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Is Wisconsin-Milwaukee forward Harris next hoops-to-TE phenom?

Harris demonstrates good hands on the basketball floor, grabbing a loose ball. (USATSI)
Demetrius Harris demonstrates good hands on the basketball floor, grabbing a loose ball. (USATSI)

For years, NFL teams have been dabbling with scouting basketball players, projecting how a power forward from some school might make a star tight end in the NFL. Jimmy Graham is the most recent case, although the Saints tight end did play one year of football at Miami.

In a lot of these cases, it doesn't matter where the tight-end-to-be is selected in the draft. Antonio Gates was an undrafted free agent and went on to be one of the all-time greats at the position. As the draft approaches, there is a growing buzz among scouts about Demetrius Harris, who played college basketball at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and whose freakish workouts are generating a following.

Harris hasn't played football since high school, but at 6-foot-7, 241 pounds (he projects to play at around 250), he runs in the 4.45-second range in the 40 and has a 37-inch vertical leap. Harris was an all-state performer in two sports in high school, on defense and as wide receiver in football, and signed to play at Arkansas State.

Harris didn't qualify accademically, went the junior college route and decided to focus on basketball. From Mineral Area (Mo.) Community College, he went on Wisconsin-Milwaukee and played only basketball there, too. Agent Buddy Baker has a relationship with the basketball coach at the school and received a call from him, suggesting the senior might have a future in football (Harris averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season).

Baker was fairly blown away by what he saw -- including good hands from Harris' days as a receiver. The Chiefs recently worked out Harris, and he was impressive. Harris has at least two visits confirmed, Baker said, and at least two other teams are trying to schedule visits. Harris is spending this week working out at St. Vincent Sports Performance facility with current and former NFL players, including former star tight end Dallas Clark.

His pro day is April 20 at his school. Baker is pretty adamant in his belief that Harris will play in the NFL and likened the situation to that of Joe Reitz. Reitz was a top basketball player at Western Michigan, did not play football in college and went on to become a starting guard for the Colts.

"We're not exactly walking in uncharted waters here," Baker said.

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