Nuggets prospect Gary Harris shows poise in first NBA press conference

Guard eager to learn the ropes as rookie in Denver next season
by Aaron Lopez

As Gary Harris went through his first NBA press conference, a familiar face in the second row jumped in with a question.

“Do you think your background in football will help you make the adjustment to physicality of this league?”

Harris broke into a smile and then showed his poise as he responded to Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw.

“I believe so,” Harris said. “I have never been a guy to shy away from contact. I played football (in high school), and I played (basketball) in the Big Ten. Contact is nothing new to me; it’s something I embrace.”

The former wide-receiver-turned-hoops-star out of Michigan State arrived in Denver on Friday after being the 19th overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. The Nuggets sent the rights to the No. 11 pick (Doug McDermott) and forward Anthony Randolph to Chicago for the rights to Harris and Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic (No. 16). The Nuggets also received a second-round pick in 2015.

Harris, an All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore last season, will play on Denver’s summer league team and be given a chance to compete for playing time behind veterans Arron Afflalo and Randy Foye.

“We have some good veterans here,” Harris said. “I’m willing to learn. I’m trying to become the best player that I can be. To come in and have some guys who have been in the league and who have been through it, it’s definitely pretty good for me.”

Shaw also figures to be a good fit as a coach and mentor for Harris. The two first met a few years ago when Shaw was the associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers and Harris was a senior at Hamilton Southeastern High School north of Indianapolis.

“Gary was one of the most highly touted players coming out of Indiana at the time,” Shaw said. “From that moment, I kind of followed his progress and his career. I had a watchful eye over him.”

NBA scouts kept their eyes on Harris as he developed into a strong perimeter defender and capable scorer in two seasons at Michigan State. After declaring himself eligible for the NBA, the 19-year-old went through several predraft workouts, including one in Denver on June 13.

“I had a pretty good workout,” Harris said. “I got to know some of the guys and I felt it was a good visit, but at that point I still didn’t know where I was going to go. To have it finally figured out is a good feeling.”