Near the top of last season’s NCAA men’s basketball scoring leaders lies a familiar name to Gaucho fans. Somewhere between NBA-bound stars Kevin Durant at 25.6 points per game, and Greg Oden at 15.7 ppg, sits UCSB’s own Alex Harris, the 11th leading scorer in the country.

Harris finished the year with a conference-best scoring average of 21.1 points per game, the third highest single-season average in school history. The junior guard opened the season with seven consecutive 20-point performances, and as the season rolled on, it became apparent that the hot start was no fluke. In fact, Harris may have gotten better as the season went along. As defenses keyed on a new and improved Harris, he raised his game to another level, averaging 26 points per in the Gauchos’ final six games. The run included a 35-point performance against Cal State Fullerton that was the highest scoring output by a Gaucho in 10 years.

“At the end there was a bit more sense of urgency to his game and he got very hot from the three-point line,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He was going three-for-five and four-for-five [on threes] which is virtually unheard of. He played pretty well down the stretch, but with the exception of one short period of three or four games where he kind of struggled, he was amazingly consistent all year long.”

After moving away from the point guard position that he primarily played in his first two seasons as a Gaucho, Harris has flourished, and he is currently on pace to rewrite a good portion of the program’s record book. He already holds the school record for highest single-season scoring jump, and with even a small bump in production, Harris would likely leave Santa Barbara with the school records for most points in a season and a career. Despite the gaudy numbers though, those close to Harris know that the only thing he cares about is hanging a Big West Championship banner at the Thunderdome.

“I think its awesome to have all the records, but the record that he wants to attach to his name is leading us to a league championship,” Williams said. “The record that he wants to accomplish with his play is leading us to the NCAAs.”

The increase in production is partly because of his change of position, but the majority of the credit goes to Harris himself for the hard work he put in over the summer. The Alameda, Calif., native spent his summer break waking up at 6:30 a.m. to run and lift weights. After hours of shooting and dribbling drills, Harris would run the bleachers at Cal’s football stadium before attacking a three-mile trail in the Berkeley hills. Harris honed his new skills at nights by playing in the San Francisco Bay Area Pro-Am summer league, which plays host to a number of NBA players.

“I don’t think it was that he worked any harder last summer than any other summer, it was just a residue of all that hard work,” Williams said. “He’s gotten better and better every year and obviously his confidence last year was at a very high level. I’m really proud of the progress he’s made and I admire how hard he’s worked at his game.”

While the past year saw several NBA scouts and general managers – including Hall of Famer Jerry West – venture out to Santa Barbara to watch Harris play, you can be sure that the attention will only increase as Harris plays out his UCSB career. Luckily for Gaucho fans, as well as professional talent evaluators, Harris is already hard at work improving his game for his senior season.

“He’s really working right now to take his game to the next level, physically with his body, and with his approach to his game with when and where to shoot and how to get other people shots,” Williams said. “If he [improves like this year] he’s at about 35 [points] a game so we’re not anticipating his improvement to come in the scoring average but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his assist and rebounding totals go up and I think he’s going to be a much more effective defender.”

As the records pile up, Harris can now focus on bringing a Big West Championship to a school that hasn’t won a conference title since 2003. With the majority of its talent returning, the Gauchos look like early favorites to win the conference next season and reach the NCAA Tournament. No one knows what the future holds, but if Harris can lead his team to a March Madness berth, his next stop will likely be the NBA, where he will once again find himself amongst the Odens and Durants of the world.