By Mary Jantsch
Class of 2013
SPOKANE, Wash. — My shoes squeaked on the McCarthey Athletic Center’s multipaneled gym floor, and I looked into the arena to see a single figure in the stands. I may have zero hand-eye coordination and still don’t quite understand what it means to pivot, but I’m a Zags’ fan and know Gonzaga sophomore basketball star Elias Harris when I see him. Elias, from Speyer, Germany, and I both were freshmen last year, when he became a Gonzaga basketball star and I, well, played club volleyball.
So maybe he didn’t exactly know me, and maybe he showed up because I’d asked for an interview and he had to be there, but after 10 quick minutes and a few “Space Jam” jokes, I left the interview an Elias Harris fan – both on and off the court.
Fans rave about Harris’ amazing talent and basketball wizardry, but I discovered his commitment to the game comes from an intense love and passion for basketball, a love so intense words cannot describe.
“When I think about basketball, there’s just like some feeling inside of me and it makes me, you know, happy,” Harris paused, looking into the distance. He shook his head, smiled and continued, “I want to go get started, I don’t know, I think I had that feeling at an early age. Basketball just makes me happy.”
While some prognosticators voiced surprise with Harris’ decision to return to Gonzaga after a defining freshman year and a summer on the German national team, he told me the decision was quite simple.
“Well, first of all I really like the place here, the people that go here and the way they treat you,” Harris said. “You know, it’s tough to not come back. The second thing is, I feel like I can improve upon my basketball game, get better.”
Others may define Harris by his love for basketball but he is not defined by his role wearing number 20 in a Gonzaga uniform. I have always looked up to Harris, after all, he is at least a full foot taller, and imagined this star of Gonzaga’s No. 11-ranked team basketball team would have good reason to have his head in the clouds. But when we sat down to talk, it was as though I was talking with any other Gonzaga student.
Harris’ sincerity shined through as he shared with me his plans for when he is no longer running the court.
“After my basketball career, I want to work together with kids,” Harris said. “Go back to my hometown, probably, start over a new basketball program there; right now it’s really not how it used to be. I want to go back and change things there, and show people in my hometown how cool basketball actually is.”
As the interview ended and we exchanged goodbyes, I walked across the gym floor still mystified about pivoting. But I had gained a new appreciation for the intensity of Harris’ passion for hoops. Basketball makes Harris happy, and Gonzaga fans could not be more thrilled.