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OU men's basketball: New Sooner point guard De'Vion Harmon hopes to lead team "all the way to the top" in freshman season

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De'Vion Harmon (copy)

Freshman point guard De'Vion Harmon smiles while talking to reporters June 27.

LaQuita Harmon received a phone call from then-Oklahoma assistant coach Chris Crutchfield in the fall of 2017. He wanted to celebrate.

“What are you celebrating?” LaQuita recalls asking.

Crutchfield — now an assistant coach for Arkansas — informed LaQuita that her son, De’Vion Harmon, had just verbally committed to Oklahoma. She and the rest of the family had no idea.

LaQuita politely told Crutchfield she needed to call him back. She had to confirm with her son, who was in class at the time, if what she heard was true. She texted him, and after class she called.

“What did you just do?” LaQuita asked.

De’Vion informed his mother that he had just committed to Lon Kruger’s class of 2019. He was the first in the class to commit, and it would be more than a year before the next recruit, Victor Iwuakor, gave a verbal commitment.

Finishing his high school career as the No. 43 player and the No. 9 point guard in the nation, per Rivals.com, De’Vion’s signature boosted Oklahoma to one of its most impressive recruiting classes in recent memory. He’s also a Fédération Internationale de Basketball (International Basketball Federation or FIBA) gold medalist.

He’s joining an Oklahoma team that lost nine Sooners to either graduation or the transfer portal. But those left behind have a bright future. Sophomore guard Jamal Bieniemy made his way into the starting lineup his freshman year, and is expected to be a valuable leader. Upperclassmen Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle will be complemented by a talented freshman class. 

Twenty months after committing to OU, De’Vion finally got to show off his new look as a Sooner. In front of a crowd of around 20 reporters, De’Vion showed his excitement for college competition. He was so excited, he accidentally revealed Oklahoma’s first regular season game before the schedule was officially announced.

“For me, when the rocket launches Nov. 5 against UTSA,” De’Vion said, “all I want to do is be the most competitive guy on the court.”

‘He didn’t play with any toys.’

LaQuita can still recall her first basketball memory of De’Vion when he was a toddler.

At church, when other kids were playing, De’Vion — then two years old — would instead sit on his mother’s lap with a basketball, and watch his dad, Deon Harmon, play the game that De’Vion would come to love.

“He didn’t play with any toys,” LaQuita said. “Everything he did was sports-related.” 

In his childhood home in Corinth, Texas, De’Vion substituted basketball and football for action figures and remote control cars.

De’Vion, of course, excelled in basketball. His game developed so much that at some point in elementary school, he stopped playing with his age group because he was too competitive. He was playing with kids two years older than him instead.

“His team was with older kids and he was telling them what to do,” LaQuita said, “telling them where to be on the court.”

Onlookers of the young leader were impressed too. One of them was Grant Long, De’Vion’s future coach at John H. Guyer High School in Denton, Texas. 

Long saw a kid that was ready for the next level, which is why when De’Vion was in sixth grade, Long invited him to play in a summer camp with his then-varsity team. After the camp, Long thought he “held his own.” 

Long invited him again when De’Vion was an eighth grader to another camp with his varsity team. That time, he did more than hold his own; he convinced Long of his future at Guyer.

“Right then I knew that coming in as a freshman he would already start for us and be ready to make an immediate impact on our program,” Long said. “And he did that for four years.”

They were four years of stardom. LaQuita described the last two years in particular as “crazy.” De’Vion began to climb his class’ recruit rankings, and Guyer High School’s team was finding success — especially in his junior year, where he averaged 15.7 points and 5.6 assists per game, per MaxPreps.com.

The Wildcats finished with a 38-2 record. He was signing his shoes and his headband and giving them out to the crowd filled with kids, who would approach him after games to take pictures with him.

“When he mentors kids, it’s like the kids gravitate towards him,” LaQuita said. “They loved being around him. And he knows their names. He doesn’t not talk to them. He’ll stop what he’s doing and just (converse) with the kids.”

'He’s just a tough kid.’

Don Showalter, a 10-time USA Basketball gold medalist and current Director of Coach Development of the USA Basketball Youth Division, has organized some of the best youth teams in America. Team USA chooses from thousands of the best youth players in the nation, and it’s the job of the coaching staff to narrow the roster to just 12 players.

De’Vion was invited to play in a Team USA camp and try out for the U-16 team in October 2016. De’Vion — then a sophomore — was one of around 30 prospects invited. He survived the cut to 18 members a few days later. 

Showalter said he stresses high IQ basketball, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and he saw that in De’Vion, along with athleticism.

“He’s just a tough kid,” Showalter said. “He’s the one who would save a ball from going out of bounds, give up his body for a charge, those kinds of things. So that sets a tone, especially coming from his position. It sets a tone for the game and how we wanted to play.”

De’Vion let his family know he was going to be competing in Formosa, Argentina, in the 2017 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship in June. Team USA won the gold medal with a 5-0 record, and qualified for the U-17 World Cup in Santa Fe, Argentina — where Team USA went 7-0 and won gold again.

“That process was really amazing. In high school you got to represent (this) country playing the game you love,” De’Vion said. “And winning that gold medal with me and the 11 other guys, they become family at that point. We just had one goal in mind, and that was just to win gold.”

De’Vion played alongside notable recruits such as class of 2020 Duke commit Jeremy Roach and R.J. Hampton, who is going to New Zealand to play his first year in the National Basketball League (NBL). The USA U-17 program has produced NBA talent such as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton and Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who won gold for Showalter’s 2016 U-17 squad. Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young was a part of the 2016 U-18 team.

“Obviously it’s a high level. You’re playing with 11 other really high level Division I players. That right there helps them prepare for the college level,” Showalter said. “They know they’re one of the 12 best players that we could put together. I think they get some confidence as well.”

“In my estimation,” Showalter said, “he’s going to do really well at Oklahoma.”

‘I think I’m just going to stay where I am.’

A week after he told his parents of his commitment to the Sooners, De’Vion began thinking about other opportunities.

De’Vion’s teammates were still in the recruiting process and visiting schools, a process most athletes find to be a fun time in their athletic careers. De’Vion was only 16 years old when he chose Oklahoma, and LaQuita says he felt he was missing out.

De’Vion didn’t officially decommit, but he did receive numerous offers. He racked up 15 total offers from schools such as Texas, Arizona State and Oklahoma State.

When De’Vion made his commitment to OU on his own, LaQuita said she and the family “let him roll with it.” She said she wanted it to be clear the decision was 100 percent his, but also wanted to make sure De’Vion weighed his options properly.

“We sat down and we did out pros and cons,” LaQuita said. “We just put all of that down and so after a month or two he said ‘I think I’m just going to stay where I am.’”

De’Vion stayed committed to the Sooners for the rest of his high school career.

Fast forward to June 27 this year, when De’Vion had his first media availability as a Sooner. The new point guard was asked why he committed earlier than anyone else on the team. He answered with a rhetorical question.

“Have you not met Lon Kruger? He’s big time,” De’Vion said. “Coach Kruger, coach (Carlin) Hartman, coach (Jim Molinari) and coach (Pooh Williamson) — we have a great staff. We have great guys. I’m happy to be here and it’s time for me to get to work.”

Kruger is known for a lot of things in his coaching career — taking five different programs to the NCAA Tournament might be the frontrunner. His recruiting is up there, too.

Kruger’s 2019 class includes three four-stars in an attempt to reload an Oklahoma team that had eight players in their final year of eligibility in the 2018-19 season. Kruger continued to show up to De’Vion’s games and make sure he felt at home.

“There were definitely times where I was exploring and I was wavering back and forth,” De’Vion said, “but coach Kruger and the coaching staff, they stayed locked in on me. They showed a lot of loyalty throughout this whole thing.”

“We’re going to ride side by side,” De’Vion said, “all the way to the top.”

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