.
I would expect that we will see Harris utilized both on the perimeter and in the paint depending on the type of defense the opponent is running. One of the more underrated areas of Harris' game is his ability to shoot from the perimeter. As a freshman, Harris shot 45% from behind the three-point line and displayed a very fluid stroke. Elias also presents a rare athleticism and agility for a guy his size, which makes him nearly impossible to defend once he develops a head of steam.
The one area that I think we will see a huge improvement from this season is how Elias scores in the offense. As a freshman, there were numerous times where Harris would force the offense in order to try and get a basket. Now that he is more comfortable with his role, his teammates and the system that Gonzaga runs, I anticipate that we will see Harris develop the ability to dominate a game while playing in the flow of the offense.
If the coaching staff decides to play Elias at the SF/Wing position more this season, it's imperative that he grows more comfortable as a ball-handler and a decision maker. While he does have one of the more aggressive power dribbles in the entire country, I can't even count how many times Harris lost control of the ball and committed a charge while attempting to get to the rim. As he gets more comfortable with the ball in his hands on the wing, I believe we will see a more vast array of moves on the perimeter, which should allow for his offensive game to become dominant.
With so many key pieces surrounding Harris heading into the season, it appears everything is in place for him to put together a special campaign. If he can carry over the defensive intensity he displayed with the German National team this summer, Gonzaga fans might be looking at a potential Wooden Award winner, and the guy who leads this program to the Final 4.