Reunion in Saskatchewan for NBA G League player-coach duo, Harkless and Abney

Click to play video: 'NBA G League player, coach Harkless & Abney reunite with Saskatchewan Rattlers'
NBA G League player, coach Harkless & Abney reunite with Saskatchewan Rattlers
WATCH: Competing together in the NBA G League with the Ontario Clippers, guard Elijah Harkless and coach Larry Abney have reunited in the CEBL for their first season together with the Saskatchewan Rattlers – Jun 3, 2024

Four games into the 2024 CEBL season, Elijah Harkless already has a contender for highlight of the year with a violent dunk in the dying seconds of the third quarter last Thursday against the Vancouver Bandits.

It was a play that the six-foot-three guard took as a challenge earlier in the week.

“Fareed [Shittu] our university guy has been telling me, ‘I ain’t never seen you dunk,'” said Harkless. “I told him that I would get a dunk today and it just happened to be in highlight fashion.”

Known for his ability to drive up the floor and hit tough rollers, the slam came as a surprise to several of his Saskatchewan Rattlers teammates, including fellow guard Jalen Harris.

“I’m not going to lie it caught me off guard,” said Harris. “I was crashing, he shot the one before like a floater and he missed it long, so I’m crashing thinking he was going to do the same thing. When he went up and dunked it, I was kind of speechless.”

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Thursday’s dunk marked a coming-out party for Harkless, who hit the game-winning three-pointer in target score time to give the Rattlers their third win of the CEBL season.

While his shooting has struggled with a touch of inconsistency, according to Rattlers head coach Larry Abney, Harkless has been counted on as a key member of the offence for a Saskatchewan team eager to return to the playoffs this summer.

“We talk about guys who play 40 minutes, I think he’s the head of the snake right there,” said Abney. “I don’t think there’s anyone in this league who can match his energy. That dunk at the end of the third quarter, that will be on replay for a while.”

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Rattlers showcasing early season resiliency with first two wins'
Saskatchewan Rattlers showcasing early season resiliency with first two wins

Known as E.J. around the Rattlers court, Harkless has become Saskatchewan’s go-to option at guard alongside Harris after joining the program from Ontario in the off-season.

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Ontario, California that is.

While the surroundings of a new city and country have required an adjustment for Harkless, he’s been able to have a familiar face along the journey in Abney.

The pair are coming off a season in the NBA G League with the Ontario Clippers, the minor league development club for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers.

“I feel very comfortable,” said Harkless. “He knows exactly what [Abney] is talking about, I know he puts work in each and every night. I know that dude doesn’t sleep and he wants to put Saskatchewan on top of the map, he wants to put them on top of the CEBL and just show all the hard work he puts in every single night. We’re happy to go out there and play for him.”

Through four games, Harkless sits first in minutes played for the Rattlers with over 140 minutes on the court and has averaged 18.8 points, eight rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

It’s his speed and deceptiveness that’s made the difference early in the year, according to his head coach, with Harkless being relied upon to move the ball up the court from his guard position.

“It’s part of the reason I brought him up here,” said Abney. “Even him being young, his growth and what he has in his future is going to be really, really, really good.”

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A third Ontario Clippers player in Bryson Williams is expected to join Saskatchewan later this summer, which would complete a trio of Rattlers alongside Harkless and Abney with baked in chemistry.

Watching Abney go from an assistant coach at the G League level to running his own bench has been an enjoyable experience according to Harkless as they chase Saskatchewan’s second CEBL title in franchise history.

“He’s more serious here because he’s in a head coaching role now,” said Harkless. “He’s not an assistant coach [like] back in America where he kind of got to be more personable to the players. He’s still personable, but he has to have a serious hat and he does a great job with it.”

As much as Harkless has learned from the partnership, Abney said it’s been beneficial from his end too getting to see the progress out of one of the Rattlers’ young and emerging stars.

“I promised all of them that they would leave here as better basketball players,” said Abney. “I just promised it to E.J. first because we were down there together. I said, ‘You come up here with me, I know where you want to get to, I know your goals, let me help you.’ In turn, he’s helping me as well.”

Suffering their first loss of the season on Sunday 93-77 to the Edmonton Stingers, the Rattlers will continue their three-game road trip on Wednesday night in Alberta against the Calgary Surge.


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