Ty Harris is pictured during a game at the Southern State Community College Patriot Center.(HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Ty Harris is pictured during a game at the Southern State Community College Patriot Center.
(HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Second chances are hard to come by. Relocating and learning a new way of playing basketball is tough. Staying on pace to graduate from Southern State Community College while adjusting to a new town and tweaking the way the game of basketball is played … even tougher.

Meet Ty Harris, the point guard of the Patriots. He's not only done all of that, but he's a leader on and off the court, with a perspective on life and a work ethic most 20-somethings don't have.

Harris, who leads the USCAA Division I with 179 assists in 21 games (8.5 assists per game), believes it is a blessing he's arrived in Hillsboro. He's a native of Louisiana. He's overcome the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, changed the way he's always known how to play basketball, is on track to graduate from SSCC and is humble while making his way in the world.

Before a game, you can see Harris, wearing a gray SSCC T-shirt in warm-ups, speaking very few words.

In one word, Harris, who is averaging 14.2 points per game, is "focused."

SSCC men's basketball head coach Travis McAvene describes his first recruit to SSCC as "driven" and as a "winner."

However his peers and coaches choose to describe their leader on and off the court, Harris has worked for everything he is achieving, as he's currently being recruited by Division I and Division II colleges to take his basketball career and education to an even higher level.

Getting to Hillsboro was "a blessing" for Harris, as he said his house was damaged during Hurricane Katrina in '05, which eventually started a chain of moves where he went to Michigan, back to Louisiana and then to West Carrollton, where he started in high school basketball, leading the city of Dayton in scoring his senior season.

From high school, he spent one year at Edison Community College, sat out a year and from there, Harris said, he got his "second chance."

To understand the second chance, first you must hear the story from Harris himself.

"I went to high school at West Carrollton … it's probably five minutes outside the city (Dayton)," Harris said. "I came to Ohio in 2007, and I didn't get to play freshman ball.

"I played JV my sophomore year, but my coach kept telling me he wanted me to step in my junior year because we had a four-year senior ahead of me."

Harris then went back a few steps, describing his journey to "The Buckeye State."

"I came to Ohio because my mom just got tired of living down there. It's not rough, but she just wanted a new look," he said. "After the hurricane in '05, we moved to Michigan and then back to Louisiana, but she didn't like it there anymore. She just wanted to come to Ohio. We were going to move to Middletown because the guy she was dating at the time had got a job in Middletown, but we lived in Dayton, and we moved to West Carrollton."

Initially, his move from Louisiana was prompted by Hurricane Katrina, as he said he lived roughly 40 miles away from New Orleans.

"Our house got messed up," Harris said. "We had to relocate to Michigan, but I mean, I had family who lived in New Orleans, and we lived near New Orleans, so besides power outages and some other things, we didn't get it as bad as they did."

After settling in West Carrollton, Harris' success didn't come overnight. As a high school freshman and beyond, the Louisiana native had to scrap the way he played basketball in the Bayou, and in his words, "become a better overall basketball player" and adjust from a "show me" style of play.

"In Louisiana, the game is more like a 'show me' type of game," the SSCC point guard said. "The crowd is really into it. You have guys next to the floor, yelling and screaming.

"In Ohio, you have to be able to play a complete game … you have to dribble, pass and shoot. In Louisiana, you don't really have to focus on your game, and if you were a hard-nosed guy, you would probably be one of the best players in the area. As far as up here, you really have to have skill."

Harris' success didn't come easily to start his high school career at WCHS. He didn't play his freshman year, and his sophomore year he played at the JV level. In his junior season, he averaged around seven points a game, but his senior season, during which he was the only returning starter, is where he showed his best basketball up to that point of his history with the sport.

"It took me a little bit of time to get used to the speed of Ohio … it's a totally different game than Louisiana," Harris said. "I had to become a real basketball player, and I started taking the game seriously my junior year.

"My junior year, I averaged seven points and five assists, then my senior year I really started getting better."

As for playing at SSCC (he played his first junior college season at Edison), Harris knows he's at the college for more than just playing basketball. Harris is just as focused on his education as he is on basketball, as he is working to earn his associate's degree. He eventually wants to work in communications.

"Education is first," Harris said. "My mom preached that to me at an early age … it would mean so much to her, not only to me. She always told me that whole year last year to go back to school, and I kept telling her I would, but I don't think she actually believed me. So when I get that (degree), I'm just going to give it to her, and I hope she is happy."

Harris spoke about how hard work has improved his life on and off the court … and it has shown. Harris is currently being recruited by Coppin State University, Texas A&M-Kingsville, University of North Alabama, Livingstone College, St. Augustine College and Clayton State University, according to Coach McAvene.

"I'd say to anyone, just continue to believe and continue to work," Harris said. "It's all about working hard at it. You get out what you put in.

"My junior year, I was averaging seven points per game and two assists, but in the summer, I worked so hard … and the next year I led in scoring, and we had some great ball players come out of the area. It's just all hard work and dedication."

Coach McAvene spoke highly of his recruit, saying Harris has a great understanding of the game.

"He is a very unselfish player that only wants to win," McAvene said. "Ty is a very athletic point guard that knows how to score and sees the floor extremely well when passing the ball.  

"I first learned of Ty this past summer by a friend of mine who is a basketball official in the Dayton area. I immediately got together with Ty at his old high school to put him through a basketball workout. I wanted to a true point guard who was a leader and had a good all-around game, and Ty was the perfect fit to be our point guard in our up-tempo style of system that we run. I believe you build your program around your point guard."

Harris spoke about what his coach has meant to him.

"I see it as a blessing and a second chance," Harris said of meeting Coach McAvene. "I'm a true believer in God, and I believe he sent Coach Mac. He's the perfect guy, in the perfect situation, and I have the perfect teammates … everything is so ideal. It's the situation I imagined when I first left high school to play in college.

"Here, Coach allows me to do similar as to what I did my senior year of high school … running up and down the floor and getting my teammates involved. It's a faster pace, but I already had one year of JUCO before here, so I'm used to the speed of the college game."

That's another word used to describe Harris … "unselfish."

"I'm not an individual type of guy … as long as get my teammates involved and try to teach them things outside of basketball, I'm cool with that," Harris said. "But going to school, having the opportunity to play ball again, making my mom and little sister proud, that's important."

For Harris, he brings it all back to his teammates.

"I've never played with guys like I'm playing with now," Harris said. "A guy who can dunk whenever he wants to. We have a forward guy who can shoot threes and block shots … so it's kind of easy, playing with these guys.

"Team-wise, we really need that national championship. That's what we want, that's what we've been working for since August, that's what Coach has been preaching to us, and all the guys … that's our motivation on and off the court, Pennsylvania. We always do a chant after the game … 'PA' for Pennsylvania because that's where we are going to end up, hopefully. We just have to keep winning."

But playing at the point is something not everyone is capable of doing at a high rate of success. Harris is an exception, as he understands what it takes to be a successful point guard, which all comes full circle about his unselfishness as a player.

"It's tough … it's really, really tough because if something goes wrong, if the ball gets thrown away and we aren't in position to score, they are looking at you," Harris said. "Coach lets me run the team now, but earlier in the year he would call something up, but as we've kept going, he's let me run the team. It's a tough position, but you have to be a born leader to be a point guard, you just have to be."

McAvene said that Harris certainly fits that mold.

"Ty has been a true leader of our team all year on and off the floor," McAvene said.

Harris credits the clear communication between his teammates as one of the main reasons he has found success at the point guard position.

"You have to take command, and there is no nice way of doing it," Harris said. "You just have to go about your business in a discreet manner, but at the same time you have to tell guys where they need to be, and my teammates help me out a lot."

That type of communication comes from chemistry, as some of the players live together, giving them more time to get to sknow each other, which has equaled, at least for the SSCC players, more success on the court as they are 20-3 thus far.

"Knowing each other and having the chemistry like we do, it makes the game a lot easier," Harris said. "We can yell at each other, come back around and joke around, that same game on the next possession. We are like brothers."

With his education on the right track and a good team-oriented attitude, Harris comes back to just speaking about how much he loves the game of basketball.

"Basketball is life. My brother put the ball in my hands at a really young age, and since then, I have to play every day," he said. "I have to touch a basketball every day. I use it as a tool. The basketball and books go hand in hand, because you need both, so I take my books as a business.

"It's a new experience being here, in this community. We had to adjust at first, now we have fun here. We have bonding nights where we watch film, talk about the game, critique each other, and we just want to win the championship. That's why we are here playing together … to win it all. I hope people around here are proud, but at end of the day, we are just trying to get a banner in the Patriot Center."