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Jalen Harris will stay in NBA draft, forgo senior season at Nevada

Jalen Harris will stay in the NBA draft. (Getty Images)

Jalen Harris will forgo his senior season at Nevada and stay in the NBA draft, his father, Erion, told Nevada Sports Net on Thursday night.

Harris, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, had been testing the NBA draft waters and told NSN in an interview earlier this month he felt ready for the NBA.

“I believe so," Harris said. "There are areas of improvement, but that’s stuff I’ve always been willing to work on. I have the tools to prove I deserve to be somewhere, prove I deserve to be on the court. Being in the gym and being able to spend 100 percent of my time on basketball, I believe that will help a lot.”

After transferring in from Louisiana Tech, Harris had a historic season with the Wolf Pack in his one active season on campus. Harris scored 30-plus points six times, including in a school-record four straight games. He averaged 21.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in one of the most productive seasons in Wolf Pack history. He helped Nevada go 19-12 overall and finish tied for second in the Mountain West at 12-6.

Harris is mainly projected as a late second-round draft pick/undrafted free agent, but he could work his way up the draft board if the NBA is able to produce a combine or individual team workouts, which is uncertain given the current environment. Harris is 85th on ESPN's big board., which recently listed him in the "likely undrafted" category, does not have Harris among its top-100 prospects. He is No. 79 on The Athletic's prospect board and 60th on Sports Illustrated's list. Matt Babcock, a former NBA agent turned talent evaluator, has Harris No. 31 on his latest mock draft.

Nevada coach Steve Alford said last week he and Wolf Pack associate head coach Craig Neal had spoken with all but a couple of NBA teams about Harris. His advice to the Harris family was about trying to ensure he would be one of the first 45 picks in the draft.

"Noodles and I feel like 45 is the cutoff now," Alford said. "It used to be 30. You look at the last six years, there’s been guaranteed contracts going all the way down to draft pick 45 on average. I had Norman Powell. I think he went 42, 43, 44 (actually 46th) and now he’s making about $10 million a year with the Raptors. He stayed all four years and wasn’t on anybody’s board after his junior year. Everybody’s path is different. I’m just trying to help the Harris family, feed them as much information as I can and know I’m being honest."

Harris, a native of Duncanville, Texas, was a late bloomer who attended Louisiana Tech for his first season-and-a-half of college before transferring to Nevada, where he had to sit out a season-and-a-half before becoming eligible last season. Harris had an outstanding campaign and was named All-Mountain West first team and made the all-district squad.

Harris said earlier this month he could come back to Nevada and improve as a player but still see his stock slip. Harris will turn 22 in August, which is relatively advanced for an NBA draft prospect.

"A lot of times, like most people on the outside looking in, you would think the way the game is supposed to work is you can come back, have a better year and go higher up in the draft and improve," Harris said. "The thing in question is the game doesn’t work like that. How many All-Americans were seniors year this? Five, six, seven. And there are zero seniors going in the first round in the mock draft. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, but those are things you have to take into consideration because that’s how the game works.”

Alford said last week he would support Harris regardless of his decision.

"I told him, ‘If you stay in the draft, I’m supporting you. I hope it works. If you come back, obviously I’m going to support you,’" Alford said. "But it’s not my decision. That decision is definitely Jalen’s decision, and we’ll just have to wait and see. If he comes back, he has a chance to get his degree. All of those things. There are positives probably both ways. We’ll just have to wait and see if it plays out.”

Harris' departure means Nevada will lose four starters one season after losing all five starters. The Wolf Pack will be without a scholarship senior next season and will have only two scholarship juniors. Harris' departure opens a scholarship for Nevada, so his early decision helps the Wolf Pack in that regard. The deadline for staying in the draft or returning to school had initially been set for June 10 before being pushed back.

Speaking to NSN earlier this month, Harris said he would have found memories of playing at Lawlor Events Center.

“If I’ve played my last game for Nevada, I’ve loved being on campus," Harris said. "I talk about it with people all the time. My teammates, my friends there, I’ve built real life-long relationships with those guys. The relationships I have with those guys are deeper than basketball, they’re deeper than just a friendship. I’ve gotten real close with those guys. They’ve been with me through the ups and downs and vice versa. We’ve built great relationships. Those games at Lawlor, I talk about it all the time that they’re the best fans in college basketball. I love the Reno community. They’ve really embraced me since the moment I’ve gotten here and before I even got here. I have nothing but love for Reno. If it was my last game, it’s definitely not the last time you all will see me in Reno.”

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