"Center Court" with PG Gabriel Harris (#23)

The Bootleg's Kevin Danna provides us a chance to get to know our intriguing new freshman point guard from Alabama, Gabe Harris. Harris has already logged some limited minutes in several games this season, helping add critical depth to the key PG position. Note: Your Editor apologizes for the delay in getting this piece published. We got a little swamped with football activity in recent weeks!

"Center Court" with Gabriel Harris (#23)

The official start of the basketball season is now well-underway for the Stanford Cardinal, and freshman guard Gabriel Harris has been spending time in the lab, meticulously studying the collegiate game in addition to working hard at practice to prepare himself for this, his inaugural campaign at the NCAA Division-I level.  A few weeks back [early November], The Bootleg had a chance to talk with this "basketball scientist" from Birmingham, Alabama to get his thoughts on his basketball influences, his individual game, and how exactly he is getting ready for the 2009-2010 season.  Below is the official transcript from the interview.

The Bootleg: Gabe, during your recruitment last year as a senior in high school, what stood out about Stanford over the other schools you were considering?

Gabriel Harris: Well Coach Dawkins was a huge factor.  But what was also important was the fact that at Stanford, I didn't have to "pick" between athletics and academics.

TB: You've only been on The Farm for about six weeks - how has it been so far living on the West Coast, and what are some of your favorite things about life at Stanford?

GH: It's totally different from the South - the South is much more traditional, whereas the West is more laid-back.  You can really find your way out here more.  Back home, you're kind of pushed into different categories; here, everybody is more free.  Here, everything is more laid-back and more comfortable.

TB: I understand that you have midterms in your Chemistry class like every other week - how much of an adjustment has it been academics-wise from high school to college?

GH: Really, just chemistry.  Chemistry is just tough - everything else is all right.  But with Chemistry, the big transition is that it's a lot of work and not a lot of class time.  So you really just have to manage your time - it's really more of a time management transition than anything else.

TB: Coach Dawkins has called you a "solid, versatile guard who can do anything on the court".  So could you describe your skill-set in a little more detail and highlight some of your strengths?

GH: I haven't really thought about it much… I pride myself on not being "one-dimensional".  I'd rather be able to do everything than just have one big strength, but my strong points would include my mid-range (shot). I shoot well when I get in the mid-range zones. I'm a playmaker - I like making plays, whether it's my scoring or my being able to set up my teammates for buckets. I'm not selfish at all.

TB: Whom are some players that you have tried to model your game after over the years?

GH: Oh, that's easy - Deron Williams is my favorite point guard. He's a big PG, which is what I kind of am.  So him, and (thinking), probably Derrick Rose just because of how tough he is, and Dwayne Wade - just the way he is always attacking.  So Williams, Rose, and Wade are my biggest influences.

TB: Back in Alabama, you attended the same high school as Cornell's senior point guard Louis Dale.  How much of an influence was he on you during your freshman year in high school, and have you keep in touch with him after he went away to the Big Red?

GH: Yeah, we keep in touch now.  He texts me and checks up on me, and I text him and check up on him.  We're both real busy so we don't get a lot of time to talk.  This is probably the first year that I won't be able to play with him at Christmas - he would always come home and Christmas Eve we would play and also over the summer.  He mentored me a lot during my freshman year - because it was like this year, when everything is so new.  I was a new student at Altamont, so he really helped me a lot.

TB: Is there a guy, or couple of guys, on the team that you look up to for guidance, anyone who has sort of become your mentor?

GH: Well, the captain Landry Fields helps me a lot, and so does Jarrett Mann.  Jarrett and I talk a lot on and off the floor.  Drew Shiller has also been very helpful.  He's been around for so long - he really knows the system well.  He and Landry are kind of the "older" figures on the team and I'm the youngest, so they have really helped me a lot.

TB: In your short time on the team, what are some things that you like about the squad that will help you all be successful this season?

GH: Everybody strives to get better and everybody has a good attitude - to get better.  So, I don't think we can go anywhere but up. Everyone just has a positive attitude.

TB: Over the summer, what did you do to help get yourself ready for your first season of collegiate basketball?

GH: Weight training.  I'm naturally kind of "built", but this summer really helped as far as getting my physique beefed up.  I shot a lot of jumpers this summer, and I'm still shooting a lot of jumpers now, but this summer I really got a lot of repetition in.  And I also watched a lot of game tape. I'm still watching game tape just to see what I'm really getting into and try to be as comfortable as I can, because I know I'm going to be nervous anyway. But if I can get some of the unknowns out of my head, I think I will just do better.

TB: I know when you came for a visit last April that you got a chance to play with the guys in some pick-up games, and I'm sure you had seen some college practices in the past.  How much did these factors help you get ready for your first individual workouts and practices, or was it just a completely different animal once you stepped on the court for some formal instruction for the first time?

GH: Oh, it was completely different.  Playing pick-up and having a real college workout; a full, all-out collegiate practice is a totally different beast. 

TB: What has been the biggest adjustment you had to make during those first couple weeks of team practices?

GH: My conditioning - conditioning was rough, and transitioning to the next play has also been an adjustment for me.  You can't think about one play too long because the game is much faster than high school, so you have to kind of bounce back up.  When you make a mistake, you have to get back and roll with the punches.

TB: It's been quite a while since anyone at Stanford has worn #23.  What attracts you to the number - is it because of the greats who have worn the number before, or is there another meaning for you?

GH: I've been wearing "23" for as long as I can remember, but "23" is just a number of excellence.  Jordan wore it.  " 23" is always the number of the target on the good team; it's just a perfect number.  " 23" makes you strive to be your best.  You can't be any better than "23".

TB: Your first collegiate basketball game is in a few days [please remember, this was early November] - I know you're eager for the season to officially get rolling, but do you have any "anxiousness" heading into the opening tip on Friday?

GH: Oh yeah, of course.  But I think as soon as I touch the floor, I'll be ok.  I'll be nervous Friday morning and Friday afternoon, but as soon as the ball goes up and I get my first sweat and first touch of the ball, I'll be ok.

TB: Thanks a bunch for your time, Gabe, and we'll talk soon.

GH: All right, no problem.

About the Author: Kevin "Kevo" Danna, Stanford '09, started out as a student manager-in-training for the Men's Basketball Team on October 14, 2005, and has lived and breathed Stanford Basketball ever since. From doing laundry to filming practice to working summer camps, he has been involved with many facets of the Men's Basketball program.  Upon retirement from his manager position on March 25, 2009 at the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Kevin took an undeservedly prolonged break from any kind of work and eventually got his degree from The Farm in Spanish.  Shaking off the cobwebs of five months of laziness, Kevin has started working as a play-by-play and color broadcaster for gostanford.com, calling home contests (in English) for several Stanford sports.  He also hosts a sports talk show on 90.1 FM KZSU from 9-10pm every Tuesday entitled "The Sports Zoo", as well as a music show called "408's Finest" immediately following sports talk from 10pm-Midnight.  An alumnus of San Jose's Bellarmine Prep, Kevin proudly admits that he currently lives at home in San Jose with his parents and cat.

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