When Blake Harris got to the University of Missouri, he felt like a superstar.
There were cheering fans, banners hanging from fraternity houses and tons of social media buzz.
Harris, a four-star point guard, took his official campus visit the weekend of April 8-9 alongside No. 1 recruit Michael Porter Jr., who is already committed to Missouri, and No. 2-ranked small forward recruit Kevin Knox, who has yet to make up his mind.
Harris, the No. 20 point guard in the nation according to ESPN, had previously signed with Washington with Porter Jr. back in November before decommitting after the firing of coach Lorenzo Romar.
“Missouri was always ranked in the top three for me,” Harris said. “I knew that it was always going to be an option.”
One visit was all it took for the point guard from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Harris announced just hours after his visit ended that he would be committing to Mizzou.
“After one full day at Mizzou, I knew I wanted to commit and I called my parents and told them,” Harris said. “When coach Martin dropped me off at the airport, I told him I wanted to play for Mizzou.”
The visit began at the airport, where Harris, along with Knox and Porter Jr., were welcomed by not only the coaching staff, but also by the students, who showed that they were thrilled to have them.
In the days before the athletes showed up to campus, several of MU’s fraternities made preparations to take part in the recruitment process themselves. By the time the players arrived in Columbia, Greektown was decorated with large banners with creative slogans and illustrations to attract the athlete's attention.
“We had thrown the idea of making a banner around for a while, and the design came from the concept of selling them the vision of creating a legacy here,” freshman Phi Delta Theta fraternity member Zachary Reader said. “Our hope was to serve as a part in welcoming them to the university.”
One fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, was lucky enough to spend some time with Harris, Porter Jr. and Knox when the trio showed up at their house to admire their banner.
“There were about 20 of us just sitting on the porch, and the boys showed up in a golf cart,” sophomore Alpha Epsilon Pi member Jonah Roberts said. “We took a photo with the athletes and Porter Jr. even threw a football around with us. It was incredible and something we will remember at the house for a long time.”
The dedication that went into creating the banners did not go unnoticed by the athletes.
“It was crazy,” Harris said. “I had seen the banners before because there were pictures of them on social media that I retweeted. We talked to the frats and took pictures in front of the signs. We even took pictures with their moms because it was mom’s weekend.”
Outside of the warm welcome from the Greek community, countless other students had the opportunity to meet Harris around the campus and take pictures.
Those who encountered Harris and the other athletes were awestruck and admired their willingness to stop and take the time to meet them.
“My overall first impression of them was they were kind and down to earth,” freshman Briana Savidge said. “They really seemed to be enjoying their time here.”
Harris himself also enjoyed stopping to take pictures with the fans.
“Taking pictures was really cool, but it was tiring since I don't normally take that many,” Harris said. “But it made me feel like Mizzou really wanted me there.”
Porter Jr. and Harris are now back to playing on the same team again, a concept that played a heavy role in Harris’ decision to come to Mizzou.
“Michael and I are close,” Harris said. “He and I talked about how it was different than any other school because of the amazing fans and incredible facilities.”
It goes without saying that the students are more than a little excited to have Porter Jr. and Harris here next year.
“The way they handled the visit shows that they are really connected to the Mizzou community,” junior Theta Chi fraternity member Cole Stoecklein said. “I can't wait to see them be leaders on the court next year.”
The addition of a new coach and two major recruits casts a ray of light on the Mizzou basketball program that was not around just a month or so ago.
“I am excited to have my college experience at Mizzou,” Harris said. “I think we can do big things and I’m ready to win.”
Edited by Eli Lederman | firstname.lastname@example.org