James Harrison holds jerseys from current school, Lamar Universty and McClennan Community College. UP photo by Marcus Owens

James Harrison holds jerseys from current school, Lamar Universty and McClennan Community College. UP photo by Marcus Owens

James Harrison has faced a lot of adversity in his collegiate career. He’s played basketball for four different universities in four years. Persistence, perseverance and two god-fearing parents have been the driving force to get Harrison where he needs to be mentally, physically and spiritually.

Harrison admits the last four years have been a tough ride.

“Going to four different schools you get to thinking, ‘Man what’s next?’” he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, or if you will be able to get to another school. This has made me a stronger person on and off the floor.”

Having to start fresh each year has been overwhelming.

“Every athlete would love the chance to be at the same school for four years — that’s the plan, that’s what I signed up for,” he said. “That way, you get to know who your coaches are, how the system works, and get familiar with the players. Going from school to school, you don’t really get to understand your coaches and your teammates.

“In my situation, having to adjust in one year isn’t enough time for me. I need at least two years to get to know everybody.”

There are many reasons why a player would move to a different school. Maybe the player doesn’t get along with a coach. Maybe the player doesn’t fit a system. Maybe the player simply runs out of eligibility at a two-year school. Harrison not only knows the reasons, he has lived them.

Harrison’s first stop out of high school was the University of New Orleans. That was fun while it lasted, he said.

“The coach at New Orleans was a good man, I didn’t have any problems with him,” Harrison said. “It’s just that me and him didn’t click, so I thought the best thing for me was to leave that program and start somewhere new.”

The next stop was McClellan Junior College, where he was one of the Highlander’s key players, averaging 11.5 points and shooting almost 46 percent from the field.

“Honestly, I felt like out of high school I should have went to junior college,” he said. “Junior college is probably the best thing ever. It toughens you mentally, because you don’t have everything like you have at the division one level.”

Some guys, including himself, leave high school thinking that it’s division one or nothing, Harrison said.

“I feel like they don’t want to go to junior college because it’s not the big stage or whatever, but honestly junior college makes you hungrier — from how you have to live, and not having all the resources that a division one has — it makes you tough-minded,” he said.

After a strong season at McClellan, Harrison defied the odds and earned himself yet another scholarship, this time to the University of Tennessee-Martin.

“I had high hopes for Tennessee Martin, but they weren’t who I thought they were going to be,” he said. “I wish them the best, but it just didn’t work out for me there. We always had problems. I feel like they already had their group of guys who they were going to play, so they kind of threw me under the bus.

“Truthfully, I didn’t leave Tennessee Martin, they released me. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t be where I’m at physically and mentally if they hadn’t cut me.”

Harrison finally ended up being recruited by Lamar. NCAA rules state that transfers between the two division one schools must sit out a year, and Harrison said he is using his time to grow as an individual.

“I’m just blessed, man,” he said. “Not many guys would be able to come from a school where they weren’t able to produce much and land another division one school. Dudes don’t get that opportunity. I thank god every morning and I get on my knees before I go to bed every night. I thank Coach (Brian) Burton and Coach (Tic) Price for giving me another opportunity and believing in me.

“Even though I had to sit out this year, I felt really good. Of course, being a competitor you want to be out there playing, you don’t want to sit out. I really don’t think dudes realize how much better you can become physically and mentally. I think sitting out was good for me. It has made me a totally different player.”

Harrison said he feels he has a lot to prove when he is eligible next season.

“I feel like I have a huge chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I definitely won’t take this opportunity for granted. I just want to show those guys in the pass that they messed up.

“My dad always told me, ‘Son, you have to go through the tunnel to get to the light.’ These past three years I was going through a dark tunnel. There were some days I would go back to my room frustrated with confidence shot. Now, here at Lamar, it’s like I’ve found the light. I’m just ready to spread my wings and soar like a true cardinal.”

Marcus Owens

UP contributor

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