Gonzaga men’s basketball forward Elias Harris has some thoughts on why his performance this season hasn’t matched his impressive freshman year.
Perhaps too many thoughts.
“Compared to last season, I think I took steps back,” Harris said, prior to Monday’s practice at the McCarthey Athletic Center. “I need to play way more aggressively, like I did last year. I need to just be the old ‘E’ that I was when I came here and not think too much.”
Injuries certainly have been a factor. He entered the season recovering from a separated shoulder. He suffered an Achilles’ injury late in the loss to San Diego State. He had MRIs roughly two weeks apart that showed his tendon wasn’t torn, but it clearly impacted his play.
Now 20 games into the season, Harris has shown flashes of his 2009-2010 form, but not on a consistent basis. He’s averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds, down from last year’s 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds.
“I don’t know if maybe it had to do with my injuries early in the season, I didn’t get rolling smoothly like last year,” Harris said. “In the end, those are just all excuses. I need to figure out what I want and turn it up.”
Fifty-three weeks ago, Harris torched Saint Mary’s for 31 points in an 89-82 road victory. His name was listed on numerous NBA Draft boards. He returned to Gonzaga this fall with several outlets projecting him as an All-American.
“He needs to play hard and aggressive and quit overanalyzing everything,” said coach Mark Few, whose team entertains WCC rival Saint Mary’s on Thursday. “There was a lot of preseason publicity on him, on a guy that had a lot of nice dunks and a lot of things. But when you really analyze his game, including the whole NBA stuff, it was just too much, too early. He just has to get back to being aggressive. We’ve said this over and over: He has to stay engaged in the game the whole time he’s on the floor, whether it’s on offense or defense.”
Harris said his shoulder is fine and he’s not bothered by his Achilles.
“Probably a benefit last year is nobody knew about me. I could do whatever I wanted to do,” Harris said. “After that, I got on the map and people knew who I was and they started guarding me a lot harder than last year. Now it’s time for me to understand how to play against that kind of pressure. That’s a step I need to take to become a better player.”
Former Gonzaga standout Matt Bouldin has been suspended by his professional team in Greece after testing positive for a banned substance, according to basketnews.com. The short article didn’t identify the banned substance and the length of the suspension wasn’t known.
Bouldin was averaging 9.7 points in his first season for Iraklis Thessaloniki. Bouldin was the WCC player of the year last season, but wasn’t selected in the NBA Draft. He played for Chicago in the NBA summer league.
Bulldogs coaches were stunned to hear of Bouldin’s suspension.
“These guys are heavily drug tested here,” Few said. “If there was anything it would have come out. What I heard is he was trying to cut weight. I don’t think people should be jumping to any conclusions. Matt is an unbelievable guy.”
Phone messages left Monday with Bouldin’s agent and at the Bouldin family home in Colorado weren’t returned.
Several former Zags helped out at Monday’s practice, including David Pendergraft, Casey Calvary and Matt Santangelo, who is on GU’s radio broadcast team with play-by-play voice Tom Hudson. Ex-Zags Alex Hernandez and Brian Michaelson are on Gonzaga’s staff at administrative assistants.
“It’s going to be fun today,” Harris said. “The veterans are back.”
Calvary and Santangelo served as scout-team members two years ago when Gonzaga prepared to face Washington State.