Gonzaga hopes less of Elias Harris equals more.
The Bulldogs’ junior forward dropped 11 pounds over the summer. He enters this season at 234 pounds, down from the 245 he carried as a sophomore. It’s one of several measures Harris has taken to try to bounce back from a difficult sophomore season.
“This might sound stupid to some people but I was on a diet,” Harris said. “I was just too chubby, too heavy. I lost a bunch of body fat, some weight. I was running a lot so I’m in way better shape.”
Harris went home to Germany for about six weeks at the conclusion of the school year. He returned to Spokane, skipped playing on the German national team during the summer and dedicated himself to conditioning and working on his game.
“Being lighter contributes to my game because I’m a player that uses quickness and speed and balance,” he said. “I feel bouncier and quicker with my moves. I didn’t lose my strength.
“For me, that’s a perfect combination.”
Harris set a GU freshman scoring record with 508 points, including memorable outings against Saint Mary’s (31 points, 13 rebounds), Washington State (24 and 12) and Illinois (19 and 16). He was slowed by shoulder and Achilles tendon injuries for much of last season and his scoring average dipped from 14.9 points in 2010 to 12.4 last season.
Harris said he didn’t feel like himself until late in the regular season. He finished the season with 15 points and eight boards against St. John’s and 18 points and eight rebounds versus BYU in the NCAA tournament.
“I was disappointed, yeah, because things didn’t go my way,” Harris said of his sophomore season. “I didn’t play well. I didn’t feel comfortable out there, but I think it was a great experience for me to see the down side. That was a life lesson for me and it made me mature a lot as a basketball player.”
Asked to describe his diet, Harris said, laughing, “just eliminate my American eating habits, stay away from bread and burgers, hot dogs and especially the pop, all the sugary stuff. I drank a lot of water.”
Harris is looking forward to the regular season, which begins with Eastern Washington’s visit Friday.
“I’m just ready to go,” he said. “I think we have a good team, we practice hard together. I just want to give my best every day, go step by step. That’s the best way to handle all the pressure. That’s something I learned from last year, take everything step by step, and work on the small things.”
• For the second straight season, Harris has been named to the Naismith preseason watch list by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
He is one of 50 players from 34 NCAA Division I schools on the list for the 2012 award that will go to the player selected the best in the country.
Harris is the only player from the WCC on the list. There are three from the Pac-12 – Washington sophomore center Terrence Ross and UCLA junior forward Reeves Nelson and sophomore center Joshua Smith.
Head coach Mark Few said no decisions have been made on potential redshirts.
“We have to see what happens this week,” he said. “We have to see about the health of everybody and kind of piece together how we project (playing) time.”
It’s not a simple process.
“It’s a day-to-day situation as to who is playing better and who is helping us,” Few said. “It has to be (the player’s) call, it’s their career. What I can do is try to advise them and then that’s where it gets tricky because we’re really trying to project what’s going to happen a month from now, two months from now.”