Cal men's basketball added a key piece to their 2017 recruiting class with the commitment of 6-4/190 Heritage Christian (Northridge, CA) High School shooting guard Juhwan Harris-Dyson this morning a few weeks after his visit to Cal.
The 4 star guard is one of the fastest-rising guards in the 2017 class, earning rave reviews at the Elite 100 event most recently while shutting down one of the top point guards in the nation -5 star Wilmington, Deleward PG Trevon Duvall- while covering him all game..
After a successful visit to Berkeley in June, Cal fans familiar with Harris-Dyson's athleticism and defensive stopper ability were hoping that the talented guard would join Earl Watson Elite AAU teammate Jemarl Baker as a 2017 Bear, and after a few weeks wait, the commitment came today.
"Just sitting down and talking with my family and continuing to get to know the Cal coaches, they seemed like really great people," said Harris-Dyson. "I've never heard anything bad about Coach Martin and Coach Webster and all the Cal coaches.
"That relationship is important for me because they'll be like my parents for those four years and it's good to have someone I'm comfortable and trust that I can go to.
"It's also not far from home -just an hour plane ride- but not so close so it's the perfect distance.
"It's a win-win for me on the location and it's a great education and a basketball program on the rise."
Harris-Dyson's prep coach at Heritage, Paul Tait, echoed his player's sentiment about the strong fit at Cal and expounded on the type of athlete the Bears will be getting in the 6'4" guard.
"We're really excited about Juhwan's commitment to Cal said Tait. "We think it's a great fit.
"He's a good kid. I think he really connected with Coach Martin and Coach Webster and the whole staff up there when he took his unofficial.
"I've had the privilege of coaching Juhwan for the past year and a half. He came to us with a high motor but he's put in a lot of hard work to build himself into a strong combo guard.
"From the moment he came on campus here, he was a tremendous athlete. We just gave him little things to work on each month.
"One of the first things I challenged him to do was to become a better ball-handler. His freshman and sophomore years, he was used primarily as a defensive player and he'd get rebounds and was a hustle guy. But when he first transferred in, I could see he could really handle the ball and had the ability to get out and run the break.
"He reminded me of one of my former players -Justin Holiday- who played up at Washington. There were some similar tendencies with both of them.
"So our challenge was to turn him into more of a guard and he really bought in, so he and my assistant coach Todd Wilson spent hours working individual drills and he blossomed into a ball-handling point forward type player. Then somewhere about midway through the year, he got more comfortable with his jump shot and he was able to score finishing with both his right hand and left hand and we started calling more sets for him.
"So as we moved into the spring, we knew he wasn't going to be a 6'4" forward in college so I said, 'You've really got to continue to develop you shot -both mid-range jumper and 3-pointer.'
"He really took that to heart. He's in at 6 a.m. and out at 10 p.m. Whatever it is, before school or after practice, he's always getting extra shots up and it's paid off. As he traveled with Earl Watson in the spring and at the end of our season, he started making some 3's so we told him to trust the process and keep grinding away.
"When he rejoined us for a summer league showcase, I think at one point he was like 12-for-16 from 3. So he's obviously figured it out. And running the floor, kind of like Russell Westbrook, he can go from 0-to-100 really quick. He just beats people up the floor. He did that Friday and Saturday at the Elite 100 and you're talking about high major and mid-major guys. Whether he's getting the rebounds or hitting the outlets, he's just flying past guys. He very rarely turns it over, too, which is great when you have someone that plays so fast.
"It was a very proud moment for me to see him excel so well against such top competition. You realize that all that hard work he's put in is really paying off.
"He's been humbled by the whole process. He's just 16. Knowing the family, this wasn't a rash decision. They really put a lot of time and thought and prayer into the decision.
"I've known Coach Webster for a while from when I was back in Chicago and you can really tell just how much they value Juhwan. It's great that he'll be at a place where he's as comfortable with the staff like he is here.
"I was excited he chose Cal. It's just a great fit for him."
Harris-Dyson's excited to be joining combo guard Jemarl Baker next year at Cal and has continued to build bonds with his future teammate.
"We connected over the past few months with Earl Watson and had a chance to room together at one of the recent events," said Harris-Dyson. "He's a great teammate. He never says anything negative. I think he'll be great in college. He's just always been encouraging to me and he was part of the decision that made it easier to choose Cal. But even if he wasn't going there, I still would've chosen Cal because they fit everything I'm looking for in a program, every criteria."
Future teammate Baker is just as excited to be joined at Cal with Harris-Dyson.
"I'm really excited Juhwan committed to Cal, said Baker. "I've been pushing for him to come to Cal ever since he got offered and even before that. I was really excited when he called me today to tell me he was coming to Cal, too.
"He's a real tough player that will stick anyone. He's a tough competitor and he won't back down from anybody. He just brings toughness to the team and he gets to the basket at will. He's really aggressive and will bring a great mindset to the team."
Harris-Dyson averaged a solid 14.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game for Heritage in the 22-7 season but his game continues to rapidly evolve as the hard-working guard puts in the hours his competitors can rarely match.
"I have to give my coaches a lot of credit for my development," said Harris-Dyson. "Coach Tait and Coach Wilson have gotten up with me really early every morning and are always there when I need the gym. And Coach Martin gave me some things to work on with shooting that have helped, too, helping me with a quick release for game-type situations.
"I'm continuing to do whatever I can to improve my game."
But as much as Harris-Dyson's offensive game has improved of late, it's defense that's been the Heritage Christian prep's calling card.
"I take a lot of pride on defense. I don't like my man scoring on me. I take that as like a slap in the face when he scores and my goal is to make sure my man doesn't score and do whatever it takes to make that happen."
Now that Earl Watson Elite teammates Harris-Dyson and Baker are signed on as future Bears, both players will continue to recruit their AAU teammate Ira Lee to join them at Cal.
"Me and Ira are pretty close," said Harris-Dyson. "And we got to room together for a couple other AAU events.
"He's just a beast out there. He plays like a man among boys. His jump shot and his handles are good and he's a stretch-4 that can hit from the outside.
"I've talked to him about Cal but he's still not sure where he's going to go. I'd love him to come to Cal but it's his decision. I want him to want to come and play with me, though."
And while Harris-Dyson is taking the more subtle approach, Baker's been on Lee longer as an early commit to the Bears.
"There's a good chance," said Baker, of Lee deciding to join them. "I've been pushing for him to come to Cal. It's his decision at the end of the day and if he goes somewhere else, I'll still support him. But I've been doing my job. That would be great having him join us."