Season recap: A'lexus Harrison
What McDonald couldn’t be sure of was how Harrison – who committed to Maryland last summer – would respond to an expanded role. It didn’t take long for the Rams coach to get his answer.
“I thought she did very well,” McDonald said. “I think the transition from last year to this year was immaculate in the sense that last year we saw a raw 14-year-old with just crazy athleticism. As a ninth-grader she was grabbing the rim. … I think this year we got a chance to see [the results of] her work ethic.”
Harrison, who averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds as a freshman, upped her statistics across the board this year with 16 points, 16 rebounds, three steals, three assists and three blocks per game. The 6-foot-1 forward had more than a few monster games for the Rams this season.
“I think the Randallstown game for the regional championship exemplified the kind of production she gave us all year – 25 points, 21 rebounds, seven blocked shots, five steals and four or five assists,” McDonald said. “In a big game of that magnitude … that was indicative of her. … I think [another] game that was indicative of her was when we went to play Hillsboro High School out of Tennessee. Their post player was 6-4, committed to Tennessee for the class of 2011. [Harrison] still had 17 points and I think 16 rebounds. We were in the Bragging Rights Classic, and HoopGurlz, the leading scouting report on high school girls basketball, said she’s definitely going to be a player to be reckoned with.”
Harrison, who has played just three years of organized basketball, performed with a target on her back all season long thanks to her status as a future Division I player. The commitment to Maryland only enhanced her already significant reputation. McDonald said Harrison has handled the extra attention exceedingly well.
“With A’lexus, even if I’m completely biased, the entire Maryland coaching staff cannot be wrong,” McDonald said. “They’re the No. 1 Division I program in the state of Maryland. They have a pretty good idea of the talent it takes to play at Maryland. Yet they decided on their own, based on scouting reports, based on seeing her play, based on how they measure the student athletes, that they wanted her in their program. They decided for the first time in I don’t know how long that they’re going to make a verbal offer to a 14-year-old in Baltimore City. I think that speaks volumes for A’lexus Harrison and the potential she has … and the positive things that lie ahead for her.”
Digital Harbor’s season ended with a 66-35 loss to Calvert in a Class 2A state semifinal at UMBC. It was a devastating defeat for Harrison, who led the Rams with 15 points and 14 rebounds. As Digital Harbor’s “young leader,” Harrison took the loss hard.
“Had she not been teary eyed and broken down in the locker room, I would have been taken aback,” McDonald said. “She felt that she didn’t play up to the level she’s capable of. She felt we didn’t perform up to the level we’re capable of. Those are the types of players coaches want to have in the locker room – players with that passion, who hate when they lose. … When we had our first team meeting a couple days later … [we said] ‘now let’s go get back to UMBC.’ Then we talked about how we would get back there again. She took it hard, the same way our entire team took it hard.”
McDonald expects Harrison to come back next season as one of the state’s best players. The Rams coach said Harrison’s “unparalleled” work ethic will be put to the test this summer with plenty of individual skill development.
“From ninth grade to 10th grade, her handle got better, her ability to take it to the cup got better, her basketball decision-making improved, and she was able to step away from the basket and knock down the deep ball,” McDonald said. “She’s the last one to leave the gym and the first one to get in the gym.”
Handout photo of A'Lexus Harrison.