Chelan native hosts basketball camp

Joe Harris gives campers introductory pep talk.(Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)


By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

NBA player Joe Harris, right, with his dad, Hall of Fame Coach Joe Harris Sr. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Combine an NBA player who appreciates his hometown, has a heart for kids and wants to make a difference, with a family and community who back him all the way, and you will find a winning combination for the Joe Harris Basketball Camp 2017 that took place in Chelan June 2-3.

About 200 boys and girls received two days of quality basketball instruction at Chelan High School Gym and nearby Chelan Community Gym. Morning sessions from 9 a.m. to noon were for kids in kindergarten through fourth grade, while kids in fifth through eighth grades trained from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. each day.

After checking in, each camper received an official camp T-shirt, an ID bracelet and a ticket for prize drawings. Harris was available for photos with the campers before they entered the gym.

Saturday sessions began with a pep talk from Harris who thanked each participant for coming and encouraged them to express appreciation to their parents for bringing them to camp.

Harris introduced campers to the coaching staff made up of athletes and coaches from around the country including his dad, Hall of Fame Coach Joe Harris Sr., who coached Chelan’s high school basketball team for 25 years. His sisters Jaicee, a former Washington State University athlete; Kaiti, who played basketball for Warner Pacific; and Jaid, who currently plays basketball at Centralia also assisted.

Others who made up the coaching team were Hall of Fame Coach Tim Gaebe from Shadle Park High School in Spokane; Dane Lewman, Cascade High School girls coach; Steve Nygreen, Chelan girls coach; Brandon Kats, Bellevue Christian coach; former collegiate athletes Jeff Downs, David Downs and Cory Hutsen, Seattle Pacific University; Dan Campbell, Pomona-Pfitzer; Sarah Goodman, Wenatchee Valley College; Evan Reister, Maryville University; Eric Carlstrom, Cal Poly; former high school players Brett Linehan, Chelan, and Max Pressey, Bellevue Christian; NFL quarterback Jeff Tuel, who played for the Buffalo Bills; and Harris’ former college teammate Evan Nolte.

The coaching staff at the Joe Harris Basketball Camp.(Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Harris told the kids to work hard and focus on being a teammate with a good attitude, and emphasized the importance of respecting their coaches.

“Being a great teammate and working hard is what we want these kids to take away from camp,” Harris said. “Yes, we want them to have fun, enjoy playing the game and learn competitive skills, but the character qualities they learn through hard work and team building will transition into their everyday life.”

Campers were divided into groups and assigned a coach. Warm ups and stretching exercises preceded drills, instruction and basketball games.

Harris made himself available after each session to sign autographs and visit with the kids and their parents.

Seventh-grader Nate Harding said this was his second year to attend camp. “It has helped me get better at my skills,” he said, “and it’s cool to meet Joe. It was a good experience last year and I’m looking forward to doing it again.”

Joe Harris grew up in Chelan, attending grades K-12 in the Chelan school system. He graduated in 2010 as an all-around athlete whose first love was basketball. He racked up a total of 2,399 points during his high school career and was named 2010 Washington Mr. Basketball by the Washington State Coaches Association.

This accomplishment was no surprise to anyone who knew Harris. He sat on his dad’s bench from the time he was four years old, volunteering as team manager from third through eighth grades. “He was part of the crew under the basket when we won the state title in 1998 and he wasn’t even in school yet,” Harris’ grandfather Bob Harris said.

As a boy, he wrote personal goals and quotes from NBA players on his bedroom walls and ceiling. One of his goals was to take 1,000 shots a day.

Harris played college basketball at the University of Virginia. After graduation in 2014, he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is currently playing for the Brooklyn Nets.

When asked why he does camps, Harris said, “I grew up in this gym. My dad did a lot of camps, plus I went to basketball camps all over. I remember how fun it was to go to camp and meet NBA players. I figured if I was ever fortunate enough to get to the NBA, I would like to do the same.

“The intent has never been to keep any money that comes in but to donate back to the school and community. This is our third year to do camp. We donated income from the first year’s camp to fund a mission trip sponsored by Chelan High School to build houses in Nicaragua. Two years ago we started giving a $5,000 scholarship to a graduating senior. I am currently setting up a foundation to funnel money back into the school and community, mostly for youth development.

“Basketball has shaped my life. Who I am as a person obviously goes back to where I grew up and my family, but much of my character also came from playing sports.”

The camp is a community event and a family affair. Harris Sr. does logistical planning while mother Alice recruits volunteers. Joe’s three sisters help coach and his grandparents help wherever needed. “This is a lot of fun,” Joe’s dad said. “We enjoy giving to the community and the kids.”

“Joe is a giver and has never exploited his athleticism,” Bob Harris said. “Joe spent an hour every morning during his four years of college at a local grade school interacting with kids and being their friend.”

Harris spoke at the Wenatchee North Rotary’s North Central Washington Sports Awards Banquet on June 6 before returning to New York June 8.

“Basketball is my job day in and day out. I can’t imagine doing anything else. These camps help me give back to the community that gave so much to me,” Harris concluded.