High school basketball: Juke picks the Deacs

Published 7:01 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

By Mike London

SALISBURY — As a crowd of Salisbury Hornet fans looked on with great anticipation in the school gym on Friday evening, Juke Harris grinned and reached for a Wake Forest baseball cap.

Then he unzipped his jacket to reveal a Wake Forest T-shirt.

Harris, surrounded by family and multi-colored balloons, received a standing ovation for his visual announcement before he read a statement.

Harris, who had trimmed a long list of offers down to a final six of Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Miami, Tennessee, LSU and Kansas, picked the Winston-Salem-based Demon Deacons, who are only about 35 miles away from Salisbury.

Wake Forest was a popular choice, not just because Harris will compete in the ACC, but because he’ll be close enough for family, friends and Hornet fans to continue to watch him play. That would have been very tough if he’d  headed to Kansas, Miami or LSU.

Harris declared his choice to be the hardest decision of his life, but it wasn’t a surprise. He liked Wake Forest’s style of play all along and he has developed a strong relationship with Wake head coach Steve Forbes and his staff since the summer months. Wake coaches have watched him often, and Harris has made visits to Wake Forest.

Tennessee reportedly finished second in the battle for a Harris commitment.

Harris blew up in a big way last summer during the AAU season and elevated from off the charts to national top-50 recruit. Entering his sophomore season, his only offer was from Western Carolina.

Harris is the second commitment in the Class of 2024 for the Deacons.

He is a four-star prospect who is the most heavily recruited Rowan County male basketball player since West Rowan’s Scooter Sherrill in 2000.

Harris is long and lean and close to 6-foot-6, but he grew up small with true guard skills. He didn’t hit his growth spurt until his sophomore year.

Harris played for the North Hills Christian School varsity as an eighth-grader and played for West Rowan as a freshman.

He’s played two seasons for the Hornets. He averaged better than 23 points per game as a sophomore and bumped that up to a county-record 29.2 points per game this season. He scored a county-record 818 points and led Salisbury to a 22-6 mark.

He was voted Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year. He also is the Scooter Sherrill Award winner as the Rowan County Player of the Year.

Harris makes 3-pointers in streaks, can finish strong at the rim and is excellent at the foul line. He added quite a bit of strength to his frame between his sophomore and junior seasons. His all-round game — rebounds, steals, blocks, assists — were all significantly improved from his sophomore season.

He’s received a number of recent accolades including second team All-State by the North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association.