German import leads Zags' rise to No. 13 Print
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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 10:34
NCAAB Headline News

 SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -The experts who assumed No. 13 Gonzaga was in for a rebuilding year did not count on freshman Elias Harris.
The little-known recruit from Germany is a big reason Gonzaga (16-3) has powered its way into the Top 25. Harris has averaged a double-double the past eight games, and just 19 games into his college career is showing up on mock draft boards as a first-round pick.
``It's impossible and unrealistic to think he would have this much success,'' coach Mark Few acknowledged this week. ``His consistency has been very surprising, at least to me.''
Harris is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds per game. Since a Dec. 19 loss to Duke, when he was held to five points and five rebounds, Harris has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds. On the season he's making 59 percent of his shots, and shows notable aggressiveness in attacking the basket.
The result is that the 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward is suddenly earning national attention.
His play has kept Gonzaga, which lost four starters from last year's Sweet 16 team - including NBA first-round pick Austin Daye - atop the West Coast Conference with a 5-0 record.
``There are only a handful of programs in the country that can lose an Austin Daye and turn around and get an Elias Harris,'' said Loyola Marymount coach Max Good, whose team was torched for 22 points and eight rebounds last Saturday.
Harris, 20, was born and raised in Speyer, Germany, a small city along the Rhine River.
His father was a U.S. soldier who was stationed in Germany and then left the Army to play pro basketball in Speyer. There he met Elias' mother, also a basketball player.
The younger Harris was playing for BIS Speyer in a German amateur league last year when he came to the attention of Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd. Lloyd, who played a year of pro ball in Dusseldorf and maintains contacts with German coaches, kept hearing Harris' name.
``Tommy went over and watched him and that was it,'' Few said.
``The best thing about recruiting outside the U.S. is kids aren't influenced and biased by propaganda or playing in this league or that,'' Few added. ``They don't need to be courted for 2 1/2 years and take all five visits and do all that stuff.''
as comfortable in cities like Spokane. He made his first trip to the U.S. when he arrived on campus in September.
``I love a small community,'' Harris said. ``I'm not overwhelmed.''
Spokane's winters remind him of Speyer, and the food is about the same, he said.
He didn't find the competition much different, either.
``Back in Germany, I played against grown men,'' Harris said, so college players were no surprise.
Harris was not on the public radar when training camp opened. But he was named a starter for the first game, where he dropped 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Mississippi Valley State. His season highs are 31 points at Saint Mary's and 16 rebounds at Illinois.
Harris' emergence has taken some pressure off veteran scorers Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray.
``It's amazing how easy he seems to get to 20 points and 10 rebounds,'' Gray said. ``It seems like he can score at will. He's a huge part of this team's success.''
Few said Harris still needs to work on his defense, and can improve his rebounding, perimeter skills and 68 percent free throw shooting.
``He's still very much a work in progress,'' Few said.
But there is still the chance the Zags could lose a player to the NBA early for the second consecutive year, since Daye left after his sophomore season.
Harris said he wants to focus on the college season now. But he would ``at least look at'' the NBA after the season.
 

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