Siena men’s basketball’s Harris ‘more serious’ ahead of sophomore season

Siena basketball's Gary Harris is shown at Tuesday's media-day event in Loudonville. (Erica Miller)

Siena basketball's Gary Harris is shown at Tuesday's media-day event in Loudonville. (Erica Miller)

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, College Sports, Sports

LOUDONVILLE — Breakfast at 8:30 a.m.

Then, the workout starts 45 minutes later.

In preparing for a sophomore season that looks to build on so many promising moments delivered as a freshman, Siena men’s basketball’s Gary Harris is steadfast in making sure he’s putting himself in position to do just that. So every day starts on time, and with getting to work.

“You’ve got to be efficient. Stay on top of your game,” Harris recently said of the lessons he learned from his first year playing college basketball. “Know what you want to do at all times.”

Most importantly?

“I’ve been taking it a lot more serious,” Harris said.

That’s not to say that Harris didn’t take the game seriously as a freshman who emerged as a starter for last year’s regular-season MAAC champions.

But . . . he was a freshman — and one whose 6-foot-7 body is able to run and jump at a level few others, if any, in the MAAC are capable of matching. So, at times, Harris could coast — but, just as easily, he could grab a rebound and go coast-to-coast for a dunk.

“He’s a guy you do have to stay on a little bit,” said Siena senior Manny Camper, who also commended Harris’ work ethic. “He’s younger, so you’ve got to stay on him.”

And?

“He’s grown a lot,” said Camper, one of Siena’s two returning first-team All-MAAC selections along with junior Jalen Pickett.

Harris’ role grew throughout his freshman year. While he was one of only four Saints to play in every game of Siena’s 20-10 season, Harris’ insertion into the starting lineup during the second half of the season played a pivotal role in the Saints’ success. Siena was 7-8 before Harris became a full-time starter for the Saints’ 13-2 run through their season’s second half.

Overall, his numbers were modest. Harris had per-game averages of 5.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19.3 minutes. Harris, though, played with a confidence that lifted his teammates, and his highlight dunks and blocks often found themselves helping turn a small Siena spurt into a sustained, game-changing run.

Besides Camper and Pickett, Harris seems like the safest bet to serve as a starter when the Siena season gets started in November. Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello describes the team’s three non-Camper-or-Pickett starting spots as “wide open,” but Siena’s 2020-21 outlook is similar to the one it had for 2019-20, in that the best version of itself involves Harris playing significant minutes.

But?

“I think it’s good to keep guys hungry and see that they’ve got competition at every position,” Maciariello said.

Harris insists that hunger is there. Back home in California this summer, he spent hours working on his shooting, trying to build more consistency in his form from the free-throw line and 3-point territory. The 20-year-old has kept up his dedication “to working on my craft” since he made it back to campus in August, and said that’s not going to change.

“I would just say,” Harris said of his attitude, “that it’s all part of growing up.”

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