It seems as if Tyler Harris has always had one more step to climb.
The Dix Hills resident and Half Hollow Hills West graduate has experienced a number of detours on his basketball journey. But as he ascended the ladder under the basket at Madison Square Garden last Saturday, preparing to cut down a piece of the net after Providence shook up the college basketball world by upsetting nationally ranked Creighton to win the Big East championship, Harris finally was on top of the world.
"What an amazing feeling. I literally dreamed of that moment. I've seen myself doing it," Harris said. "There are no words I can use to compare the feeling to anything else."
Harris, a 6-9 sophomore, starts at small forward for the Friars, who face North Carolina Friday in an East Regional game in San Antonio. He scored 10 points in the Big East final, including a couple of key late free throws. In the three games at the Garden, Harris scored 37 points, clearly becoming more comfortable in his first year in the Big East.
He sat out last season as a transfer after an unsatisfying freshman year in the ACC at North Carolina State. He's been down the transfer road before, having played high school ball at Long Island Lutheran, Half Hollow Hills West and St. Benedict's of Newark. He played with his older brother Tobias, now a starter for the NBA's Orlando Magic, for two of those years. His younger brother, Terry, is a senior at Hills West who led Suffolk's public schools in scoring this season. It was a good winter for the Harris brothers.
Because of Tyler's vagabond basketball past, he is quite adept at adjusting to new surroundings. "I did have to shake off a little rust," he said. "I had to be more mentally prepared for each game. But I've gotten better and better, especially toward the end of the year. Sitting out a year has actually made me a better player."
Harris has started every game, averaging 11.5 points, and is a dangerous three-point shooter. He shot 3-for-4 from three-point range and scored 17 points in a semifinal win over Seton Hall last Friday. "I'm always a shooter; the three-point shot is my first option," said Harris, whose size gives him an advantage down low as well. "With different matchups against smaller guys, I'll use my basketball IQ and take it to the basket. I'm versatile."
If Providence can manage two more upsets in San Antonio this weekend, the next stop would be a return engagement at Madison Square Garden as a member of the Sweet 16. "We've been underdogs all season. Nothing new," Harris said.
Just another hill to climb.