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As the ball turns: Yuma hooper leaves legacy

By Cpl. Graham J. Benson | | November 18, 2010

The swish of the net, the chirps of new sneakers on the court, the grunts and sighs of frustration and the shouts of elation, these sounds have composed the soundtrack of Cpl. Christopher Harris’ entire life on the hardwood.

During his two years in Yuma this soundtrack has played at maximum volume.

Harris, a Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron administrative clerk and the most accomplished basketball player in the station’s history, will depart for Marine Barracks 8th & I Washington, D.C., at the end of November.

“I’m really excited about heading back east,” said Harris, a 24-year-old native of Rockford, Ill. “Quantico and the D.C. area are really the center of basketball in the Marine Corps. I’ll be playing over 100 games a year in the various military tournaments and leagues in the area.”

He will leave behind a proud and unprecedented record of success in Yuma. He has been selected twice for the men’s West Coast Regional Tournament’s first team all-tournament honors, and also netted most valuable player honors in the 2010 tournament.

“I would have to say that my biggest disappointment I’m leaving behind is the fact that we never won the regional championship while I was here,” said Harris. “Our whole regional team wanted to win it so badly. We just could never get by Pendleton or Miramar.”

Harris was invited to All-Marine basketball camp tryouts both years as well. Although in his first tryout, he was unsure if he wanted to pursue basketball full time again.

“After college I wasn’t sure if I would ever play basketball at that high a competitive level again. I got out to tryouts and my heart just wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to deal with the hardships of being a rookie. I quit, and that ended up being a big regret for me because I have never been a quitter and never want to be known as one,” said Harris, who played two years of college basketball in Illinois before enlisting in the Corps in November 2007. “After that, I just told myself, ‘Next year, I’m going to make that team next year,’ sure enough I did.”

Harris wasn’t the only one glad that he decided to persevere through his second attempt at making the All-Marine team.

“When he quit the first year he didn’t know it, but we had already selected him for the team. He would have been our starting small forward, and I think with him we would have won the gold medal that year,” said Lt. Col. James Jones, All-Marine basketball team head coach. “He came back ready to play the next year, made the team and had a great tournament for us. He was responsible for shutting down the other team’s best perimeter player every game, and he did that very well.”

So well in fact, that Harris was the only Marine selected for the 2010 All-Armed Forces basketball team. As the team’s starting shooting guard, Harris traveled to Seoul, Korea, where he excelled, averaging 10 points per game and continuing his harassment of opposing ball handlers.

“When they selected him, I told them they could not have picked a better player,” said Jones. “Not just a basketball player but as a Marine and a person. His positive and humble attitude is what sets him apart.”

Although in just over three years in the Corps Harris has already reached the pinnacle of military basketball competition, he is not yet satisfied and sees no ceiling for what he can accomplish on the court in the years to come.

“When it’s all said and done, I want to be the in the Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame. I want to be the best player to ever wear a Marine Corps jersey,” said Harris.

That is a bold statement, but Jones doesn’t rule it out.

“I’ve been coaching in the Marine Corps 27 years and more than 30 total, so I know a thing or two about evaluating talent,” said Jones. “I think it’s completely possible that in a few years Harris could be the best guard in the armed forces, period.”

Though hard work and dedication take the bulk of credit for Harris’ achievements, he credits his family and command for their unyielding support.

“My family has always been there to encourage me 100 percent. Without them none of this is possible,” said Harris. “The station adjutant’s office has also been a huge help. I understand that playing basketball for the Marine Corps is a privilege, not a right, and they have allowed me to pursue my dreams fully. I will always be really appreciative of that.”

As the volume from Harris’ soundtrack fades in the station gym he has spent so much time in the past two years, he can rest assured that the hardware he’s helped install in the station’s trophy case will not. It’s a lasting testament to his contributions to the game he loves and has shared with everyone he’s known while here.

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