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Harris, German coach agree: NBA can wait

Gonzaga freshman forward Elias Harris had a special visitor earlier this week when German national team coach Dirk Bauermann, who watched Dirk Nowitzki score his 20,000th NBA career point in Dallas earlier this week, came to Spokane for a few days.

“I think he’s one of three, maybe four (Germans) that have a legitimate chance of someday playing in the NBA,” said Bauermann, who coached Harris, a native of Speyer, at last summer’s European Championships. “He definitely belongs to an elite group in Germany.”

Bauermann believes Harris needs more seasoning before trying to make the jump to the NBA. Harris is showing up on more NBA mock draft boards, often in the middle-to-late first round.

“To me, it’s very clear. He needs to stay in school and we talked about it (Wednesday night) and he completely agrees with me,” Bauermann said. “He feels there are a lot of things he can work on before he takes the next step, so that’s what the plan is.

“He’s getting great coaching here. It’s a great program, they know what it’s like to work with international kids and they’ve had really good ones. It’s a great atmosphere and he’s really impressed with how people have treated him. It’s the perfect situation for him.”

Harris doesn’t disagree.

“I try to ignore all the NBA hype and all the rankings stuff, because I don’t think it’s important for me right now,” he said. “I could probably go right now and I could probably make it, but I don’t think it’s the right time yet. Let’s put it that way.”

Harris played “3,” or small forward, for Germany. He generally plays “4,” or power forward, at Gonzaga, but he has shown perimeter skills and guarded smaller players.

“His shot has gotten better,” Bauermann said. “He had a tendency to catch the ball and almost bring it below his waist before he’d bring it up and shoot it. The coaches here were able to change that habit. His defense is much better.”

Bauermann said the sky is the limit for Harris.

“He’s a great athlete, runs the floor, very clever around the basket and very difficult to stop in the paint,” Bauermann said.

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