Harris Jr. career ends early following injury

Men's basketball traveled to Kansas City to take on MidAmerica Nazarene. Photo by Randy Speer
Randy Speer, The Circuit

The injury bug has plagued the men’s basketball team this year, but none have been as big as its most recent injury.

The team’s leading scorer, two time All-Conference selection and de facto face of the program, senior John Harris will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a left shin stress fracture – effectively ending career of the stellar point guard.

He is unable to apply for a medical redshirt or a hardship redshirt. NAIA rules state that a player cannot compete in more than five games in order to apply.

Senior John Harris Jr., the men's basketball leading scorer, suffered a season ending injury. Photo by Randy Speer.
Senior John Harris Jr., the men’s basketball leading scorer, suffered a season ending injury. Photo by Randy Speer.

Harris had been dealing with the injury since late December, using pre-game ibuprofen and a leg guard to limit the pain.

“I had been avoiding talking to (head coach Ryan) Moody, but he had me see a doctor about it,” Harris said.

Harris had X-rays taken on his shin and they came back on Monday Feb. 8 worse than expected, with the doctors advising him not to play on it or risk further injury.

Harris said at first the news of the injury didn’t get to him. It wasn’t until he told his roommates and teammates juniors C.J. Vallejo, Vequan Clark and Jake Schannuth that the news finally sunk in.

“They thought I was joking at first when I told them I was out for the year,” Harris said.

After he assured them that he was in fact finished, the reality of the situation sank in.

“I broke down a little bit after that.”

Teammate and junior Connor Fleming related with Harris when he heard about the news as Fleming dealt with a similar injury in high school.

“I was shocked,” Fleming said. “I went into the locker room and went right to my locker and didn’t look around. We had a film session and when I got up I saw John in a boot with his head down. I knew the day before he had went to the doctors.”

Harris was known for his stellar individual play, but also for making his teammates better.

“John is the hardest worker and obviously our best player,” Fleming said. “John pushes us to be a better person and a better player.”

Fleming recalled one scrimmage where Harris pushed him to the limit.

“I got big headed and I challenged John. And he was like ‘alright you wanna play.’ He gave it to me. He scored four buckets on me and I had maybe one. Afterwards he thanked me for pushing him, but he made me a better player and I knew how much I had to work to be half the player he is.”

During Harris’ time at Benedictine, he started all but eight games of the possible 118. He averaged 11.3 points per game over his four years and finished with 1,282 points, placing him 17th all time.

The numbers only tell half the story of Harris’ career. He helped orchestrate the Benedictine’s offense during the historic 2013-14 season that saw Benedictine earn the Heart of America regular season title and a berth to the national tournament – the first time in 50 years. He played a piviotal role in the team’ return trip to the National Tournament the following year.

“John is irreplaceable. We don’t have another player like John, I don’t think there is a player like John in our league,” Fleming said. “Talent, work ethic, every you want in a basketball player he has. You don’t replace him.”

The Ravens also placed second in the conference tournament in both 2014 and 2015 in part because of Harris.

“In the time I’ve been here, only us and Evangel have won the conference championship, so I’d have to say that was one of my best memories,” Harris said.

The 6-foot-2 point guard, while known for being the engine of the Ravens offense, was also known to throw down some of the hardest dunks in the Heart. His most memorable may have been one that didn’t count in the scorers› book, though.

In the 2015 national tournament, Harris drove the lane against Montana Western and leapt from just inside of the free thrown line into the awaiting face of a Bulldog defender before slamming down the dunk. The pro-Raven crowd erupted, but the play was whistled off, with Harris picking up a charge.

That was just one of the many highlight reel dunks and plays that Harris amassed during his career.

“I don’t think people understand how hard it is, what he does,” Fleming said.

Harris was tasked with running the offense while being matched up with the other team’s best defender night in and night out Fleming said.

Now, Harris will turn his attention to being the best teammate he can be, albeit now from the bench.

“It’s definitely different,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to help guys, telling them what I see and what I’ve seen in games.”

The support from campus and teammates has been great Harris said and he acknowledged that there is life after basketball.

“Its not like I’m dying,” Harris said. “I still go to class, joke with my roommates. I just can’t play basketball anymore.”