Sitting down with Jim Hobgood, both a former Virginia basketball captain and ex-radio analyst, I asked him prior to Tuesday night’s UVa-Virginia Tech game if there was a past Cavaliers’ player to whom he would compare current star Joe Harris.
“Wally Walker told me once that [Harris] reminded him of Jeff Lamp,” Hobgood said.
There are many readers of this column who never saw Lamp play during a career that lasted from 1977-81 and are only vaguely familiar with his name. So, it’s probably dangerous for me to compare Harris to a Virginia icon from 40 years ago, Barry Parkhill.
“Joe’s not a point guard,” Parkhill said Thursday from Los Angeles, where he was fresh off a golf round at Riviera with Jim Furyk. “I was a point guard, but I’m the president of the Joe Harris fan club. If anybody wants to compare Joe Harris to me, I’m honored.”
At 6-7, Lamp was a small forward with a good shooting range who practically lived at the free-throw line. He scored 2,317 points during his career and would have had more than 2,500 if there had been a 3-point line at the time, although high-school and college teammate Lee Raker actually had greater range.
Good friend Dennis Wolff, the head women’s coach at Virginia Tech who was a UVa men’s assistant during the 1990s, told me this week that Harris reminded him of Bryant Stith. Stith finished his career with a school-record 2,516 points, including 114 3-pointers.
Actually, Stith (875 career free-throw attempts) and Lamp (748 career free throws) were very similar. Stith was a little shorter, somewhere between 6-5 and 6-6, but shared Lamp’s inside-outside combination.
Lamp was a four-time All-ACC selection (two years on the first team; two years on the second). Stith was a three-time first-team selection., as well as the 1989 ACC Rookie of the Year.
Harris, on the other hand, has received no accolades. He’s never made first-, second- or third-team All-ACC. He wasn’t on the ACC All-Freshman team. He was never ACC Freshman of the Week and he hasn’t been the ACC player of the week.
I’ll tell you who had a similar career: Roger Mason.
Cory Alexander, a former UVa standout of a more recent vintage than Hobgood, said I was off base, that Mason was much more of a ball-handler.
I was just going by the stats. In a three-year, 89-game career, Mason, who turned pro after his junior year in 2002, scored 1,269 points (13.8 points per game). Harris, through 86 games, has scored 1,076 points (12.4).
Alexander was right. Mason, who is 6-4, was more of a combo guard and had 230 assists during his career, compared to 148 for Harris. Mason was also a better free-throw shooter (86.9 percent to 76.4).
Harris is a slightly better shooter from the floor, but the big difference is from 3-point range. Mason was 137-of-365 (37.5 percent) on 3-pointers over the course of his career; Harris is 173-of-407 (42.5) and has the best percentage in school history.
I’ll admit, when I see Harris, Mason doesn’t immediately come to mind, but he was another guy who didn’t get a lot of recognition. Mason was a third-team All-ACC choice as a sophomore in 2001 before jumping up the second team in 2002.
Chances are, Harris will make one of the All-ACC teams this year – he’d probably be on the second team at the moment – and there could be worse fates than Mason had. A second-round NBA draft pick, he’s currently with the New Orleans Hornets in his ninth NBA season.
Truth be known, Mason would probably say he made a mistake turning pro after his junior year; indeed, one story I heard was that he considered going back on that decision shortly after he made it, but Harris is almost certainly a four-year player whose best may be yet to come.