NIAGARA FALLS — firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s hardly a homecoming, 120 miles from Niagara Falls, but tonight’s NBA Developmental League game in Erie, Pa., will allow Paul Harris to perform in front of family and friends for the first time in well over a year.
“He’s going to come out like gangbusters,” said Harris’ uncle, James Duckett, who is making the nine-hour drive from his home in Somers, Conn., for the game. “It’s going to be great for the family and the people from Niagara Falls to get to see him enjoying the game again.”
Duckett has been to all seven of the Maine RedClaws game this season, driving three hours for home games in Portland, Maine, and catching the other three games in nearby Springfield, Mass. When his schedule permits, Duckett plans to attend every one of Harris’ games this season.
Most of Harris’ supporters haven’t seen him play in person since his Syracuse career ended in March 2009.
“Since the last time he played in the dome,” said Paul Fields, Harris’ best friend. “It’s going to feel good to see him back on the court.”
Up until last month, it had been that long since Harris played an official game. Having gone undrafted out of Syracuse, Harris was invited to participate in the Utah Jazz training camp last fall. During pickup games prior to the start of camp, Harris sustained an ankle injury that kept him from competing for a roster spot. The RedClaws made Harris their inaugural first-round draft choice, but the ankle injury lingered, and Harris never suited up last season.
Harris, who is averaging 15.9 points and 9.7 rebounds this season, said being able to play in front of his family is the big reason he turned down more lucrative overseas offers to play in the D-League. He’s especially looking forward to having his mother, Emma McCall, and his children, Paul III, 7, and Nakyhi, 3, in the crowd.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing in front of the people that know what I went through in the last year,” Harris said. “Some people have him me up out of the blue on Facebook and said they’ve been following me since high school and they’re coming to the game. Things like that make me feel good, let me know that people support me.”
Erie Bayhawks tickets start at $10. The RedClaws also play in Erie on Saturday night and return for games on Jan. 9, March 10, and April 2. A Bayhawks spokesman said a group of Niagara Falls youth basketball players are planning to attend the Jan. 9 game.