Aug. 24, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina point guard Tyasha Harris has had a busy five months since raising the NCAA National Championship trophy over her head in Dallas in April.
She traveled to Japan with her new 2017-18 South Carolina teammates for scrimmages against the Japan National Team in late June, trained with the USA Basketball U19 National Team, attended the ESPYs in Los Angeles, and later went to Italy to compete with USA Basketball at the FIBA U19 World Cup.
So, is she ready to start her sophomore season?
“I still have some gas in the tank,” Harris said just ahead of returning to campus this week for her sophomore season. “Now I’m just trying to work on things that Coach Staley told me to do when we were in Japan. I’m trying to better myself for this season, and help us try to get back to where we were last year. I’m working on my shot, being more consistent, and changing direction when driving.”
All the work hasn’t quite drowned out the buzz of her whirlwind summer, though.
Even with a celebrity head coach in Staley, the sophomore from Noblesville, Ind., couldn’t help but be excited in seeing the many sports celebrities on her trip to Los Angeles.
“Coming out of high school, I never thought I would be at the ESPYs,” Harris said. “It was really cool to see all of the celebrities and how they interact with other people. They were all really friendly. I saw Michael Phelps in the hotel. Kobe Bryant was there, and I spoke with some of the New England Patriots football players. That was pretty neat.”
Harris deserved a little “R&R” after getting back on the court quickly this summer for South Carolina’s exhibitions in Tokyo against the Japan National Team a couple of weeks earlier.
“Playing against Japan helped us tremendously in knowing what our teammates can do,” Harris said. “They were hard fought scrimmages. Japan’s team was very physical and very fast. I think it was an eye-opener for both of the teams. Being able to defend them should help us as we go against SEC teams.”
It wasn’t just a business trip to Japan, as Harris enjoyed some sightseeing as she and her teammates explored, tried new foods, and attempted to master the use of chopsticks.
“I didn’t know Tokyo had a Disneyland,” Harris said. “That was really neat. It was fun just to have a laid-back day with my team. The shopping was good, too. I love shopping! We all split up. I got some new shoes, so it was all good.”
Of course we’ll have the target on our backs this year because we won the National Championship. I like that because we’re going to get everyone’s best, day in and day out.
After completing training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Harris was off to Udine, Italy, with USA Basketball for the FIBA U19 World Cup.
“With [USA Basketball], it was a humbling experience,” Harris said. “We were looking to win the tournament for the seventh time in a row, but even though we fell short of our goal [losing in the championship game to Russia], we came together as a team in the end. We all got better.”
Another silver lining from her USA Basketball experience was that Harris was able to expand her game.
“I had to take on a different role with that team,” Harris said. “I played a lot at the ‘two’ [shooting guard], instead of the ‘one’ [point guard]. I think that will help me at South Carolina because when I was playing the ‘two,’ I had to find different ways to score instead of just running the plays and facilitating for my team.”
Learning how and when to score will help in her sophomore season. With three South Carolina starters taken in the WNBA Draft, you might think there is pressure to take on more leadership responsibility, but she noted that playing point guard for Staley meant she had to become a leader long ago, and she’s not taking anything for granted.
“It’s not even a guarantee that I will start again because Coach Staley always tells us that every year is a start of new things,” Harris said. “We’ll see who can be the most productive. I’m just going to take it upon myself to be a better leader, and be more vocal on and off the court so I can better my team.”
As she looks back at her first year at South Carolina, Harris has a new perspective.
“Just being with my teammates has been the coolest thing,” Harris said. “I never realized until now how basketball can bring you so many things and help you meet so many new people. It opens so many doors, and I’m so thankful for that. It’s just amazing.
“Of course we’ll have the target on our backs this year because we won the National Championship. I like that because we’re going to get everyone’s best, day in and day out. That means we’re going to have to give 110 percent every night.”
For that, Harris still has gas in the tank.
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