Harris ‘peaking at the right time’

Michael Harris drives towards the hoop during a National Basketball League match against the...
Michael Harris drives towards the hoop during a National Basketball League match against the Franklin Bulls in Auckland in May. The defender is Te Tuhi Lewis. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Michael Harris is hitting some tremendous form at the best possible time.

The Otago Nuggets shooting guard drilled a career-high 35 points to help his side beat a quality Franklin Bulls team 86-72 in Dunedin on Sunday.

It was one of the Australian’s best performances for the defending champions, although arguably the 33-point haul against the Wellington Saints in the capital early last month is at the top of the list.

That effort came at the end of a tough week. The Nuggets had been pumped 116-79 by the Southland Sharks in Invercargill and edged 99-94 by the Manawatu Jets in Palmerston.

Star point guard JaQuori McLaughlin was out injured and Tall Blacks point guard Tai Webster had not yet arrived at the franchise.

The situation was getting a little dicey for the Nuggets. Their grip on the playoffs was just slipping a wee bit. They needed something special and Harris delivered.

Looking back, the 23-year-old reckons that game was a kind of turning point for him and the team.

"During that middle patch of the season when we were struggling a bit, I was probably struggling the most, shooting-wise," Harris said.

"I think what kept my confidence up was the ability to get to the basket and get some easy ones and attack the rim a bit more.

"I’ve alway had that ability in the tool bag, but with JaQuori going down and Tai not being here at the time, we needed another ball-handler to take over that load.

"That kind of opened the door for me."

You do not have to leave the door very far ajar, either. Harris is able to ghost past defenders with his pace and that lay-up of his is an absolute banker.

He also draws a lot of fouls and collects points at the free throw line. And when he is having a good shooting night like he did against the Bulls, the score mounts quickly.

Harris is the second-leading scorer in the league, averaging 22.9 points a game. Only Southland’s Jeremy Kendle has a higher average. He is slotting 24.1 points per game.

"I feel like I’m peaking at the right time, and so is the team as well," Harris said.

"We went through that little rough patch in the middle where we lost a few games.

"But credit to the guys, we’ve all sort of lifted the intensity and we’re peaking just ahead of the finals, which is always good."

The Nuggets (11-5) play the Nelson Giants (6-9) in Nelson tonight. Regardless of the outcome, the Nuggets are through to the top six playoffs.

The team will still be highly motivated, though. The Nuggets are aiming for a spot in the top two so they can skip the first round of playoff games and gain direct entry into the semifinals.

The Giants will be hungry as well. They are still in the hunt for the playoffs, but it is very competitive for the final two playoff berths.


Nelson, 7pm today
Otago Nuggets:
Sam Timmins, Todd Withers, Michael Harris, Tai Webster, Nikau McCullough, Robbie Coman, Matt Bardsley, Jack Andrew, Josh Aitcheson.

Nelson Giants: Callum McRae, Matur Maker, Avery Woodson, Stu Dempster, Alex McNaught, Nic Trathen, Hayden Jones, Tom Ingham, Riley Bensemann, Tyler March, Nick Davidson, Tysxun Aiolupotea.