Harris settles into role, ready for NBA D-League playoffs
Being patient isn’t always easy, especially when you’re a professional basketball player waiting for your time to shine. But Anchorage’s Ramon Harris never lost doubt. The second-year forward with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants drew inspiration from his faith and believed his number would get called.
When it finally did, he was ready.
The 6-foot-7 Alaskan has played the best basketball of his career this year to help Fort Wayne [Ind.] win the East Division and earn the No. 1 seed in the NBA D-League playoffs that start this weekend.
“First and foremost I want to thank God because without him nothing that I do or have ever done would be possible,” Harris told me. “On the season, man, it’s been a great season for me and my teammates. In my professional career I have not won anything as far as a conference championship. Last year in Germany we finished second. I definitely want some type of championship on my resume.”
This is the closest he’s been to title town in his two seasons with the Mad Ants. Fort Wayne is 34-16 overall and winners of 13 of 15 entering Friday’s first-round, best-of-5 series opener against No. 8 Reno.
Harris, of West High fame, has averaged 6.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 16.9 minutes in 40 games. He has scored double figures seven times, including high games of 19, 18, 17 points.
The night he pumped in a career-high 19 against Iowa he drained the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to secure a 124-121 victory.
“It was a great feeling. Honestly I think that was the first time I hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer,” Harris said. “That game has actually mattered at the end of the season. That made it much more important for us.”
Harris has turned into a go-to perimeter player for the Mad Ants this season, the guy they look to when they need a 3-pointer at the end of a game. He already made one game-winner and he got another attempt last week, just missing a 25-footer with a guy in his face.
“My teammates, they find me in transition and the half-court offense, and they find me in the crunch time as well so that shows you that they believe in me as much as I do,” he said. “That just makes my confidence higher because my teammates believe in me. I’m willing to take the shot if need be at the end of games.”
Harris, 25, has played in 81 career games in the NBA D-League after coming out of the University of Kentucky, where he played for John Calipari [and Tubby Smith, Billy Gillespie]. He has collected career totals of 468 points, 260 rebounds, 65 assists and 30 blocked shots in the D-League.
He wasn’t drafted out of college and had to start his pro career in China, where he once scored 48 points in a game, before the Mad Ants gave him a chance to play in the D-League. He is used to being overlooked.
“Honestly I think it goes back to when I was in high school and feeling I was an elite player and not really getting the respect that the people from the Lower 48 were getting, so I had to work twice as hard when I went to camps,” Harris said. “I had to earn respect just because I said I was from Alaska and wasn’t from California or Texas or New York.
“I had to work hard even when I went to Kentucky. I had to earn my respect on the court. That’s really how my whole career has been like since I graduated from Kentucky. I had to earn respect. I think that helped mold me into who I am.”