On the first official day of practice, Will Harris instantly moved to the head of the class in the University at Albany lineup Friday.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior forward, who transferred from the University of Virginia this summer, won’t have to sit out this season and instead will join the program immediately.
Usually, Division I transfers have to sit out a season before they become eligible, but the Great Danes got a waiver from the NCAA because of a family hardship.
“As I got to know him and got a better relationship with him, I learned that he’s had a tough family situation,” said UAlbany head coach Will Brown. “We’ve been hearing about all these kids who were transferring from schools all around the country, and everyone was putting in for appeal
after appeal to the NCAA.
“This is one kid who has a legitimate appeal situation, based on a true family hardship. He’s got a real-life situation that is very difficult. We decided to throw our hat in the ring and ask for an appeal on his behalf. He was at one of the best public academic colleges in the country at Virginia, and he did very well, academically. He left there because of a family situation. They [the NCAA] agreed with us that the appeal had merit.”
Without getting too involved in Harris’ situation and to protect the player’s privacy, Brown explained that Harris is basically the man in the family for five brothers, a sister and his mother.
“The reason he came to UAlbany is because he had to get closer to home. He wanted to get away from New York City, but he still had to be close enough to get home quickly. His family needs him,” Brown said.
The UAlbany coach said that Harris immediately changes the Great Danes’ lineup.
“Put it this way, he’s just very good,” said Brown. “He’s a tough matchup at 6-6 and 240. He can play the 2, 3, 4 or even the 5 if we needed him to. He’s a man physically with tremendous athleticism, as well.”
Brown said that Harris has excellent touch from the outside, but he can also post up inside or go around defenders by driving to the basket.
“As a freshman, he played 14 minutes a game for a team that was the Atlantic Coast Conference co-champion in the regular season. As a sophomore, he had to sit out for a 14 games because of a back injury.
“Right away, he is as good as any player in our league,” Brown said. “He’s a real matchup problem. He’s a lot like [graduated team captain] Brian Lillis, but he’s 20 pounds heavier, an inch taller and a lot stronger.
“I can’t play this down. He helps us become a better team right away,” Brown said.
“Remember that he was a top-100 player nationally coming out of high school. He had a lot of success at Virginia before he got hurt. He has great leadership qualities, and he’s experienced. He’s played in tough environments, and he’s enjoyed success as a college player. He was a major contributor at Virginia when they made their title run.”
A native of Corona, Harris appeared in 47 games over his two seasons with the Cavaliers. He
averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in half a season as a sophomore.
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