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January 20, 2014

Is A.J. Harris the future face of Ohio State?

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KETTERING, Ohio -- It didn't take much to convince AJ Harris to pledge his allegiance to Ohio State. It might take less to understand why.

"I was just taking a tour around campus and they was just talking to me," Harris, who committed to play for coach Thad Matta and the Buckeyes in August, said.

"So when they told me why they wanted to offer me, they was saying that it'd be my team, I'd come and start and I'd just loved it."

That's a pretty enticing offer. Of course, talk is cheap and talk on the recruiting trail probably cheaper. But trust that Harris, a junior guard for Dayton Dunbar and four-star player by Rivals.com, seems to be on a mission to be the next great point guard at Ohio State.

"(I want to) just play behind Thad Matta and just play behind Mike Conley as a good point guard and Aaron Craft also on the defensive side so that's why I just chose Ohio State."

And once Harris arrives to campus in Columbus, the Buckeyes will be without its only two current point guards in senior Aaron Craft and junior Shannon Scott.

Indeed, it's entirely conceivable to think Matta will start Harris fresh out of high school because he simply might not have a choice. But the Dayton native might be more than ready when the time comes if Saturday night's any indication. Harris scored 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting and buried three 3-pointers in a 67-60 loss to Marian Catholic of Chicago Heights, Ill., as part of the Flyin' To The Hoop tournament held in suburban Dayton.

"What was working was the pick and roll game, just attacking, keep going at them and that was my coaches just telling me to do so just keep attacking," he said.

For much of the contest, Harris dueled with point guard and Kentucky commit Tyler Ulis.

'When we was younger, I always played against Tyler, I always played against him. It's fun playing against a kid like that, he's really good," Harris said. "He's going to Kentucky that's why they offered him so I just look up to the tempo and just play how I play."

And how Harris seems to play is fast and twitchy. But he insists there's far more to his skill set.

"Pass first, play together, play as one," Harris said in an effort to illustrate his strengths as a player. "Try to get my teammates involved before I get going."

But perhaps most of all, Harris' biggest asset might be a vision -- one that pictures him as the floor leader of an Ohio State team that he helped build. It's not a crazy notion.

Harris plays with fellow standouts and Buckeye targets junior Luke Kennard of Franklin High School in Franklin, Ohio, and sophomore V.J. King of St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, for the AAU team King James.

"I can't wait to get to that," he said of playing with the two over the summer. "Mostly, I talk to them everyday."

Of course, Harris tells them about Ohio State.

"Since V.J.'s so young, I've been talking to him a little bit and Luke -- I've been talking to him too -- but I don't know. I tell (them) to come where I'm at, they love playing with me, I love playing with them so it's just a good atmosphere with us."

He tells them about his plan.

"I can see it, I can just picture it. Just winning national championship and just playing together -- playing as a King James family," Harris said. "So I just be looking forward to that soon. I'll be ready."

After all, Harris might be the future of Ohio State. At least he seems to think so.

"Well, they building a team around me so as soon as (Craft and Scott) leave," he said, "it'll be my team and they'll build something around me so hopefully they have it for me."

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