Equal Opportunist

One phrase you hear often from players getting used to Byron Scott’s system is “equal opportunity.” Unlike years past, any – and every – Cavalier can be expected to carry the scoring load.

But the phrase doesn’t apply just to the scoring column. With the Cavaliers coaching staff still figuring out which combination of players gives them the best chance to win, any member of the Wine and Gold’s 15-man roster has an equal opportunity to contribute to the cause.

On this past Friday night, that opportunity reached down the length of Byron Scott’s bench – down to the pair of undrafted rookies sitting at the end of it. And those two rookies – Samardo Samuels and Manny Harris – made the most of their minutes.

In what might have been the only highlights of an otherwise forgettable 20-point loss north of the border, Samuels and Harris made an impression. Samuels, undrafted out of Louisville, went 3-for-5 from the floor – including a rim-rattling alley-oop from Daniel Gibson – notching seven points in seven minutes of play.

The other Wine and Gold walk-on, Manny Harris, was even better – canning a pair of three-pointers and going 3-for-4 overall for eight points, adding an assist and a steal. Harris saw action against Sacramento the next night, but didn’t dent the scoring column in limited first-half action.

“I felt good (on Friday night),” said Michigan’s former Mr. Basketball. “I just try to be ready whenever my name is called – whether it’s at the beginning of the game or the end of the game. It really doesn’t matter.”

A projected second-rounder, Harris was sidelined with a severe ankle sprain this summer, derailing his draft status and keeping him essentially out of summer league play. Coming into Cleveland’s camp, Harris was already a longshot.

But one weekend in Texas changed all that. In a back-to-back against the Rockets and Mavericks, Harris took control of his destiny – dropping 14 points apiece on the Western Conference heavyweights. Harris continued to impress, and by the time the Cavaliers took the floor for their final exhibition contest, Harris had usurped Danny Green’s spot on the regular season roster.

When Byron Scott made the decision, Harris originally thought he was in some hot water with the coach. Instead, Harris learned that he’d realized his dream. The first person to hear the news?

“I made that first phone call to my mother, of course,” smiled the All-Big Ten selection.

Harris has the wide-eyed look of a rookie, but certainly doesn’t play like one. Harris’ modus operandi is to push the basketball, a perfect fit in Coach Scott’s system. And the former Wolverine is not shy about pulling the trigger on his smooth jumper.

“I just feel like you have to have confidence at this level,” added Harris. “If you don’t, you won’t last.”

Raised in Detroit, Harris has nine brothers and sisters. His real name is “Corperryale” and his nickname “Manny” was given to him by his dad, based on the character who played Tony Montana’s best friend in the film “Scarface.”

Harris led the Big Ten in scoring as a sophomore and was All-Academic Big Ten in his final two seasons at Ann Arbor. In the first game of his final season at Michigan, Harris notched just the second triple-double in Wolverine history.

The 6-5 combo guard readily admits having a chip on his shoulder after not being selected in this summer’s Draft. But now that he’s in the big leagues, Harris knows that it’s time to take advantage of the opportunity.

“I just try to be ready – I never know when I might play one day, not play the next,” reasoned Harris. “You just never know, but you need to be ready for when your name is called. Either way, I’ll still work hard in practice every day.”

Hard work, smarts, skill and patience are what got Harris to the big show. Now he just needs to take that next step and work his way in Byron Scott’s rotation.

That might seem like a longshot for an undrafted rookie. But Manny’s already beaten the odds once.

Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.