On Thursday, the transfer portal received a significant addition in Oklahoma point guard De’Vion Harmon, a former four-star prospect out of high school who improved exponentially from his freshman to sophomore season. As reported by KSR earlier on Friday, Kentucky assistant coach Jai Lucas had a conversation with Harmon sometime on Thursday and the plan is for Harmon to have a conversation with head coach John Calipari in the relatively near future.
Coach Lucas has known the Harmon family since he was coaching at Texas. He recruited De’Vion to join the Longhorns back when De’Vion was just a sophomore in high school.
KSR was able to talk with Harmon’s father, Deon Harmon, who went in-depth on his son’s recruitment status and where De’Vion stands roughly 36 hours removed from his name officially being put into the transfer portal. Below is the information he was able to share with us, including what type of school and coach Harmon is looking for, what his goals are for the immediate future, and how long we should expect his recruitment to last.
Zack Geoghegan: What went into the decision to transfer from Oklahoma?
Deon Harmon: It’s pretty simple, and it was really something that me and his mom pushed him into doing. He’s right on the precipice of putting himself on the draft board potentially next year and that’s his dream. Sometimes kids get focused on that but they don’t understand the business side of it. They don’t understand the things that have to be done in order to give them the best option to make it and at the end of the day, his mom and I told him that ‘if you’re not in the portal, we can’t have discussions and explore the best situation for you.’ The idea of going into the portal had nothing to do with a lack of communication or any negative aspects of his relationship with the new [Oklahoma] coach, Coach Porter Moser. Actually, things with them are going very well. It was literally just to get him in the portal because the rules dictate that we can’t talk to any other schools unless he goes into the portal. OU is new again, we gotta make sure we get a system that fits him, where the coach believes he has the ability to help the team and also the team helps with getting him to the next level. We just needed to talk to schools and open up so we could have those conversations.
ZG: Considering the timing with the new one-time transfer rule, this seems like the smart move to make then.
DH: The one thing that we always talk about is not making the same mistake twice. He committed very early in his high school career. He was a junior in November when he committed. He kinda cut his recruiting short, so we needed a little more time and information to really vet the programs the way we needed to. And not that we didn’t vet OU well, but some of the style changed as we got there and he had to figure out how to fit in because it wasn’t necessarily the style of ball we thought he was going to be playing. The good thing is it shows he’s resilient, mentally tough, he adjusted, and had a really good year this year. But it wasn’t good enough to play him onto the draft boards. So now he’s sitting right there and needs to have another great year. But unfortunately, our coach retires and everything becomes anew. We just had to do this so he could make the right decision, and that decision could very well be going back to OU.
ZG: What exactly is De’Vion looking for in a team in terms of style and fit?
DH: We’re looking for an up-tempo style where the team runs quite a bit and looks to take advantage of open floor play, secondary break, then going into the offense. Missed shots, we want him to be able to run and get up and down. Outside of that, a team that does more ball screens, pick and rolls, and a little less isolation. He would be a better guard and better to show his true ability if the floor is a little more opened up–showing his ability to attack the goal. The spacing will be really good so he’ll be able to make the right decisions as he’s attacking and becoming a better playmaker as opposed to being just an isolation, 6-2 guard. It becomes easier because everybody just kinda stands around and he gets funneled into the big and doesn’t have an outlet to drop the ball off. We’re just looking for more motion in the offense.
ZG: He went up 11 percentage points in his overall field goal shooting this past season, so it sounds like he can adapt to the style that’s around him.
DH: He’s not an isolation guard. As the offense moved and it flowed, he learned how to get the ball an attack as the offense was in motion. But generally toward the end of the shot clock or late in the game, they would go into isolation and his stats point to him knowing how to catch a pass, knowing when to attack, when to pull up, and he just became efficient. He was taking good shots and now we want to get him more on the ball where he can still do the same thing–use his strength, he’s very strong at the goal. We just got off a call and they showed us that his percentage in ball screens attacking the goal is 82 percent, which is extremely high. He shot 60-something percent from the mid-range. He’s gotta improve his 3-ball, but we think if he gets into a more open court style, his 3-ball won’t be the thing that people grade him on as much. And then his assists should go up, that’s the idea. We think, in a good motion offense where everything is moving and the floor is open, he can get up to six or seven assists a game, easily.
ZG: Would that mean playing more of a point guard role as opposed to a combo guard?
DH: He’s a point guard, that’s the other thing. We need him to be seen as a point guard. He was playing the two-guard, combo guard style and it was hard to get assists when he’s not the point guard. We do want him in the point guard role, and that doesn’t have to be 100 percent of the time because we like to run. He’s an open floor player. If the other guard gets the ball off the rebound, he doesn’t need to slow down and give it to [De’Vion]. He needs to push it so [De’Vion] can get out and show that ability that he can finish as well. But when the ball is being taken out of bounds, we’d like for [De’Vion] to be the guy they throw it into and let him initiate the offense and get guys in the right spot and show that he is a lead guard.
ZG: Some say the mid-range is dying, but if you can hit 60 percent that should in theory transition a few feet behind to the 3-point line.
DH: We’re trying to get the 3-ball right. We put in a lot of work in the mid-range this past summer and it paid off. So this year is about the 3-ball. His work ethic is pretty extreme, so at the end of the day, I think that his 3-ball will improve as well.
Deon Harmon also added that De’Vion’s focus last summer was to work on his mid-range jumper and ability to attack the rim. He would make 1,000 mid-range and dribble pull-up shots five days per week during this period.
ZG: Sounds like he’s an incredibly hard worker.
DH: He’s one of those extreme personalities that once he gets his mind focused on something, he goes at it pretty hard. He almost gets a little narcissistic with it. He is intentional. He does not believe that he should let anyone outwork him. We just had to figure out the best way to get him to focus that energy and get the most out of it. And then we’re still working to make sure he understands the recovery side of it.
ZG: When looking at schools, are you looking at ones who can get him to the next level?
DH: Yes. Our first goal right now is that the school can identify his ability and they see his skillset, and hopefully, they see it as something they can use in their program. And then they encourage him to do what he does well. Play the game with what you do well and then as your working on your weaknesses, we can add that.
ZG: Have you been able to speak with Kentucky?
DH: I’m trying to schedule something today with Kentucky or sometime this week or next week. I’ve already talked to Jai Lucas but we’re trying to get the introduction to Calipari.
ZG: What did Coach Lucas talk about?
DH: When he was at Texas, he recruited De’Vion to Texas. We were talking about what we’re looking for. He already appeared to have a really good idea of–he knows De’Vion’s game so he already knew how he could help us out with that. The next step is to have us talk with Cal and see if everything aligns and then move from there. I know Coach Calipari has seen him play quite a bit. I know he knows of him. Now it’s just, take a look at what he did while he was in college and see if it fits what Calipari wants.
ZG: Did De’Vion speak with Coach Lucas or just you?
DH: [De’Vion] said he spoke with him. He contacted him individually, because like I said we’ve known him for five years. He started talking to him since he was a sophomore in high school.
ZG: What is De’Vion looking for in a school?
DH: The first thing De’Vion’s looking for is a coach that truly recognizes his strengths and is happy to use that strength as part of their offense and let him play the game with his strengths. He’s also looking for a coach who got some guys in the NBA. He’s a real personable kid and he really wants a coach that he can talk to about stuff off the court: ‘My dad got on me or I broke up with my girlfriend.’ He wants to be able to talk to a coach and say ‘how should I process this? What should I do?’ He really likes coaches that are there for him in his whole life, not just the basketball side of it.
ZG: Would De’Vion embrace the role of being “the guy” at a place like Kentucky?
DH: He wants to be the guy. He’s looking for that opportunity. At the end of the day, the goal is to get to the NBA and he knows that the chances of him being the guy in the NBA are probably pretty slim, but in order to get that opportunity he’s gotta be able to lead and be the guy at the college level. That doesn’t necessarily mean being a scorer, it just means being involved in the plays whether he has to score, pass, defend, rebound, he wants that thrust upon his shoulders. He believes he can help any team.
He’s got the mental capacity and strength to be able to deal with the pressures that come with it. He had a pretty good resume of playing with USA and playing in high-pressure situations. He bodes well to able to perform at that type of level. We want him in big moments. Kentucky provides those kind of moments.
ZG: What should we expect in terms of a decision timeline?
DH: We’ll go faster than anything that happened in high school, in terms of the recruiting process. We’ve been through it before, we know what he wants, we’re better at evaluating. With this process, I think coaches are being even more transparent and we’re being transparent. So I think a decision could happen pretty soon. I think something could happen within the next month. We want to just make sure we have the chance to talk to everybody. We think a month gives us plenty of time to do some visits and see campus.
We’re looking to make it quickly, but we don’t necessarily want to be hasty. He’s gonna continue to go along with the draft process, testing the waters. We really want him to enroll if it’s a new place–and he very well could go back to Oklahoma–but at the end of the day, we want him to be enrolled at this new spot or same spot in June. I want him taking summer classes.
ZG: Are you waiting for any other dominoes to fall first?
DH: As long as they have a roster that gives us confidence that they can go win, he has guys that he can get the ball to–he’s a point guard, he’s gonna get you some assists, he’s gonna get you some buckets. But he’s got to take advantage of what the defense is giving him and the better [his teammates] are, the easier it is to score the ball at the rim and the mid-range. Once they make the adjustment to stopping him, now he can get all the assists and get his guys shots. If he’s got a big, it makes the pick and roll easier, so we’ve thought about that. We are looking for that. But in terms of competition itself, if you’re afraid to go through competition and play with other good guys, then I’m pretty sure the NBA is not the place you can make it.