Denver Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris sat in the second row of the bleachers a couple of Fridays ago at Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin watching intently and reacting to plays.
Team Harris, the AAU squad he sponsors, dropped a heartbreaker to Dream Vision in a game with at least eight high major Division I prospects on the floor at the NY2LA Sports Summer Jam. And after the game he was buzzing like all the other onlookers in the gym.
“That’s fun, especially games like that,” Harris said. “Win or lose, it’s fun to see both teams competing.”
Now in its third year in existence, the Indiana-based Team Harris program touts a pair of high-major Class of 2018 studs in Aaron Henry (6-6, SG, Ben Davis HS) and Eric Hunter (6-2, PG, Charles A Tindley Accelerated HS). Of the 10 players on the squad, only two attend the same high school.
Though he’s only 22, Harris already has two years at Michigan State and three years in the League under his belt. So the nostalgia hit him like a ton of bricks in Milwaukee.
“I remember this tournament,” said Harris of the Summer Jam. “It was fun. AAU was so fun. A lot of us guys in the NBA now still miss AAU, especially the friends with played with and the times we had.”
While traveling the country and playing basketball with peers he normally didn’t get to chill or play with during the school year was a big part of his experience, he said the inspiration to start his own club team was simple. Harris also offers advice about the process whenever it is needed.
“The goal is always to get college scholarships,” Harris says. “It starts at a young age, going into your freshman year of high school and then it just gets more serious as you progress.
“At the end of the day it’s all about getting a free education,” he continues. “A lot of the rankings don’t matter once you get to college. All that goes out the window. There are guys who were ranked high who don’t make it [to the NBA], and there’s guys who weren’t ranked who end up in the NBA. So I try to tell them it’s about getting a free education, then once you get there – working and making the most of it.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for Harris from his days on the AAU circuit is trying to prove something when he’s on the court. He figures to be a key member of the Nuggets backcourt for this season, when they will try to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. With anticipation of the Western Conference being as strong as ever, Harris says Denver is chomping at the bit to see how it stacks up.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to training camp to get back to working,” said Harris, who had career best averages of 15 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field a season ago. “The West will be tough but we’ll be ready for the challenge. We know we’re a good team so it’s about us going out there and proving it.”