It didn’t matter that Tori Harris’ opponent was several inches taller and many years older. Nor did it matter that she was a high school basketball player and he was an NBA veteran.
Her brother Tobias was not going to show any mercy in what was a highly competitive game of H-O-R-S-E.
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“He doesn’t take it easy on me at all,” Tori said last week of Tobias, who plays for the Orlando Magic. “He doesn’t joke around when we are playing. And it has helped me develop as a player. Not just with Tobias, with all of my siblings.”
With Tori being the youngest of six children, and the fifth to pass through Half Hollow Hills West, she is responsible for writing the final chapter of the Harris family’s legacy in the program.
Harris, a junior guard, returned to Hills West this year after one year at Upper Room Academy. She averaged 24.7 points and transformed the Colts from a 3-15 team last season to a 13-6 team that made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
But the Colts entered the playoffs without Harris, who was fouled on a layup attempt on Tuesday and suffered a broken nose and concussion, according to her father, Torrel. Hills West fell to Huntington, 74-67. But even though Tori’s season ended prematurely, she reached the goal she had set for the team: to restore a winning tradition.
“I’m not that surprised because I know how good my little sister is,” Tobias said of Hills West’s turnaround. “This summer at the basketball camps I ran, she would be playing with the boys and she’s out there getting buckets. That’s when we knew she was about to have a great year.”
She did, thanks to an eclectic skill set she developed from being raised in a family full of Division I basketball players.
“I’ve watched the way that they play,” Tori said, “and I get a piece of my game from each one of them.”
The ballhandling skills that help her beat opponents off the dribble and attack the rim may come from her sister, Tesia, who played at the University of Delaware and St. John’s. Her high-arching three-point shot may come from her brother Terry, who plays for Houston Baptist. Her ability to box out and sky for a rebound may come from her brother Tyler, who plays for Auburn.
Her lethal pull-up jumper, her vision on drive-and-kicks and her defensive intensity may come from her brother Tobias, who is averaging 13.7 points per game in his fifth season in the NBA.
“She pretty much can do everything she wants to do out there,” Tobias said of Tori, who has received offers from Hofstra, Iowa State, Auburn, Albany, Elon and Dayton. “She can attack the basket. She has a good handle. She’s shooting the ball really well. I’m impressed with how far she has come already.”
And how far her team has come. Alyse McAlpine played lockdown defense. Channiah Baker consistently knocked down threes. Samantha Pierre-Louis provided an inside presence. Joi Wilson set hard screens to free Harris up. Sam Hinke finished around the basket. First-year coach Bryan Dugan successfully installed a zone defense that stresses keeping the ball out of the paint.
The turnaround, though, has revolved around the addition of a star player.
“A lot of people have been saying, ‘Oh my goodness, you’re the best coach ever!’ And I’m like, ‘No. I have the best player in the county on my team,’ ” Dugan said. “Offensively, Tori is gifted at putting the ball in the basket.”
Next season she will put the finishing touches on the Harris era at Hills West.
“People ask me if it’s a lot of pressure, and I don’t think so,” Harris said of carrying the family name. “It’s motivation. I want my jersey to be retired up on the wall next to Tobias’ jersey. I look at it sometimes during games and think maybe one day that will be me.”
And maybe one day she will defeat her brother with a half-court heave or acrobatic trick shot.
“She’s good,” Tobias said, “but she cannot beat me in H-O-R-S-E.”