Hamilton Southeastern High School’s Gary Harris, the fourth student-athlete to represent Hamilton County as the recipient of Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award, the state’s highest individual basketball honor, is believed to be the youngest ever to don that No. 1 jersey.
He’s only 17 years old. And he’s already an All-American.
“Yeah, I was really surprised when he told me how young he was. I can’t imagine anyone who was any younger than he is,’’ said Charlie Hall, Game Director for the Indiana All-Stars.
But age aside, wow . . . what a talent. What a force at both ends of the floor. What a warrior.
The 6-foot-5 Harris is younger than 6-7 Zak Irwin, the school’s other basketball superstar who could — and arguably — should be the front-runner for Mr. Basketball in 2013.
Make that 8 days younger than Irwin, a Michigan recruit who averaged 17-plus points this past season. Gary’s birthday is in September. He will turn 18 as he starts his collegiate career at Michigan State in East Lansing.
“Yes, Gary is young for his grade. When he started school, we lived in Nashville, Tenn. The cutoff there was you had to be 5 by the end of September. His birthday is September 14 (1994). So he was 4 years old when he started school,’’ said his mother, Joy (Holmes) Harris, a first-team Kodak All-American when she played basketball at Purdue. “We moved to Fishers when he was going into the 2nd grade. We briefly thought about having him repeat the 1st grade again here in Indiana, but his Tennessee teacher was highly against it because he was doing so well academically.”
Then she said with a chuckle: “Then of course . . . there were thoughts of holding him back (on my part only) just before senior night this year.”
Harris, who is a McDonald’s All-American, and the Indiana Gatorade High School Player of the Year for the 2011-12 season, ranked No. 11 nationally by Scout.com in the 2012 class. He also was a member of the USA Junior Select Team that recently played the World Team in Portland, Oregon.
He ended his high school career as Southeastern’s all-time scoring leader. He scored 612 points (25.4 points per game) this past season, finishing with 1,552 career points. That total puts him No. 7 on the all-time County scoring list.
When reflecting back on Harris, coach Brian Satterfield touched on the age factor . . . “Just imagine if we had him back next year . . .’’
Yeah, one can only imagine how good Southeastern would be if Harris was back in those Royals colors, alongside Irwin.
The Royals were pretty good this past season, winning a school record 22 games, and they ranked No. 1 in the final Class 4A state polls, before falling to eventual Class 4A state champion Carmel in the sectional final.
Satterfield, who marveled over his star’s unselfishness and his team-first approach, will certainly miss the presence of Gary Harris as the extraordinary athlete he is, and more importantly as the way he undoubtedly developed as a person through his high school years.
So will the younger kids who’ve been seen constantly seeking autographs from their “rock star’’ after basketball games.
There have been many Gary Harris moments throughout his career in both football and basketball.
But some of his best moments stemmed from the way he mingled with the HSE youth and others in the Fishers community.
After one game in particular, the 2011 sectional champion game at The Mill in Noblesville, a youngster asked if he could have Harris’ shoes. Harris just looked down and smiled, as he autographed a score sheet.
After the Fishers game, a fierce rivalry where both teams left it all on the floor, in a game HSE won by 3 points, two young boys waited in line to get Gary’s autograph.
They were wearing “Red” Fishers Tigers shirts.
That says a lot about the impression Gary Harris left on so many kids. So maybe he is a “rock star” — and his music is dribbling basketballs.
Harris was asked by a media member how many autographs he had signed. “Oh, I don’t know, a few, I guess,” he said, smiling while coming across as being a little bashful.
“You’ve been out here signing autographs for quite a while now, don’t you get tired?” he was asked.
“Nah,” he said. “. . . It’s fun. I like talking to the kids . . . I really do. We’re having a good time.”
His mother, for one, isn’t surprised about the way he is with young kids.
“When Gary attended daycare in Nashville, the (NFL) Titans practice facility was directly behind the playground. The Titan players would come up to the fence and give the kids footballs, wrist bands and talk to the kids.” she said. “Gary loved every moment of it. Those football players would make those kids day anytime they came up to that fence. Gary is still a diehard Titans fan to this day. I think he remembers how that made him feel and the impact it had, so that’s why I think it’s so easy for him to embrace the kids and take time out for them.”
Her son is humble, soft-spoken, respects adults, loves his teammates, and obviously relates well to kids.
That’s Gary Harris, a mild-mannered Superman on the football field and on the basketball court, where he was first-team all-state in both sports, and a giant in the hearts of those who know him best. If he doesn’t take Michigan State by storm, it won’t be from lack of trying.
But experiencing his gentle side, and how he conducted himself with the kids was really cool, something special. It was extremely extraordinary for someone so young. He genuinely enjoyed taking time for them all.
But hey, what would you expect? He’s pretty much still just a kid himself.
Mark Morrow owns and operates Hamilton County Sports Daily (www.hcsportsdaily.com), the only all-sports website in Hamilton County.