Why KU basketball point guard Dajuan Harris chose move-in weekend over NBA Finals trip

Gary Bedore/gbedore@kcstar.com

Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris declined a chance to attend Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night in Denver.

“I was at the Lakers series with him down there last weekend,” Harris said of watching his “best friend” and former KU teammate Christian Braun’s Denver Nuggets sweep the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. (Games 3 and 4 were contested May 20 and 22 in Los Angeles.)

“I was supposed to have been there today (also in person), but I wanted to come back to be with my teammates, be with them,” Harris, KU’s senior team leader from Columbia, Missouri, added in an interview from the Bill Self basketball camp for youths at Horejsi Family Athletic Center adjacent to Allen Fieldhouse.

It was a big weekend for the KU hoops program in Lawrence. Most of the players on the 2023-24 KU team moved at least some belongings into McCarthy Hall over the weekend in advance of Tuesday’s first day of summer school and team workouts.

Harris — he wanted to help some of his new teammates move in and feel comfortable in a new environment — was eager to cheer Braun from afar while watching Game 2 on TV.

“I talk to him every day. We’ve got a streak,” Harris, a fellow starter with Braun on KU’s 2022 national title team said. “That’s my best friend. He’s doing really well. Hopefully he keeps it up. I think they are probably going to win the finals. I know he’s about to make history.”

Braun, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Blue Valley Northwest High who played at KU three seasons, scored six points with three assists and three steals in 15 productive minutes in Sunday’s 111-108 loss to the Heat in Denver.

Now tied at 1-1 the series heads to Miami for Game 3 on Wednesday. If Braun’s team wins the series he becomes the fifth player in history to win back-to-back college and NBA titles.

“It’s crazy. I never thought he’d be playing (in the NBA while growing up as youth basketball teammates). I know a lot of people never thought he would. He’s proven a lot of people wrong. He got bigger. I used to be taller than C.B.,” the 6-foot-1 Harris said.

“One summer I came back and he was up here,” Harris added, placing his hand high over his head. “He’s just got to keep doing what he’s been doing.”

KU on May 16 added Braun’s brother to the 2023-24 KU roster. Parker Braun, who has played at both Missouri and Santa Clara, is a 6-10 senior who like Christian Braun attended BV Northwest.

“He’s 6-9 and can jump,” Harris said of Parker Braun. In fact Harris agrees with those who say Parker is more athletic than Christian.

“He is more athletic. C.B. is athletic, too. Parker is pretty athletic,” Harris said.

Of the Braun brothers’ personalities, Harris said: “Parker … he doesn’t talk at all. People think I don’t talk. Parker doesn’t talk at all.”

Senior Parker Braun and freshman Marcus Adams aren’t in Lawrence yet for summer school as they finish coursework. Super-senior Kevin McCullar’s arrival will be next week. The rest of the players are in town.

“Right now … KJ (Adams, junior forward) cooked dinner last night for everybody on the team. That’s a great start, to start the offseason,” Harris said. “Everybody was in there (McCarthy Hall) talking, getting to know each other. He made tacos. They were good.

“With that going on and going to Puerto Rico (in early August for three exhibition games), I think that bond should get better.”

Harris has already developed the start of a fun-loving relationship with senior big man Hunter Dickinson, a 7-1 transfer from Michigan.

“I remember right before I committed I called him up,” Dickinson said Sunday. “I was like, ‘Man if you don’t average 10 assists this year, it’s going to be your fault.’ I know Juan is going to make it easy for me. ... I’m going to try to make it easy for the other guys too. I feel I attract a lot of attention on offense. I told KJ, I told Nick (Timberlake). I told Juan, ‘You are going to get a lot of open shots, a lot of easy looks from me.’’’

Harris’ response to the big man regarding all the assists he’s supposed to register?

“I said, ‘That’s up to you. You are the guy who’s got to put the ball in the hole,’’’ Harris said, laughing.

Harris averaged 6.2 assists per game last season while Dickinson produced 18.5 points per game.

“He’s 7-2. He can shoot threes. He can do everything at 7-2. I’ve just got to give him the ball at the right spots. Coach (Bill Self) is going to run a lot of plays for him, so basically I’ve just got to give him the ball. He’s got to make something happen,” Harris said.

Harris envisions the Jayhawks, led by three returning starters (Harris, Adams, McCullar) and seven scholarship newcomers, can fare well in 2023-24 if all goes well.

“I mean Houston is always going to be tough, but you know we’ve been running this (Big 12) conference since I’ve been alive, more than I’ve been alive,” Harris said. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we have been doing, following the coaches, trust the coaches. Coach Self and the coaching staff are going to do what they do every year.

“(The experts) have got us preseason No. 1 now. I think I can go win another championship. We’ve got the pieces. We’ve got to make it work.”