Friday, March 27, 2009

Catching Up with Alex Harris

Alex Harris finished his UCSB basketball career as the Gauchos' all-time scoring leader with 1,696 points. He was chosen as the 2008 co-Big West Conference Player of the Year and played in the 2008 National Association of Basketball Coaches All-Star game, an event for elite seniors. The Alameda, CA native from Notre Dame St. Joseph High School is now playing pro basketball in Poland.

The following is a brief conversation with former Gaucho Alex Harris.

GauchoHoops: Who/What convinced you to come to UCSB?

Alex Harris: Brian Shaw. When I met with Brian at his home in Oakland he explained his ideas about playing professionally and about picking a college that ultimately is the right institution academically and athletically. After taking my visit to UCSB I knew that it was that place for me.

GH: Describe your transformation from an incoming freshman into a graduating senior?

AH: From freshman year to senior year I like to think I matured from a boy into a man. Not only on the court but off the court as well. I realized that basketball was becoming more of a profession than just a passion or hobby. So I began to treat the game with the seriousness that people give to their professional careers.

GH: Who do you play for and how is the season going?

edit: Alex plays for PGE Turow in Poland.

GH: What are the differences between the US college game and the Euro pro leagues?

AH: In Europe there is less of an emphasis on athleticism and one on one play. The European style, for the most part, is to run more sets, play more patiently and in a sense out think your opponents. In college there was much more "run and gun", more pressing or trapping defenses and more one on one play in general.

GH: What are your biggest challenges with playing in Poland?

AH: The biggest challenge about playing in Poland is everything being brand new. In college I spent four years playing for the same coach, in the same league, against the same competition and for the most part with the same teammates. In Poland, every coach, city, gym, player, referee and atmosphere is completely new to me and I never know quite what to expect. I am simply learning as I go. So, really I guess the biggest challenge is just being a rookie or "freshman" all over again."

GH: What do you enjoy most about playing in Poland?

AH: I enjoy playing in front of our fans. They have the same type of passion as the Gaucho Locos. They beat drums and scream and stand up the whole game. And off the court they mob us for autographs and to explain how much they love the team. Its a lot of fun to play for them.

GH: What do you miss most living away from the States?

AH: Soul food, Freebirds, D.P., my family, Freebirds, Panda Express, Strawberry milkshakes, Cookies n cream ice cream, Alameda and Freebirds. edit: we can surmise Alex likes Freebirds. :-)

GH: Who do you still stay in touch with?

AH: I still stay in touch with my teammates from UCSB. Mostly via facebook. I also talk with Ivan Elliott and Nedim Pajevic quite often via Skype.

GH: What are your favorite moments about being a Gaucho?

AH: Road trips with the team. We always had fun. Our trip to Ole Miss for the N.I.T.

GH: What did you learn as a student/athlete while playing for UCSB and how did it prepare you for life after college?

AH: I learned how to compete. I gained a serious work ethic when it comes to achieving a goal. Mostly I learned how to handle both success and disappointment, and in life there will always be good and bad times. I think I'm prepared to deal with both.

GH: What are your future plans?

AH: I want to travel a lot. This summer hopefully I will go to Spain, Brazil and Jamaica. I want to open up a restaraunt/bar on State Street. I want to start my own summer basketball camps as well as intensive individual training for young athletes who want to play professional basketball. I want to get into venture capitalism with one of my good friends from UCSB. I want to start a charity as well as a book club because for most kids and young adults, especially from urban communities, it is no longer "cool" to be intelligent. I want to change that ridiculous perspective. I want to learn French and master my Spanish. I'm blessed to have the opportunity to try a lot of different things in the near future.

GH: Any last thoughts you can offer to Gaucho fans?

AH: I just want to tell all of the coaches and professors who worked with me at UCSB that they will always hold a special place in my heart because they really had a big impact on my life. To the fans, hopefully they already know how much I love them. They really made me want to give everything I had on the court in order to bring them a win. If people really want to keep in touch with me they can get all of my contact info on facebook or maybe we will put together an official blog or page with updates. Thanks always for your support! Al

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