July 16, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
Things didn't go quite as planned for K-State men's basketball incoming freshman Malek Harris, but that's OK with him.
Originally committed to Marquette, the 6-foot-7 forward form Orland Park, Illinois, reopened his recruitment late in the spring of 2014 when the school announced coaching changes. Suddenly back in the recruiting game, Harris had to make a new decision, and make it fast.
"It was pretty stressful because I didn't know where I was going to end up," explained Harris before a summer practice in the K-State Basketball Training Facility. "It all happened so late that I didn't know what I was going to end up doing, but right away, the very first school that called me was Kansas State."
Harris wanted to choose a school that was interested in him before he committed to Marquette so he would already be familiar with both the coaches and the university; and when K-State called him, things quickly began to fall into place.
"They offered me last year too, and they showed me what they want for me and the need for me didn't stop even though I committed to Marquette," said Harris. "That was a big thing for me. I wanted to go somewhere where they offered me before and I had a relationship before because it was such a little timespan. I didn't have a year to decide."
A four-star prospect and the 80th-ranked player in the 2014 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, Harris is K-State head coach Bruce Weber's highest-rated recruited during his tenure with the Wildcats.
A three-year letterman at Carl Sandburg High School, along with being named in the Top 100 on numerous national recruiting charts, Harris was also a consensus Top 10 high school prospect in the state of Illinois, including a No. 7 ranking by both ChicagoHoops.com and 247Sports.com. Though he did not play his senior season at Carl Sandburg, Harris averaged a team-leading 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists his junior year (2012-13) helping the Eagles win 10 of their last 17 games.
Now, nearly a month into his time at K-State, Harris has been enjoying his new teammates and new home.
"I think I've seen exactly what I've wanted to see out of my teammates," explained Harris. "And the family tradition here, I mean, Coach Weber and Coach Lowery told me when they recruited me that this wasn't just a team, it was an actual family and that's exactly why I came here. All the guys are so close; it's a real brotherhood.
"On my other visits it was never like that like where you see everyone together talking and laughing. I don't know what it is if it's a tradition that Coach Weber brought here or what, but everyone just has a good relationship with the guy across the room from him, the guy next to him. I've never seen that before until I got here."
Coming from a tight knit family in Illinois, the family atmosphere of K-State made Harris feel at home from the start.
"I've never been away from home, but I didn't think it was going to be this easy to adjust," explained Harris. "I just think that's because of the people I have around me. People grow on you, and then working with them every single day in the weight room and on the court, I think I've gained another family - but even though it's not as hard being away from home, I do miss my family because we are so close."
Harris explained that he is "a big family person" and that the word "family" is far more than just a catch phrase or buzzword to him. He plans on majoring in family studies at K-State because, where he grew up, his family was everything.
"I come from a family where we live in a small apartment," he said. "There are six of us and my 94-year-old grandma who has dementia. We've been taking care of her for years, so definitely that family aspect was important to me."
Though nearly 500 miles away from now that he's at K-State, Harris said he hears from his family every single day - especially his older brother and best friend, Jamonte.
"He always asks how I'm doing, how's the team, he wants me to introduce him to some of the guys," Harris smiled and let out a laugh. "He's that excited that I'm here. The crazy thing is, before I committed to Marquette when Kansas State offered me, he just loved K-State. He told me not to go to Marquette, he said I had to come to Kansas State."
While off the court family means everything to Harris, on the court his focus is on the game. An explosive player with a passion for basketball, Harris will bring added excitement to the K-State roster during the upcoming 2014-15 season.
"I have a high motor," he said, explaining his style. "I play high every play I'm in the game. I try to be versatile on offense, but mainly I'm going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. I've never been a show-off player; I'm a team player and that's what got me here and that's what's going to keep me going."
As for his goals during his K-State career, Harris wants to be remembered. He wants to work harder and be greater than he has ever been while helping his team to success.
"I want to do something that no one's done before," said Harris, his eyes growing wide, his possibilities endless, "that's one of my goals. I'll set more goals along the way the more I go, just to know that I'm steadily improving, but I think the biggest thing is I want to do something that everyone will remember. I want to come back here and have something that I can look at and be like, that was my team, that was me."