Concordia Lutheran senior Austin Harris laughs when asked if he has some sort of phobia about stepping inside the three-point arc.
He promises that he doesn't, but it is easy to think otherwise when analyzing Harris' season stat line.
Harris has launched 139 shot attempts off the bench for the Cadets (23-4) this season, all but seven of which have come beyond the arc. That equates to 94 percent of his shot attempts being from long range.
“That is kind of my job, to shoot three-pointers,” Harris said. “I stick to that and I do it pretty well.”
Harris fits the role well for a Concordia team looking for its first boys' basketball state championship Saturday against second-ranked Greensburg in Indianapolis.
Harris has hit 41 percent (55-of-132) of his three-point shots this season, including close to 60 percent this postseason.
“I have never coached a kid who is as good of a shooter as Austin is,” Concordia coach Josh Eggold said. “He will go through practice at times where he will hit 10 three-pointers in a row. He just has a great deal of confidence.”
Harris hit just one three-pointer in the semistate victory over Andrean last week, but it was a big one. Cold off the bench with the Cadets down four late in the fourth quarter, the senior buried a long jumper to bring Concordia to within one.
Hitting such a huge shot after sitting on the bench for so long begs the question, how tough is it to do that?
“Sitting on the bench during a game, I'm thinking, 'Alright, at some point I am getting in this game,'” Harris said. “I've got it in my mind that I am going to stick a shot, so I go in there and stick it.”
Harris averages just 6.6 points a game, fifth on the team. But he has developed into more than just a long-ball threat. That has earned him more playing time in other situations.
“More this year than ever before in his career, Austin has played more as a basketball player and not just a shooter,” Eggold said. “He has done a decent job guarding … and he has really learned how to use his body well to what he needs to do to make guys shoot 17-foot shots instead of going around him for baskets.”
Prior to this season, Eggold would insert Harris into the game when he believed his offense needed a spark, that it was being stagnant and needed an outside threat to kick start it. Now, Harris fits well into Concordia's flow and enhances the team.
On three separate occasions this season, opposing defenses have dropped into a box-and-one defense purely to place a defender on Harris at all times in an attempt to take away his three-point prowess. In turn, that has given players like D.J. McCall and Brian Gremaux room inside to do what they do well.
That can be a lot of pressure for a player who may sit 20-30 minutes on the bench without seeing the floor.
“I am fully comfortable with it because I am accustomed to it by now,” Harris said. “It started off hard at first, but now it is no problem.”
A senior non-starter who is not worried about playing time, Harris is a refreshing example of a team player.