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Golden: New Texas point guard Rori Harmon is already flashing star potential

Harmon scored seven points with eight assists in the 131-36 win over New Orleans.

  • Harmon was the No. 10 rated player in the country by ESPN out of Cypress Creek HS.
  • Harmon grew up idolizing Allen Iverson and Kyrie Irving.

Rori Harmon dribbles up the court with the confidence of a seasoned WNBA veteran, but Texas’ new floor leader is only a few months removed from her senior prom.

After Tuesday’s season-opening 131-36 obliteration of New Orleans, Texas coach Vic Schaefer instructed a staffer on who to bring into the media room for interviews. He summoned Joanne Allen-Taylor, his veteran guard, and Kyndall Hunter, his new freshman sharpshooter.

And he summoned his new star.

“Go get Rori,” Schaefer said. “Go get my point guard.”

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Texas point guard Rori Harmon, left, celebrates after UT guard Kyndall Hunter, right, hit a 3-pointer while being fouled during the Longhorn's season-opening win over New Orleans. Harmon and Hunter were teammates at Houston Cypress Creek High School as well.

When Schaefer recruited the generously listed 5-foot-6 playmaker out of the Houston suburbs, he had a vision of her capably running this offense the way she did when she led Cypress Creek to consecutive Class 6A state runner-up finishes. The 2021 Texas Gatorade player of the year checked several boxes on her coach's priority list in her debut game with the Longhorns.

She finished with seven points, eight assists and a single turnover while spearheading a UT defense that forced 38 turnovers.

“I just thought Rori was special on the ball and everybody behind her played really like she did,” Schaefer said. “That’s what you have to have. If you’re soft on the ball, then everybody is going to be soft behind you.”

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This is Harmon’s show, and she is, in a word, geeked at the opportunity to not only run Schaefer’s offense but also to continue chopping it up with her new teammates and an old one — Hunter, her high school teammate who had Club Erwin rocking when she knocked down seven 3-pointers in a seven-minute span of the second quarter.

Rori Harmon, center, and Kyndall Hunter, right,  seen here during their 2021 Class 6A championship loss to DeSoto as members of Cypress Creek, are now teammates at Texas. The freshmen debuted in Tuesday's 131-36 win over New Orleans.

High school was fun, but Harmon and Hunter are loving the start of their college experience. The win over New Orleans was cake, but the intensity meter will get turned up to 10 on Sunday when the Horns visit defending national champion Stanford, which returns four starters from last season’s 31-2 title team.

“This is another level,” Harmon said. “This is college basketball and it’s completely different from high school, but I know I’m going to learn fast and coach Schaefer will make sure I’m going to do that.”

Harmon was one of seven players making their debuts on a night when the Horns scored the second most points in school history. Schaefer couldn’t stop smiling at the potential in that locker room, especially from his point guard, who plays with a demeanor that’s above her teenage years.

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Dionnah Jackson-Durrett made her bones as Schaefer’s assistant at Mississippi State by tutoring point guards Jazzmun Holmes and Morgan William, a 5-foot-3 mighty mite whose overtime buzzer-beater ended UConn’s 111-game winning streak and eliminated the Huskies from the 2018 Final Four in Dallas.

Her newest pupil played AAU ball at Cy-Fair Premier for former TCU assistant coach Chris Johnson, who also coached former Texas point guard Brooke McCarty. Young Harmon would be in the gym some days when McCarty would shoot the lights out.

Texas guard Rori Harmon grabs the ball under a pile of New Orleans Privateers during the first half of the Longhorns' season-opening win on Tuesday night.

 “I definitely watched her as she was growing up and getting better," Harmon said. "Really good player. Very fast. I kind of see myself in her.”

Last season, point guard responsibilities were split between Kyra Lambert, Ashley Chevalier and Allen-Taylor, a natural two-guard who would fill in occasionally. With Lambert, the Horns had a coach on the floor, but now Schaefer and Jackson-Durrett have thrust those responsibilities on Harmon, who was the No. 10 overall prospect in the country by ESPN.

Harmon grew up idolizing Allen Iverson and Kyrie Irving, a pair of undersized guards who had the ability to take over games with sheer speed and explosiveness. She has a great first step and already possesses finishing ability in the lane amid the trees.

She may be the next great point guard to come through here after piling up the numbers in high school with  2,572 points, 745 assists and 700 steals in 146 career games.

After only a few months in Austin, she is already well-versed in Schaefer’s demands for the position: don’t be afraid to push the tempo, defend as if your life depends on it and, most important, take care of the rock. No turnovers.

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It’s Harmon's ball and she’s responsible for how this offense flows, something Schaefer told her when he was recruiting her.

“He said everything that happens good is my fault and everything that happens bad is my fault,” she said. “He’s going to make sure I know that.”

Harmon is the clear starter with Chevalier coming off the bench. Near the end of the first half, Schaefer gave Chevalier the hook after she turned the ball over with a couple of ill-advised passes under pressure. Three minutes into the third quarter, he pulled Harmon after her lone turnover and Chevalier went back in, stripped the New Orleans point guard and converted a layup on the other end. Not done, she then drew a charge.

So the depth at the position is good, but not great. Allen-Taylor will have to fill in on occasion, but Harmon is ready for heavy minutes since she rarely came off the court in high school. She doesn’t yet possess McCarty’s freakish 3-point range — she’s more likely to attack the basket than Brooke was — but has the potential to develop into a deadly triple threat.

It will be fun to watch her grow into the leader Schaefer believes she will become.