Basketball Recruiting Notebook: A.J. Harris Leads Stacked AAU Squad

By Mike Young on May 14, 2014 at 3:00p

They share a nickname with one of the NBA's top talents, but his influence extends slightly beyond the naming rights.

For one, the Director of the King James Shooting Stars is Dru Joyce II, LeBron James' high school and AAU coach. Secondly, their connections to St. Vincent-St.Mary High School are a useful recruiting tool for the King James Shooting Stars.

Two SVSM players are currently on the roster, including 2016 top-ten recruit V.J. King. Despite his talent, he is not the leader of his AAU team. 

While he has, arguably, more highly-touted teammates, 2015 Ohio State commit A.J. Harris is the heart of his team. 

"Perfect example, we were playing, Sunday, against NorthWest XPress. This kid took the game over with great decisions and where the other guys fell down, A.J. picked them up," King James coach Danyelle Love told Eleven Warriors. "He took over, made great moves and got to the basket when we needed him to." It didn't matter that he had 6-9 or 6-10 kids in front of him." 

Harris is listed at five-feet, nine-inches tall but has an array of skills to make up for his lack of height. A few of those were refined playing soccer, as Harris has been a part of Dunbar High School's fledgling boys' soccer program.

"That attributes to a lot of his footwork in basketball," Love said. "He's also in great shape, and I also attribute a lot of that to soccer. He plays hard for as many minutes as you need him to."

Through two weekends of EYBL basketball, Harris is averaging 14.4 points on 45.6 percent shooting, five assists and 1.8 steals per game. His outstanding performance in Dallas, this past weekend, earned praise from the official Nike EYBL website

Love, one of the few female coaches in Ohio high school basketball, also spoke about several of Harris' teammates. High-major schools are interested in nearly every player on the team:

Kyle Ahrens

"It's been a mental thing [returning from a broken leg], it's just human nature – if you get injured – you want to make sure it's ok. The one thing you're going to get from Kyle, no matter what, he's going to be the hardest-playing kid on the team." 

Willie Jackson

"I think he's going to be an exceptional talent. He just played with us this past weekend and his potential is out of this world." 

V.J. King

"V.J. still has a lot of room to improve, but his future looks wonderful. He needs to play better defense and his decisions on passing the ball have to be a little bit better, but V.J. does some amazing things. When A.J.'s out, that's who runs the point."

"He's like a little sponge, a very disciplined kid." "He's going to be special."

Kipper Nichols

"Kipper, to me, since I've worked with him since the seventh grade, has always had this type of talent.  A lot of Kipper's issues, though, are he's just learning to be consistent. He's young and still learning, but I would like that if I were a college coach." 

Derek Pardon

"When I started out with Derek Pardon, nobody wanted him, he was just a tall, clumsy kid. Of course, he's not that now. The good part about Derek is he just started learning. Those are the kind of kids, if I'm a college coach, I would drool over. He's playing high major basketball."

Elijah Thomas Update

Earlier this month, Elijah Thomas tweeted he would announce his college decision January 15, 2015, in honor of his late-Grandmother's birthday.

Those plans may have changed, according to his interview with Memphis Roar.

"Talking with my family, there are opportunities on when you want to commit and how it is going to be done," Thomas said. "Basically, there are things that come with committing that may not be available in January, which is why I may move it earlier."

The Rockwall, Texas native hails from the same hometown as recent Buckeye commit Austin Grandstaff, and Thomas has also spoken to incoming OSU freshman D'Angelo Russell about coming to Columbus

Thomas, a composite five-star big in the 2015 class, has offers from Connecticut, Illinois, Memphis, Oklahoma State, SMU and Texas, in addition to Ohio State.

Dickerson Picks Hoyas

One option in the 2015 class is now off the board.

After the Buckeyes offered in December, four-star power forward Noah Dickerson is headed elsewhere: 

Dickerson recently transferred to Montverde Academy – same high school as D'Angelo Russell – and took an unofficial visit to Columbus during last year's football season. In the end, Dickerson chose Georgetown because of John Thompson III's ability to develop big men and his relationship with the Hoyas' coach. 

Around the B1G

Another Buckeye target in the class of 2015 will not be suiting up for the Scarlet and Gray. He committed to another Big Ten school, however:

Andrew Fleming verbally committed to the Hawkeyes shortly after taking an unofficial visit to Iowa City and receiving an offer from head coach Fran McCaffery. Fleming told The Gazette he did an extensive amount of research before deciding Iowa is the best. 

Ohio State coaches Thad Matta and Jeff Boals visited Fleming at his high school in late April. He was not expected to pick OSU and their backcourt depth should survive without him. 


Comments Show All Comments

Groveport Heisman's picture

Love that Matta broke his cookie cutter mold and grabbed A.J. He is going to be an exciting leader for our Buckeyes.

Mark my words..I don't need acceptance. I'm catching interceptions on you innocent pedestrians.

+3 HS
MacG91's picture

I can see Harris having a great Buckeye career. His lack of height will probably mean that he is around for 4-5 years. Also King is going to be a star where ever he goes, the kid looks really athletic and a top scorer. I'm not sure why Thad just doesn't recruit this team? 


+1 HS
bethesdabuck's picture

Greatly appreciate this basketball coverage!

+1 HS
nrbuckguy's picture

Love the type of player and leader Harris is already.  Hopefully his presence at OSU can reel in VJ King and Willie Jackson too although I don't know how highly rated he is now.  A 2016 class of King, Omari Spellman, Derek Funderburke, and Jackson would be an incredible addition on top of our 2014 and 2015 hauls!

In Urban We Trust

Waltbuck's picture

I am sure Harris will be a crowd favorite.

EazyElmo's picture

I know if Esa says he wants to be a Buckeye Thad should take him, one in the hand is worth two in the bush and all, but I hope VJ doesn't look at our roster situation at his position and goes somewhere else. Oh and AJ is a bad, bad man. Can't wait for him to get to Columbus

CincyBuckeye31's picture

Harris broke that kids ankles!  That was awesome!

+1 HS
BrooklynBuckeye's picture

I can remember another point guard who was highly regarded but not as highly rated as a couple of his AAU teammates. He is, and will always be, and undisputed leader of any team he's on. He currently leads the Memphis Grizzlies. We like players like that.

+1 HS
hobochops987's picture

I've met V.J. King.

Trust in UFM

MikeEagleBuckeye's picture

I think the way the schollies are playing out, there will only be two or so in the 2016 class unfortunately.  Make them count Thad!

Shangheyed's picture

Thinking we need to get an Elite Bigman Assistant Coach.... can small ball compete in the Big Ten?  We will find out...

There is a reason why many bigs are not coming to C-Bus... Jent was that guy who could relate to Bigs before, now need someone who can develop Centers and PF... 

sb97's picture

Chris Jent was only at Ohio State (as a coach) between 2011 and 2013.  Thad and co were pulling in bigs long before he was here.  Personally, I think losing John Groce was the bigger loss in terms of recruiting.

OldColumbusTown's picture

Dickerson is the big-man coach, and has been since he arrived at OSU back in 2010, IIRC.  Jent, I thought, was more of the shooting coach and "offensive coordinator" for the Buckeyes during his time under Thad.

I think the OSU coaching staff is fine - you have a former top assistant who helped win a national title and was a head coach (Dickerson), a top recruiter and overall one of the hot coaching assistants in all of major CBB (Boals), and one of the youngest major DI assistants with a background and pedigree that is hard to beat (Paulus).  These guys have recruited their tails off and have coached up some very, very good teams over the past 3-4 years they've all been together.

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Indeed we have some great coachs, as well as great players (not including the 5).  There is something to be said about our guard tradition, even SF and PF traditions... we have had very good big men, but not staying past 1 yrs (drafted on hype or potential IMO with one exception where injuries have taken away from Oden's success), as well those that were drafted in the Center Position in Rds 1, didn't turn out like an Evan Turner, or Conley in the Pros.

I am not trying to take a shot at the coaching staff... just believe might be interesting to ADD someone that focuses on the Bigs and if we do have that person in place right now, I cannnot honestly say that we are developing Bigs they way other programs are.... just my armchair opinion.   Even if we got a Graduate Assistant... but again we might have that... just feel that we have indeed been coming up short there for a while now... the development of Williams speaks volumes here to me.


Players can always get better, coaching staffs can too....


KevinJ's picture

When you look at Thad's coaching tree and the success that his assistant coaches are having since moving on I think it is safe to say Thad knows how to pick a coaching staff.

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Look at the Position, who has been successful in the pros that the coaching staff can point to and say... you could be the next XYZ (Sorry insert Percy Harvin here).  It has been a long time since we have put out anyone who is a marque NBA player at the Center position.

Again, great staffs can always get better. 

To me this is a gap in our results as other positions have done very well in the NBA.  That is why kids pic a school is a chance to play in the league... we don't really have that flagship guy who can point to to get these top tier Centers.  Every other position has a  "guy"...

drtz's picture

Rec Specs taking the place of rosy cheeks as the most feared point guard in the big ten! Excited to bring AJ in!

jralvarez's picture

Man.... Erkle... I mean AJ has got MAD handle skillz...  Can't wait.  Now Matta needs to sell his soul for a quality Big, or just sign Bragg, and all will be fine.