"I think when I came back from my injury (last year) I had a nice run, but towards the end I didn't play the way I wanted to play," said Anthony Harris, who averaged 9.5 points per game last year. "I think that made me better now because I understand that my play was probably a big reason why we didn't make the NCAA tournament. Me and understanding that and accepting that has made me a better player."
Players generally don't take responsibility the way Harris did as he felt it was his fault the team didn't make the tourney last year.
Having that feeling in the off-season was hard for Harris especially when all he wanted to do was play.
"It was hard, but I still had to be smart in the off-season and rest before my workouts because I was so anxious to get back on the floor, but I had to be smart," Harris said. "I didn't want to end up in the same situation I was in last year in February and March. I did the right thing and took a month off until I got good results back from my doctors, then I went back at it."
5O-POINT PERFORMANCE IN CHICAGOA summer back in his hometown of Chicago playing against in the Chicago Pro League against NBA players like Antoine Walker, Shawn Marion, and Luther Head, gave Harris even more confidence heading into his senior year.
But not only did Harris play in the CPL, he was the MVP and led his team to the championship.
"We played against guys that were stacked full of NBA players and our team didn't have any NBA players on it," Harris said.
In the semi-finals against the favorites, Antoine Walker's team which featured six NBA players, Harris lit them up for 50 points.
Harris created quite a buzz in the gym heading into the championship game the next day against Shawn Marion's squad featuring Bobby Simmons and Justin Williams.
The whole day before the game Marion told Harris he was going to guard him, shut him down, and that scoring those points was a fluke.
"I got butterflies, I am not going to lie," Harris said. "This is Shawn Marion, the all-star and on Team USA."
When the two played, Harris struggled at first against the 6-7 wing man, but got into a rhythm as the game went on. Harris scored 30 points in the second half and led his team to a victory.
"It built up my confidence and a lot of people got to see my talent and skills. With a lot of NBA players there, that attracted a lot of NBA scouts.
"I was always taught to play hard because you never know who is watching you."
WALKER AND MARIONWalker and Marion are NBA vets and they had words of encouragement for Harris.
"They would always tell me 'Why don't you play like that in college. Guys like Antoine Walker, Will Bynum, Luther Head, Tony Allen. They would always tell me that."
Harris still talks to Walker, who also grew up in Chicago and plays in Miami.
"He's a vet and you know how vets are," Harris said. "They do little things and are laid back. They want to say something, but they don't say anything. But 'Toine was good. He was always telling me to carry over how I play in the summer into the season and I'll be great...He is a great guy."
Marion and Harris had their times of trash talking as they went up against each other, but did say Marion had words of encouragement for him.
"(Marion) always had something positive to say like 'Nice game, keep working hard, keep doing what you're doing' so that was always good to hear," Harris recalled. "It's good to hear that from that caliber of a player because it takes a lot for a pro to say something good to a college or high school kid. A lot of times their pride wont let them especially if you do good against them. But you are a pro and we are trying to get where you are at. You should still try to help people younger than you."
THE SEASONHarris averaged 9.5 points and 3.1 assists last year, both were down from his breakout sophomore season when he averaged 12.4 points and 4.6 assists per game.
"I got a lot of things to prove," Harris said. "I feed off of negativity so right now I feel like when I came into my sophomore season.
Harris expects to have a big year for Miami, who is trying to make to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
"My expectations have not been this high since at the end of my freshman year and as you can see everyone was like 'woah'. I think I am three times better now than I was then."
Harris one of two seniors on the team and has accepted the role of being a leaders, but knows it's not just about being older.
"My leadership role will be the biggest it has ever been. It will be more than me being a senior that will be needed to carry this team. I need to be a leader with my play on the court."
With a productive season, Harris could become the 29th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark in a career.
"I am going into this season treating every game and every practice as it is my last."
Christopher Stock can be reached at email@example.com