By: Greg Levinsky
There’s a two-fold adjustment for collegiate student-athletes. It’s everything a college student goes through, plus nearly a full-time job in their respective sport.
Boston University men’s basketball freshman Jonas Harper grew quickly and found his niche in his sport and beyond.
A late addition to the team’s roster, Harper committed to BU at the end of June, but that did not stop him from making an early impression. When the first official practices rolled around, he caught the eye of head coach Joe Jones and earned a spot in the rotation from the season’s tip.
“Once we started playing… it was pretty clear early on that he was going to be in the rotation,” Jones said.
Harper made the first basket of the campaign for the Terriers in their season-opening 77-74 win at Northeastern, burying a 3-pointer. Even he didn’t expect to get an opportunity so early.
“I didn’t expect myself to get in that early to be honest,” Harper said. “It was a great pass from I think Javante [McCoy] and I was wide open so I just shot it. I’m glad I made my first shot.”
The 6-foot-2-inch guard has appeared in all of the Terriers seven games and averages 11.1 minutes per game. He’s got solid ball skills, a keen shot-making ability and athleticism. In the eyes of his coach though, it’s something else that elevates his game.
“He’s tough,” Jones said. “He doesn’t back down.”
Harper’s goal was to find himself consistently in the rotation. He’s done just that and is grateful for the chances he’s gotten early in his collegiate career.
“It feels great,” Harper said. “I worked hard for this. I believed in myself, my parents believed in me, and obviously coach Jones and the coaching staff believed in me.
“It means a lot to see time as a freshman because not a lot of people are able to get that this early.
Jones said Harper needs to improve his passing and court vision, but he expects those facets to improve with time.
Harper said he needs to be better defending opponents one-on-one and find more consistency in his jumper. He’s made 10-of-24 shots this season, a respectable 41.7 percent. However, Harper’s just 2-of-10 from 3-point range. It’s a small sample size and Harper is confident he’ll find his stroke.
“I’m pretty streaky right now, but I know I can shoot,” Harper said. “I have to keep that confidence up and stay aggressive.”
Harper and fellow freshmen guards Garrett Pascoe and Alex Vilarino handle the ball on most possessions. Pascoe has started all seven games for the Terriers. He’s a classic pass-first point guard. Vilarino is a dynamite athlete, while Harper shows an advanced scoring skillset.
“They all bring something to the table that can be helpful, but all three of them need to continue to grow and learn,” Jones said. “For us to take a step, those three dudes are going to be important.”
Both Harper and Jones envision the Stamford, Conn. native transitioning to a slightly different role down the road.
For example, when Harper shares the floor with McCoy, he’ll likely play more off the ball. Nonetheless, the fluidity of the Terriers offense creates opportunities for all to handle the rock.
“It’s pretty nice, especially when we’re going through plays we can always rotate,” Harper said. “It’s better for me. It helps me learn the whole system.”
“With what we would need him to do in terms of making shot, I think that’s what we need from that position,” Jones said.
Now that he’s comfortable at BU and playing well in his first collegiate season, Harper’s cherishing his experience. He’s figured out how to manage his time with an increased academic and basketball rigor.
“I think I’ve got the hang of it so far,” he said. “It’s been nice, though. College is fun.”
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GregLevinsky