Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
NEW YORK — Prior to admitting that Deron Williams' mom didn't like him in college and ahead of revealing that his shoe collection might rival that of the entire Jazz Dancers squad, and moments before alternating between humming and whistling along with a hotel lobby harpist's rendition of "Memory" from Cats, Devin Harris cracked a slight smile upon hearing that Utah basketball fans are eager to get to know who their new starting point guard is.
Both professionally and personally.
"Aren't we all," Harris responded.
Here are 34 tidbits and insights that shed some light on the guy who's envious of C.J. Miles' jersey number and whose charitable foundation is named 34 Ways To Assist:
34 — Why 34 topics? For one thing, that has been Harris' number in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks — whom he joined via a draft-day trade with Washington as the No. 5 pick of the 2004 Draft — and the New Jersey Nets.
Being traded to Utah forced him to change his team name and number in his seventh season.
So why 34? Harris picked those digits because one of his mentors, fellow state of Wisconsin product Tony Smith, sported that number during his nine-year NBA career in the 1990s with the Los Angeles Lakers and several other teams.
Both guys attended Wauwatosa East High School in Milwaukee (at different times), and Smith took Harris under his wings when he returned to his alma mater to help coach. Harris credits Smith for spurring his growth during his junior year in high school when it became evident that the point guard and eventual Wisconsin Mr. Basketball (2001) had a bright hoops future.
This, of course, gives Jazz fans one more reason to love the Lakers.
"Tony was just, he was great," Harris said. "On the basketball part, he just taught me things. He's been preaching the mid-range jump shot, I swear since I was like 15. I never had to use it until now."
33 — Even with Smith's tutelage, the NBA veteran credits his dad, Terry Harris, for being the most influential person in his life and career.
"He's the one," Harris said, "who taught me the fundamentals and put me on the path."
His father was also the one who made Harris learn how to use both hands and put him through rigorous film sessions beginning when he was all of 11 years old or so.
"He broke out the video camera," Harris recalled. "He was taping everything, all the games, and we'd sit and watch it afterward and he'd point things out."
Son forced dad to cut the umbilical VCR cord when he went to play college ball at Wisconsin.
"He still tries to do it," Harris said, chuckling, "but I don't really want to hear it."
32 — Another important person in Harris' development was his older brother, Bruce Harris. Devin, who's four years younger, followed in Bruce's footsteps and often took a pounding while playing him while growing up. "Him beating me up," is how Harris describes their earlier battles.
But the pain paid off.
"I was always competitive with him," Harris said. "He was always bigger than me, so I'm used to going against guys bigger than me, trying to outdo them. That's what really drives me."
That's why he doesn't mind following in the footsteps of Hall of Fame-caliber players like Steve Nash (Dallas), Jason Kidd (New Jersey) and D-Will (Utah), and why he doesn't let his slight 190-pound frame keep him from being physical and competing.
"I like being the underdog, not the well-known (guy) coming in," Harris said. "(And) trying to be competitive and trying just to beat the other guy."
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