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Harris makes family’s dreams come true

Luke Harris was Piedmont's leading scorer last season. Photo courtesy of Piedmont Basketball
Luke Harris was Piedmont's leading scorer last season. Photo courtesy of Piedmont Basketball

It was always a dream for the Harris family to watch the younger ones go off to college.

Luke Harris, a senior guard for the Piedmont boys basketball team, was raised in a family whose background breeds inspiration. His grandparents came from a highly impoverished area and worked as hard as they could for their children to go off to college and play basketball at that level.

Well, Luke Harris’ father accomplished that dream. He ended up at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

Today, Harris is committed to Carleton College – a Division III program in Minnesota that Harris pledged to last month.

“It’s always been their dream to have kids that played college basketball because my dad ended up playing college, and I think making them proud is definitely an important thing for me, so that’s definitely something that motivates me,” Harris said.

As soon as Harris stepped foot in the gym and tried out for the Piedmont basketball team, head coach Ben Spencer knew a special player was on his hands.

Spencer, then the JV coach before later becoming the head varsity coach, saw it within the first five minutes of those tryouts. Although he had watched him play in middle school in Piedmont, this tryout just showed it all.

So, they pulled him up to the JV program as a freshman, where Spencer recalls him scoring around 978 of their 1,223 points that season during a 14-16 season.

Harris was the star, and everyone knew it.

“He averaged 28 or 29 points a game as a freshman on JV, which is hard to do,” Spencer said. “So as a young freshman he was going against sophomores and juniors, and he was still putting up 30 points a game, so that’s kind of when I knew he was a special player. 

“Usually freshmen come in and they’re kind of immature when it comes to sports and athletics, and it takes seniors or a couple of years on varsity to sort of figure it out. Luke easily could have played varsity as a freshman, but we wanted to give some kids that he would be playing with for the next couple of years.”

What Harris has done for the Highlanders is unprecedented.

His sophomore year he was part of a 21-11 squad that advanced to both the North Coast Section Division IV semifinals and the Northern California Division IV regional semifinals. 

His junior year saw even more. Harris averaged a team-high 18.6 points per game on a roster that featured a talented crop of nine seniors – one of which included Luke Barrett, who is now a Division I college basketball player at St. Mary’s College. 

All of those efforts paid massive dividends in an incredible run for Piedmont that ended in the program’s first-ever North Coast Section crown.

“His impact has been unbelievable,” Spencer said. “It’s really been something that Piedmont has never seen before. He does training. When he works out with the kids, he’s one of those fan favorites where I teach in the elementary schools and a lot of my students and students in the elementary schools come to the games and are like, ‘We want to be like Luke Harris.’ They want to get jerseys of him, but he’s just one of those kids that people are attracted to because of how he plays the game.”

How Harris plays the game is unselfish. All he cares about is winning at the end of the day. 

Both offensively and defensively, he’s giving it his maximum effort every single possession.

“I’m trying to think of having coached him the last four years I’m trying to think of a possession or a time or a game where he took a play off, and I can’t honestly think of a single possession where he did that,” Harris said. “He’s been sick before where he’s almost had like flu like symptoms for two or three days and he makes sure he gets the rest and gets back out there for BIshop O’Dowd and scores 19 points.”

But Harris has also more than made significant strides off the court and as a leader.

As a sophomore, Spencer said Harris was more of a quiet athlete who was focused on working hard and winning. His junior year was different, developing into a leader alongside the older seniors for the NCS champions.

“A lot of times seniors take control and those are guys that the team listens to or responds to, but Luke last year as a junior with nine seniors sort of stepped into that role midway through the season when Barrett got injured and missed a few games people sort of looked to Luke as leading that team, so he sort of stepped into that role last year as a leader,” Spencer said. “And off the court he’s always just been a great kid, works hard and it has translated over to the basketball program.”

Regardless of all of the success, Harris is always striving for more, though.

“I think you have to take it with a grain of salt and not become complacent or content with any success that you have,” Harris. “You have to enjoy it but also you have to set another goal for yourself, whether it be something incremental, but you always have to strive for something more than you’re able to accomplish right now. I think that’s a good way to compound your success.”

And maybe Harris caps off a historic high school basketball career with some more trophies.

Maybe another NCS trophy is on the horizon. And maybe a state championship trophy is on the horizon.

“I think the ultimate goal is to reclaim that NCS championship and/or get a state championship this year,” Harris said. “I think that’s definitely an obtainable goal for us even if we were in a higher division. I think that’s our main goal, and as far as individual goals I would say becoming more of a leader and floor general would be one of the biggest things for me and practicing leading a team and controlling the tempo moreso this year.”

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