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Freshman proves to be an asset to teams’ success

Down five points with less than a minute left on the clock against Ukiah in the opening round of NCS, freshman Jaiana Harris remained unfazed. Her face showed no fear, instead, she did the only thing she knew how to: drive in for a lay-up. Seconds later, the game was tied.

Freshman Jaiana Harris drives towards the basket in an attempted lay-up
Freshman Jaiana Harris drives towards the basket in an attempted lay-up.

“She has this face, this game face,” captain Chase Schornstein said.  “No one on our team can break it. It looks like she’s emotionless all the time. She is always into the game.”

As a freshman, and the only underclassmen with a starting position, Harris can come across as petite when she first takes the court with the rest of the starting line-up.

But once the ball is in her hands, everything changes. She utilizes her agility to get to the basket and fly past the defenders.

“Her size and age definitely does not affect her game,” Head Coach Diane Peterson said. “She does not play like a freshman or carry herself like a small guard.”

She averaged 10.9 points per game, and was the second leading scorer on the team, only behind MCAL player of the year Ariella Rosenthal. They were the only two players who averaged double digits for the team this season.

But Harris contributed to more than just the number on the scoreboard. She averaged 2.3 assists per game and 2.7 steals per game.

According to Peterson, Harris’ point guard abilities have allowed the rest of the team to focus on their specific assets.

“Jaiana brought unbelievable ball handling at the point guard position that allowed Chace to run the floor and not have to worry about running the point guard position every possession down the floor,” Peterson said.  “Her offensive game all around is her biggest asset.”

Schornstein echoed Peterson’s statements.

“She’s really good at reading the floor, passing wise, but she also has a great shot and drive,” Schornstein said.

However, Harris said she was intimidated when she walked in the gym for try-outs.

Harris dribbles outside the three-point line.
Harris dribbles outside the three-point line.

“I was nervous ‘cause I was the youngest,” she stated. “But I turned it on and just played the game like I always do.”

Her natural talent led to a starting position on the team and her nerves slowly vanished as her relationship with her teammates grew.

Schornstein said that when Harris first joined the team, she was timid with the rest of her teammates, but by the time the season came to a close she has found her place among the many upperclassmen.

“She was the only freshman so she was going to feel a little uncomfortable,” she said. “But even a couple weeks into the preseason she was starting to talk and fit in.”

According Schornstein, once Harris began to speak up her personality off the court and on the court were complete opposites.

“Off the court she’s so funny, but on the court she is determined and wants to win, and you can really see that translate into her play,” she said.

Peterson said that Harris’s comfort with the team allowed her to flourish on the court. According to Peterson, Harris had her stand-out game came against San Marin on Jan. 11, when she scored 23 points in the Giant’s win over the Mustangs.

“It was definitely her ‘coming out party’ for the season,” Peterson said. “After that game, she became a notable player within our league among other teams.”

Harris added that her family was a big motivation for that particular game.

“I had to play well that game,” she said. “I was playing against my older cousin, and if I let her beat us I’d never hear the end of it.”

According to Harris, basketball runs in her family’s blood, her dad played all throughout high school, and her mom played in middle school. During the season her entire family came to support her at games.

Harris attempts a jump shot when three defenders block her path to the  basket.
Harris attempts a jump shot when three defenders block her path to the basket.

Because of her family’s support, Harris said she can’t remember a time when she didn’t have a ball in her hands.

“I’ve been playing since I got my first ball,” she said. “I was three years old.”

As an eighth grader, Harris played for the Amateur Athletics Union basketball program Strictly Hoops, and in one high scoring game after another, spectators left impressed with her dribbling abilities.

Her success on the court can be credited to the amount of time she is in the gym. She spends two hours playing the game everyday, except for Sunday. However, she said her love for the sport makes the time in the gym a passion as opposed to a chore.

Harris hopes to play basketball in college and will continue her varsity career at Redwood over the next three years.

“I see a very bright future for Jaiana here at Redwood and I definitely see her continuing in college somewhere,” Peterson said. “The team this year has laid the foundation for a very successful program in the years to come and Jaiana was a big part of that alongside our seniors.”

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About the Contributor
Simrin Kacker, Author