KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Dajuan Harris has made four of the biggest plays of this Big 12 Tournament. Not as a rebounder. Certainly not as a scorer. Not even as a conventional passer, because what the Kansas redshirt junior guard does is beyond just passing.
One of Kansas' most unimposing players on the court has had the biggest impact. At least lately. Four times in KU's first two games of the tournament, the Jayhawks' 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard has thrown spectacular lobs at the rim for dunks to his bigs. They were momentum-changing, rim-shaking passes to the 6-7 KJ Adams and 6-11 Ernest Udeh.
"It's always a look," Udeh said of the instinctive glances that begin such plays.
A look that goes both ways.
"I just saw Ern, his eyes got big," Harris said.
Iowa State had cut the lead to three with 12 minutes left in Friday's semifinal when Harris calmly stood beyond the 3-point line and found freshman Udeh for a thundering jam. Kansas was amid a 10-2 run that put the game away in an eventual 71-58 win.
"It's chemistry," Adams said.
It's actually more than that. It's instinct. It's vision. It's skill for one the best point guards in the country. Sometimes it's being too precise with passes.
"The last game, he hit me in the head," Kansas freshman guard Gradey Dick said. "I wasn't expecting that."
He should have been. If Kansas is going to become the first team to repeat as national champions in 16 years, it is going to need Harris playing like an All-American. That's the level he's at right now. In his last eight games, Harris has 58 assists, only nine turnovers, 24 steals and 92 points.
On Friday, he had a complete stat line – 11 points, six assists, four steals. Harris also led the team with a plus-17 point differential when he was on the floor. Someone will have to explain why Harris – also the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year -- isn't one of the finalists for the Bob Cousy Award that goes to the nation's top point guard.
"It's amazing," KU interim coach Norm Roberts said. "He has the best hands in college basketball. He makes steals. He's got longer arms than what you think. He is stronger than what you think. And he has unbelievable anticipation."
Kansas is in the Big 12 championship game again largely because Harris posted two consecutive shut-down performances. First, in the tournament opener against West Virginia leading scorer Erik Stevenson was held to 1-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
On Friday, Harris checked 6-4, 200-pound Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur for most of the game. That height and weight matters little because Harris is usually slighter and smaller than most every player he is assigned to.
Kalscheur was harassed into a 3-for-12 shooting night (1 for 7 from inside the arc).
"He is the heartbeat of the team," Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said of Harris.
"If you stop the head of the snake, then the game is over," Harris explained.
Except that Harris has the look of the least threatening basketball assassin out there. He speaks in low tones. That baby face would make a mother weep. Sounds like Harris has at least one Cousy vote.
"He's a little pest," Dick said. "That's what you want in a defender. You want a pest to annoy the offensive player. I think he's the best point guard in the country. Seeing him in the summer [when I arrived] and seeing what he did last year on the national championship team. I feel like no one else deserves that more than him."