Virginia guard Joe Harris ‘overwhelmed’ to go from one Cavs team to another

Former Virginia guard Joe Harris found out the news before anyone else.

Back home in Chelan, Wash., to watch the 2014 NBA draft with family and friends, he had received a call from his agent alerting him that the Cleveland Cavaliers planned to select him with the No. 33 overall pick in the second round. Harris tried to play coy.

But as ESPN’s coverage went to a commercial break, he couldn’t hide the excitement on his face any longer. Harris’s NBA dreams had come true.

“To be honest, I don’t even know how to describe it or explain it,” Harris said late Thursday night. “You’re just really overwhelmed. It’s hard to even believe it’s happening. It was just a really long day.

“Ever since the draft came on and it got to the range of picks that my agent had kind of felt I would be going in, it had gotten pretty long just waiting to see who was doing what and who were they picking. It’s kind of a weight off your shoulders a little bit to get the call from my agent and then to see my name get called. Unbelievable feeling.”

Harris will join a team full of No. 1 overall draft picks, including point guard Kyrie Irving, forward Anthony Bennett and Thursday night’s top pick, Andrew Wiggins. His family and friends have already begun joking, “Once a Cavalier, always a Cavalier.”

Harris noted Thursday night that several NBA teams had questions about why his statistics dropped during his senior year after earning first team all-ACC honors as a junior. But he felt the organizations that didn’t harp on it -- such as Cleveland -- were the ones that truly appreciated his game.

He averaged 12 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists as Virginia made a run to the Sweet 16 this past season after scoring more than 16 points per game the year before when the Cavaliers just missed out on the NCAA tournament. Still, there were plenty of NBA teams enamored with his 6-foot-6 frame, outside shooting touch and sneaky athleticism.

“I think the teams that didn’t really have question marks concerning that are the teams that really believed in me and knew what I was capable of and what I’m capable of going forward,” Harris said. “Those teams that showed the most interest, like the Cleveland Cavaliers, are the teams that are willing to take a chance on you. They believe in you and what you’re capable of and obviously I must have done something right in my workouts and all my preparation after the season trying to get myself ready for this point.”

Harris called his workout with Cleveland the “toughest” he went through during the pre-draft process, which is particularly noteworthy considering Harris broke his nose in three places during a workout with the Miami Heat.

He becomes the second Virginia player during the Tony Bennett era to be drafted in the second round, joining Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott (2011). Harris is also the highest-picked prospect from Charlottesville since Roger Mason Jr. went No. 31 overall in 2002.

“There’s still no guarantee. I have to earn my keep,” said Harris, alluding to the non-guaranteed contract he will sign as a second-round pick. “This isn’t something where you can settle or be satisfied. I know I have a lot of areas and room to improve. ...

“I’m gonna try to be an extremely solid role player at the next level and I’m very understanding of that. I don’t think too highly of myself, but at the same time, I don’t think too lowly of myself. I’m very excited for this opportunity. I’m excited to prove to Cleveland, to my teammates, to the organization, to show everybody that they made the right decision with the pick they had.”

On a side note, former Virginia forward Akil Mitchell went undrafted Thursday night, but will likely find a spot on an NBA summer league roster in the coming days.

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