After spending the summer upgrading his game, Alex Harris is now making a few changes to the Gaucho record books.
With two games left before the Big West Tournament, Harris finds himself with 1,000 career points, making him the 21st Gaucho to hit that mark. Only three players in school history have scored more points in a season than Harris’s 543, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. Even with the individual accomplishments piling up, the junior guard has kept his focus on one goal: bringing a Big West Championship back to Santa Barbara.
“I really haven’t even followed the records,” Harris said. “It’s kind of a surprise to reach this point. It’s definitely a huge honor, but right now I’m only thinking about what the team needs to do. We definitely want to hang another championship banner [at the Thunderdome].”
Harris averaged 7.4 points per game as a freshman and 8.3 as a sophomore, but he has flourished this season after relinquishing the point guard duties. Now playing off the ball, Harris is averaging 20.8 points per game, good for first in the Big West and 14th in the country.
“I’ve always been more of a natural scorer, so it’s a lot easier for me to grasp the off guard position than the point guard,” Harris said. “As a point guard you’re really a pass first, shoot second player. That’s the role I had and I accepted it and enjoyed it, but I think I’m able to help the team more as a scorer.”
The Alameda, Calif.,-native wasted no time in adjusting to his new role as the Gauchos go-to scorer, hitting the 20 point mark in each of the season’s first seven games. While he is unlikely to reach Raymond Tutt’s 1997 school record of 649 points, he has made himself a serious threat to challenge Carrick DeHart’s career scoring record of 1,687 points.
The improvement is the result of more than just a change in position, as Harris worked throughout the summer to improve his scoring skills and conditioning. While most of his classmates were enjoying their summer breaks, Harris woke up every morning to run and lift weights at 6:30. In addition to hours of shooting and dribbling drills, Harris would run the bleachers at Cal’s football stadium twice a week before running up a three-mile trail behind the stadium. The hard work started to produce immediate results, as Harris began excelling in San Francisco Pro-Am summer league games – a league that is home to the likes of Golden State Warrior guard Jason Richardson.
“I had a game [in the Pro-Am] where I scored about 30 points and a lot of people were coming up and telling me how much better I looked than in high school and college games,” Harris said. “Little kids were coming up and trying to shake my hand and it was a really good feeling, but at the same time I couldn’t let it get into my head at all because I hadn’t really proven myself on the college stage. I was really anxious to get back to Santa Barbara and show off my game.”
With opposing coaches and scouts starting to take notice, Harris is hoping that all the hard work can help him fulfill a childhood dream of playing in the NBA. Luckily for Gaucho fans, that dream will probably have to wait until next year. The business economics major has always taken academics seriously, as evidenced by his CIF North Coast Section Scholar Athlete of the Year award from high school. Believe it or not, there was a time when college coaches didn’t pay much attention to Harris, which led him to focus on academics so he could attend an Ivy League school if basketball didn’t pan out. After being homesick early on in his career, Harris has fully embraced all that Santa Barbara has to offer, as evidenced by his constant sightings at other UCSB sporting events. The NBA remains the ultimate goal, but Harris maintains that he has a lot to accomplish and work on before making that leap.
For now, Harris is content with enjoying the spoils of life in Santa Barbara, while at the same time trying to lead the Gauchos back to the NCAA Tournament. And whether he knows it or not, he is quickly becoming one of the best players ever to put on a Gaucho uniform.