A year ago, as he wrapped up a remarkable junior season, Alex Harris stood on the Thunderdome floor after practice and responded to a question about the possibility that he would break the school’s scoring record by reiterating that the only thing he cared about was hanging a Big West Championship banner from the arena’s ceiling.
Harris never got that championship, but with a 20-point performance against Mississippi in UCSB’s 83-68 loss in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Mar. 19, the senior passed former Gaucho Carrick DeHart as the all-time leading scorer in program history.
“The record really wasn’t on my mind until people kept asking so much about it,” Harris said. “I kind of wish they hadn’t, but I am glad that I got it. I think Carrick was excited about it the last time I spoke to him about it.”
With UCSB leading 29-28 with 4:58 remaining in the first half, Harris stepped to the foul line and made both shots to give UCSB a three-point lead. The first free throw allowed the Big West co-Player of the Year to tie DeHart’s 17-year-old record of 1,687 career points, while the second moved him into sole possession of first place. While Harris has earned a reputation as one of the best three-point shooters on the West Coast, it was only appropriate that he broke the record at the charity stripe, where he holds school records for career free throws made and attempted.
After leading the Gauchos to a share of the Big West regular-season title, Harris joined Cal State Fullerton’s Scott Cutley as conference player of the year, in addition to being named First Team All-Big West for the second-consecutive season. The postseason awards were just two of the many accolades and accomplishments that the Alameda native racked up during his UCSB career. His 21.1 points per game as a junior were good enough for the Big West scoring title, and while his average dropped to 20.2 this season, he still finished second in the conference and was named Second Team All-District by the National Association of Basketball Coaches for the second time.
While he’s crossed the 30-point mark on occasion – including a career-high 35 last year against Cal State Fullerton – Harris has spent the majority of the last two seasons displaying remarkable scoring consistency. Dating back to the 2006-07 season, he scored double-digit points in the final 38 games of his career, and he scored 13 or more points in all 31 of his appearances this season. After combining with junior forward Chris Devine to set a school record for most points by a Gaucho duo last season (1,019), Harris teamed up with sophomore guard James Powell this season to tie that record, making him the key cog in the two most potent scoring combinations in program history. With 627 points this season, Harris now holds the third- and fourth-highest single-season scoring totals in school history, and the 6’6″ guard is now the only Gaucho to score 600 points twice in his career, quite a feat considering no one else has even reached the 500-point mark twice.
“I think it’s about time. Alex is a great athlete, and records are made to be broken and he represents Gaucho basketball to the fullest,” DeHart said. “He holds the Gaucho name well, and he typifies what being a Gaucho is about. If he was a bad guy, then maybe I would have a different feeling, but he fits in with Brian Shaw and Eric McArthur, and maybe you can throw myself in there, who all had a great affinity for the school and tried to represent it to the highest level.”
After DeHart’s record lasted over two decades, Harris’ reign as record holder may only last a year or two, as the two players behind him on the 2007-08 scoring list are both poised to make runs at the new standard of 1,696 career points. Devine has never put up the gaudy single-season numbers of DeHart or Harris, but his consistent output over his first three seasons has him in position to climb the scoring charts as a senior. After averaging 12.3 points per game this season, Devine now sits at 1,143 for his career, a figure that puts him just outside the all-time top 10 and 553 points short of the record. If he were to stay completely healthy next season, Devine would have to average about 18 points per game to reach Harris, making him a long shot to break the record but a virtual certainty to graduate as one of the schools top-five leading scorers. Harris and Devine were two of the three Gauchos to finish in double-digits in scoring this season, and, ironically, it’s the youngest member of the trio who has the best chance at becoming the first Gaucho to reach 1,700 career points. A few weeks before reaching DeHart’s mark, Harris foreshadowed a short reign as scoring champ.
“I don’t even know why people are so excited about the scoring record, because James is just going to break it when he’s done anyway, so it’s really not a big deal,” Harris said.
With 256 points as a freshman and 392 as a sophomore, Powell is 190 points ahead of Harris’ pace after two seasons. Regarded for his quick release and accuracy from long range, Powell finished 79-of-169 on three-pointers this season. The 79 makes is the second-highest single-season total in UCSB history, and the .467 three-point field goal percentage broke Raymond Tutt’s 1997 school record of .466 by the slimmest of margins. Never afraid to take – or make – a big shot, Powell is already 10th on the school’s all-time three- pointer list with 117 career threes, giving him an excellent chance at shattering the school record of 217 career three-pointers. Powell hasn’t missed a game in his UCSB career, and if he can keep that pace up, he’ll need to average about 17 points per game over two seasons to break the record.
“To be honest, he’s told me that in the past, but he’s scored 20 [points per game] the last two seasons, which is really hard to do,” Powell said. “It’s going to be fun, and I can see myself being that scorer, but I’m not the only one next year. We’ve got a bunch of guys coming back who can take on the scoring load.”
Considering that Harris was the first Gaucho since 1999 to average over 17 points per game, the odds are against Powell, but after increasing his scoring average by almost four points per game between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he has shown that he’s capable of making the leap to the next level and giving the new record holder a run for his money.