There are inherent feelings that accompany professional basketball players throughout their journey. During the positive stretches, confidence, determination, and elation are apparent while doubt, jadedness and unrest accompany the negative periods. Jay Harris experienced both spectrums last week.
Traded to the Delaware 87ers last season and breaking training camp with the team, expecting and hoping to make the opening day roster, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Harris was waived Thursday. It was a sudden, despondent turn after playing 29 games for the Sevens and Toronto’s D-League affiliate Raptors 905 last season.
A 2015 second-round pick by the 905 in the NBADL draft, Harris averaged 5.7 points, 2.8 assists and 1.8 rebounds primarily off the bench as a rookie. It was a learning process for the shooting guard who excelled at University of Illinois-Chicago as a senior in the 2014-15 season (15.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 3.7 APG).
The 24-year-old Harris is facing his first legitimate test as a pro, dealing with the adversity of being cut immediately before the regular season, but he is open to and seeking a new opportunity. It’s commendable from a talent who has had a volatile seven days, realizing he made the Sevens training camp roster Monday to being cut Thursday.
Harris was kind enough to share his view on last week, what he is currently trying to accomplish and what he wants to achieve in the future.
Ridiculous Upside: What has your week been like, going from confident to a low point in your career?
Jay Harris: It’s been tough. Before I got the call to go to the 87ers’ training camp, I had no looks [from teams]. Nobody was interested and that was discouraging. I finally got the call that I was going to Delaware, the team I finished the year with last season, and I was ecstatic. I was confident and I was ready. I knew I was coming into a situation where I would see familiar faces and a familiar environment. I was still a bit nervous but more confident than anything. I’ve made it through a training camp before, so I know what it takes to get through one. So to only last two days was like a stab in the heart for me. To think that I wasn’t good enough to at least make it to a preseason game is extremely discouraging. I’ve took some blows in this game, but this was by far the worst one.
RU: Does being cut give you more fire to make an immediate impact with the next team you’re on?
JH: Being cut definitely gives me more fire to make an immediate impact. That chip on my shoulder is colossal right now.
RU: How have you mentally prepared yourself since Thursday?
JH: By literally taking situations for what they are. I’m not coming into this game with a name and I don’t expect to make it that way. My game and my work ethic will speak for itself. They may have a bigger name, but they don’t have a bigger game.
RU: What keeps you focused to continue your passion?
JH: My family, my belief in myself keeps me focused. I have an incredible support group that have always had my back. I’ve been playing this game, been a basketball junkie and have been watching film since I was in diapers. I believe in the work I’ve put in and I believe that i will one day play at the highest level and be a contender. The reasons why I play this game won’t allow me to quit.
RU: What are you currently/will be doing, as a player, in order to get another opportunity this season?
JH: Work. Simple as that.
RU: You’re pursuing a master’s degree at UIC. What is the typical day like for you, having to balance basketball and school?
JH: Well to back it up a little, I got my bachelor’s in Psychology-where I needed to complete a 100-hour internship to graduate-which was extremely tough. Being able to balance both isn’t so hard when you’re able to organize. Once again, having my support group helped me balance getting my degree and starting my master’s. Them helping me keep a clear head when needed was extremely important and I wouldn’t have made it without them.
RU: You played at three different schools in college (Valparaiso, Wagner and UIC). Do you think you can handle playing on many different teams professionally if it happens in your career (with pro ball being a fluid journey for most players)?
JH: Yes. I went from Indiana, to New York to Chicago which are all different. Even my first year professionally I played for two different teams. Bouncing around doesn’t phase me. Wherever I go, I’m ready to work.
RU: What are some aspects of your game, outside of shooting and scoring, do you think will help you succeed next season?
JH: I’m an all-around player, I know the game, I have a high basketball IQ, I can pass, I can defend and I can make guys around me better. I understand the importance of picking a teammate up-building a teammate’s confidence [up]. I know how to be a leader. So far, [on] the teams I’ve played for I’ve been a backup. I wasn’t the leader, so people only see free throws and scoring. In my life, every time I was in a position to lead, I’ve been able to show all of the qualities I possess.
RU: You may be at an excruciating part of your career now, but what do you hope to achieve this season, whether it’s inevitably in the D-League or overseas?
JH: I hope to prove to people that I’m better than what they once thought and hopefully get someone to believe in me the way my support group believes in me ... the way I believe in me.