Saturday, January 09, 1999

Harris is work in progress




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[harris]
Obi Harris
        PITTSBURGH — Obi Harris expects more out of himself. Xavier's 6-foot-10 junior center admits to being frustrated the past two games and says, “I'm not pulling my weight.”

        He'd like to turn that around today at Duquesne when the Musketeers put their five-game winning streak on the line.

        “The main thing for me is building my confidence back up,” Harris said Friday.

        In five games as a starter, Harris has averaged 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds, but in two Atlantic 10 Conference games he has no points and a total of four rebounds in 30 minutes of play.

        He took only one shot against Virginia Tech on Wednesday night and one shot against Rhode Island last Sunday. Foul trouble has limited him to 15 minutes in each of those games.

        “He has not anticipated defensive situations,” XU coach Skip Prosser said. “He's reacting to them happening, and that's what causes foul trouble because he's out of position.”

        “It affects me mentally more than anything,” Harris said. “It's kind of hard for me to find my niche in the game.”

XU at DUQUESNE
• When: 4 p.m. today
• Where: A.J. Palumbo Center (6,200), Pittsburgh
• Records: Xavier 10-4, 2-0 A-10; Duquesne 4-8, 0-2
• TV: Fox Sports Ohio
• Radio: WKRC-AM (550)
BY THE NUMBERS
• 27.5: Lenny Brown's scoring average in two league games
.568: Gary Lumpkin's shooting percentage the past four games
.344: Lumpkin's shooting percentage the first 10 games
• 22.9: Turnovers per game by XU opponents
        Xavier (10-4) has improved the past month. The guards are shooting well. But the Musketeers have been outrebounded two of the past three games and lack a consistent inside presence.

        It is not offensive production they need most from Harris — especially if power forward Kevin Frey has more games like his 12-point, eight-rebound performance at Virginia Tech — but XU is relying on Harris to swat away a few shots and grab more rebounds.

        “He's got to go after every one,” Prosser said. “He's got to concentrate and not ball watch and (be) blocking out. A lot of it is strength. He's not strong enough; his hands aren't strong enough. In the Rhode Island game, he got the ball taken out of his hands a couple times.”

        The Xavier coaches tell Har ris what he needs to work on in practice and what he needs to do better in games. He said he needs to forget about recent outings and move forward.

        “I'm probably my biggest critic,” he said. “Maybe I wasn't as big a critic as I should've been in the past. But it's just hard for me because ... right now I'm not pulling my weight.”

        Harris broke his right index finger Nov.1 and didn't get the cast off his hand until Nov.19. Even then, he wasn't able to practice at full strength.

        Today is just his eighth Division I contest.

        “That was very, very harmful,” Prosser said of the injury. “He'll never be caught up. He'll never be as far along as he should be because he can't make up for those repetitions ... We need him to play better for us.”

        The Musketeers have won six of their past seven games against the Dukes (4-6), who have lost five in a row.

        Since Harris joined the starting lineup Xavier is 5-0.

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