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Whatever Happened To... Obi Harris?

Earlier this week was the story of Dedrick Finn. What originally seemed to be a tale of wasted potential and talent took a somewhat cheerier tone thanks to a follow up from Mario Mercurio that cast Dedrick in a better light. With the season fast approaching, today marks the last of our looks back. The four part Living the Dream series (Part Two, Part Three, Part Four) caught up with Xavier alums playing professionally, but Whatever Happened To will wrap up with a player who didn't quite make it.

Back before Anthony Myles, David West, and Brian Thornton, Xavier struggled to create a true center. Affectionately known as Power Forward U, Xavier was a place where the almost very tall developed their game and moved on for greener pastures. Their postmates, the erstwhile fives, generally remained in their shadows, appearing only to move bodies and grab stickbacks. Obi Harris was going to change that.

When Skip Prosser brought Harris to campus in 1998 as a juco transfer he intended for the 6'10" center to replace a bit of the scoring lost with Darnell Williams' ACL tear and add a presence inside to a devastatingly quick team. Harris brought a record of nine rebounds per game with him from junior college, so it seemed like a legitimate five was about to walk the halls of Xavier University.

 

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Harris was packing only 220 pounds of muscle on his nearly seven foot frame, and he quickly found out why junior college players aren't in the NCAA. Obi never really warmed to his task, collecting two rebounds in his first game, a loss to Purdue, and failing to grab more than six at any point. While Joel and I wondered how it was it was possible to be 6'10" and not be able to rebound, Harris continued to put on a clinic of doing just that.

With rebounding not exactly his forte, it was important that Obi Harris chip in on the offensive end. The 1998-99 Xavier squad was supposed to be loaded with James Posey, Lloyd Price, and Darnell Williams joining Lenny Brown and Gary Lumpkin. When Williams went down, the team turned to Obi in the hopes that his size would aid the vaunted X-Press and help fill the scoring void. Sadly, that wasn't Obi's cup of tea either. The lanky junior somehow managed to avoid scoring in 16 of the 25 games in which he played. In nine minutes in the runaway NIT championship demolition of Oregon, Harris managed only four garbage time points.

In 1999-00, things didn't get better. David West and Kevin Frey emerged down low. West's silky abilities and Frey's relentless effort left little room for the big man from Florida. Obi managed only 11 games and made his biggest contribution in a fight in a game against Duquesne. 36 games after walking on campus, Obi Harris walked off having never made an impact on the court.

Harris was drafted in the sixth round of the USBL draft the following year but was never able to get his career going. (Doug Gottlieb was the #1 pick that year). Harris never really turned his 6'10" frame into that of a basketball player, but that didn't make him a failure at Xavier. Obi Harris and Lloyd Price represented the start of nationally recruited or sought after names coming to Xavier. The door that they opened has been used by everyone from David West to Tu Holloway. So, in some way, Obi Harris finally contributed.