Written By Mason Kern, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine
It was 2012 and Shaquille Harrison had a decision to make. He could either play Division I college football at the University of Kansas or go a different route toward Division I basketball at Tulsa University. He opted for the latter, which was a pinnacle decision that has wholly defined his life ever since.
Harrison grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and attended Lee’s Summit West High School. His former basketball coach, Michael Schieber, watched Harrison’s progression throughout high school and, subsequently, at the collegiate level.
“I don’t know of a kid who has worked harder for everything that he’s gotten from the time that he was a 5’7,” 110-pound freshmen to the point that he is now,” Schieber said in a Kansas City Star report. “I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Harrison became a four-year starter for the Golden Hurricane. At 24-years-old and 6 feet 4 inches tall, he is a lengthier point guard than the traditional type. He utilized that length to his advantage while honing his skills in college. For the first two seasons of his college career, Tulsa competed in the Conference USA (CUSA) before switching to the American Athletic Conference (AAC) for the 2014-15 season and beyond.
Harrison’s main prowess throughout his career has been on the defensive end of the ball. His career totals at Tulsa saw him average 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while also maintaining a clip of 1.8 steals. He is the only player in Tulsa history to register 1,300 points, 400 assists and 200 steals in his entire career. In his senior season, Harrison was also awarded the AAC Men’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year.
“I like to go out there and match up and just go at them hard,” Harrison said.
Ever confident, Harrison put himself into contention for the 2016 NBA Draft after completion of his senior season but went undrafted amid concerns about his offensive production. He shot only 21.6% from three-point range and 64.5% on free throws throughout his stint with the Golden Hurricane.
Eventually, Harrison started his professional career by signing with the Phoenix Suns on September 25, 2016. However, he was waived on October 10 of the same year. He then moved to the Suns’ affiliate G-League team, the Northern Arizona Suns. In two seasons with the affiliate, he averaged 10.3 points while keeping up with his defensive production averaging 1.6 steals.
Harrison fortuitously then went on to join the Phoenix Suns’ 2017 Summer League team, during which time he made a notable mark. On February 21, 2018 he was signed to his first professional 10-day contract. That contract was extended another 10 days, and Harrison was signed to his first official NBA contract on March 13, 2018, signing a multi-year deal with the Suns.
During his multiple 10-day stint contracts with the team, Harrison actually made NBA history. In his first four appearances, Harrison had eight steals; four in his debut against the Los Angeles Clippers and then four in the road win against the Memphis Grizzlies–when all four came within a four-minute fourth-quarter stretch to help seal the victory. In the process, he became the first player to have multiple four-plus steal performances in his first four career games since Mario Chalmers in 2008. The only other Suns player to achieve that feat was Alvan Adams in 1975.
“You know Shaq is a guy that can come in and bring that type of energy,” Suns’ backup point guard Tyler Ulis said. “It’s just about playing hard, he has a great motor.”
In his 17 games with Phoenix thus far, Harrison has fought for minutes with Ulis, as well as point guard Elfrid Payton–whom the team received in a trade deadline deal with the Orlando Magic.
After a downward trend by Ulis, and no chance at a playoff push for the Suns, interim head coach Jay Triano has allowed Harrison more minutes on the court, and he has delivered in droves.
Harrison poured in a career high 17 points in 30 minutes of action to go along with four steals in the March 28th home contest against the Clippers. Although the Suns lost the game 111-99, the game was a bright spot for the future of Harrison’s career.
“There’s a lot of people out there that want to be in my position,” Harrison said. “I’m just trying to make the most of it the best I can.”
In the 17 games he has played, Harrison is averaging 5.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 14 minutes per game. He is also contributing 1.1 steals. However, with only six games remaining in the season, Harrison will surely see those averages increase with an uptick in minutes played.
The Suns–who maintain a 19-57 record on the year–will most likely attain a top-3 pick in the upcoming draft. This is the last season that the “tanking” method will work, as commissioner Adam Silver has changed the rules for the NBA Draft going forward after this season.
“I’m just trying to work hard every day and continue to put up numbers,” Harrison said. “Help the team win in any way possible.”