Harris, ENMU continue "amazing" season at Lone Star tourney - Albuquerque Journal

Harris, ENMU continue “amazing” season at Lone Star tourney

ENMU's Kassandra Harris, left, blocks out UNM's Cherise Beynon during a UNM free throw in the Pit on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Harris' Eastern New Mexico team is the top seed in the 2017 Lone Star Conference women's basketball tournament. (Greg Sorber/Albquerque Journal)
ENMU’s Kassandra Harris, left, blocks out UNM’s Cherise Beynon during a UNM free throw in the Pit on Sunday, November 6, 2016. Harris’ Eastern New Mexico team is the top seed in the 2017 Lone Star Conference women’s basketball tournament. (Greg Sorber/Albquerque Journal)

 

When Kassandra Harris was about 10 years old and pondering how to fill her available time, her grandfather had a suggestion. Why not give basketball a try?

“I was tall and lanky and goofy when I first started,” Harris said.

But she grew into the game. Today the Cibola High grad and New Mexico State transfer will start for the Eastern New Mexico Greyhounds in the first round of the Lone Star Conference tournament. ENMU (20-7, 16-4) is the No. 1 seed and regular-season co-conference champion. It will play Texas A&M Kingsville at 5 p.m. in Allen, Texas.

“I thought we would be good,” Harris said. “But we had a lot of people come in from other programs, some Division I transfers and high-level JC transfers. I didn’t know exactly how good we’d be, how we would jell.

“But everybody’s been unselfish. Everybody wants to win and play hard. It wasn’t hard to jell, when everybody on the team is good.”

Harris, a 5-foot-10 senior post, leads the team in scoring at 11.9 points a game.

Junior Daeshi McCants, a Mayfield grad and a transfer from UTEP, has had four double-doubles this season and leads the team with 6.2 rebounds a game.

Junior Mikaehla Connor, a Dallas native and transfer from Grand Canyon University, averages 11.5 points and 3.4 assists a game.

“The girls have done an amazing job this year,” said fourth-year Eastern coach Josh Prock, who guided the Greyhounds to the program’s first conference title. “They’ve worked extremely hard. I’m very proud of them.”

At center stage is Harris, who joined the Greyhounds in 2015. Despite constantly facing larger opponents in the post, she uses her athleticism and resolve to succeed.

“She’s a warrior,” Prock said. “She has the heart of a lion. She’s hard to guard in the post because she has really good moves. She’s quick with the ball and can drive.”

Prock first noticed her when she was a freshman at New Mexico Junior College, playing for coach Drew Sanders and his top-20 program.

“Coach Sanders was amazing,” Harris said. “He has phenomenal credentials. He was straightforward with me and I appreciated that so much.”

Prock knew Harris wanted to play NCAA Division I, but told her his door was always open. Harris enrolled at New Mexico State as a sophomore, but said she wasn’t as prepared for that level as she thought she would be. So she called Prock.

“He made it very comfortable for me,” Harris said.

But before Prock, before Sanders, there was Cibola coach Lori Mabrey.

“I loved playing for coach Mabrey,” said Harris, who was a sophomore on Cibola’s 2011 state runner-up team. “She’s a crazy lady. She gives you passion. I still carry that from her today. She saw so much potential in me.”

Harris is studying elementary education, something that stems from being the oldest child in a large family.

“I’ve been a mother-hen type,” said Harris, who has five sisters and two brothers. “I figure it is in my nature to help and take care of kids.”

This week she will try to take care of her fellow Greyhounds, who recorded their first 20-win season since 1993.

“I know these kids aren’t satisfied,” Prock said.

WNMU: Western New Mexico senior Jordan Gutierrez, a Valley grad, led the Lone Star in scoring this season at 19.5 points a game. Gutierrez was 17th in Division II in points per game, 25th in free throws made (129) and second in minutes played (1,038). The 5-3 guard scored 1,018 points in her four-year career.

Thursday

Lone Star Conference tournament, Allen, Texas: ENMU vs. Texas A&M Kingsville, 5 p.m., online at Lonestarconference.org

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