Eli Harris is trying to connect Falmouth High School’s past boys basketball success with the seasons that’ll follow after he graduates. The Clippers made the playoffs each year since he became an everyday starting guard as a sophomore for the 2015-16 season, and he’s averaging 17.2 points per game through this 9-1 start to the current season.
Harris will try to add to that average when Falmouth hosts Atlantic Coast League rival Dennis-Yarmouth tonight.
The senior co-captain’s goal: try to improve on last year’s trip to the Division 2 South semifinals.
“I felt like I was supposed to be there (as a sophomore), but I didn’t know quite what my role should be,” Harris said. “Now that I’m a senior, and having played for coach (Paul Lundberg) for three years now, I know the way.”
Harris started in basketball when he was just 3 years old, playing recreation league ball for his father Clifford in Mashpee. He moved on to travel basketball in the third grade, his Mashpee team going undefeated a year later, and joined his first Amateur Athletic Union team in the fifth grade.
“We ran a 2-3 zone at like 5-year-old rec league, and they kicked my dad out for coaching,” Harris said. “The 2-3 zone basically covers the whole inside, so kids weren’t open to score and we’d win like 20-0.”
Harris transferred to Falmouth prior to the start of seventh grade. Clippers teammate Sam Koss’ father was Harris’ AAU coach at the time and also coached a Falmouth travel team, and Harris said having grown up with many of his new teammates made for an easy transition.
“Since Day 1 here, I liked it more than I did in Mashpee,” Harris said. “It’s better having more kids. The class sizes and everything were smaller.”
Harris split time between the varsity and junior varsity teams as a freshman, then became a starter a year later. That sophomore season included a 30-point performance against East Bridgewater.
“I almost didn’t play that game because I was texting my dad the location and we’re not supposed to use our phones before games,” Harris said.
Lundberg might have resisted playing Harris that night, but Harris has turned into one of Lundberg’s most reliable players. Lundberg runs youth basketball camps in the offseason and said Harris has always been quick to volunteer and help out.
“You need kids to be vocal, and for him to talk and get the kids going, that’s very helpful,” Lundberg said of Harris. “He has a passion for the game. When you love something, you work hard at it, and I think that’s what he does.”
Both Harris and the Clippers took another step forward last year, claiming an Atlantic Coast League championship and at one point winning 13 straight games before losing to O’Bryant in the South semifinals. Harris credited last year to the starters having all played with each other for years and becoming close off the court, a feeling that was unfortunately amplified when a car crash in December 2016 took the lives of then-seniors James Lavin and Owen Higgins.
“We became more comfortable with each other, and it builds a lot of trust knowing that everyone has your back,” Harris said.
Harris also plays baseball, and his athletic career won’t end after graduation. He is committed to Roger Williams University, an NCAA Division III school in Rhode Island that started recruiting him during the fall at an AAU tournament with Rise Above Basketball, his current team.
He committed following a 15-point performance against Sandwich two weeks ago and said he plans to enroll in the school’s pre-physician’s assistant program.
“Physician’s assistant, there are a bunch of areas where you can work, whether it’s pediatrics or at hospital,” Harris said. “I felt like that was a career that fit me.”
The Clippers started their season with six of their seven games on the road, but will play the majority of their remaining regular-season games at home.
From there, it’ll hopefully be on to another deep playoff run.
“I think the biggest thing with us is trusting one another,” Harris said. “Confidence is key too. I think kids can be really good if they just find that they’re supposed to be playing and they’re confident in their abilities.”