Latest update March 29th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 21, 2015 Sports
By Edison Jefford
It was inspirational to watch the diminutive, Darcel Harris displaying big
basketball brains last week when Guyana’s senior male team unexpectedly swept Bermuda in a three-game series at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall for a historic accomplishment.
Harris was elevated to National Head Coach after his dominance with Dyna’s Ravens Basketball Club, which he led to a National Championship last year; his appointment, however, was greeted with criticism from some sections of the basketball community.
The Assistant Coach of one particular club in Georgetown told me that he was not happy with an apparent snubbing of his Coach, who was Head Coach last year; a similar sentiment came from a sub-association that was lobbying for one of its coaches to be represented.
The bottom line is that Harris’ appointment was unpopular to some extent, but received what can be called ‘unprecedented support’ from the Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation (GABF) that licensed him to carry out the necessary functions in that capacity.
With the anointing of the GABF and some criticism on the ground, Harris knew he had to put on a show; he had to perform to nullify the critics and re-energise Guyana’s basketball. Harris appropriately converted foes to fans last week.
What he did was unconventional. First, Harris, who is a former national point guard, known for his three-point range, was pellucid when he said he is not interested in offensive-minded players alone – he wants more role players as a part of his team.
The proclamation sort of quelled intentions of players outshining each other within the scope of their specific positions, and forced more teamwork. Harris put the puzzle of Guyana’s basketball team together with the reassurance that there is a place for every player, regardless of what their background was – whether they came from Georgetown, Linden or Berbice.
The team became a unit under Harris’ leadership and as the adage goes, there is strength in unity; he nullified the belief in a ‘star player’ to shoulder the burden of responsibility and used each individual to their strength in an awesome display of basketball IQ that elevated Harris’ status as a Coach.
This brings me to my second point in analysing what brought Harris the success he got against Bermuda, which is ranked in the top six teams in the Caribbean Basketball Confederation (CBC), as opposed to Guyana’s ranking outside of the top 10.
Usually known for his offensive dominance, Harris gave guard/forward, Akeem Kanhai the most important defensive role. His assignment was Bermudian guard/forward, Sullivan Phillips who is a 6’6″ and 230-pound beast compared to the much smaller Kanhai.
Phillips is a European League MVP and from his fundamentals, was definitely the leader of the Bermudian team. Kanhai accepted the challenge and while he was unable to fully immobilise the machine that was Phillips, he certainly kept him in check and under control.
It did not stop there. Harris also demanded that Kanhai play his offensive role; imagine guarding the best player on the team for 30-plus minutes then speeding up-court, on possession, to become part of an up-tempo system. Kanhai excelled in the situation, scoring in double figures, albeit not his usual dominance.
In addition, Harris made guard, Travis Burnett more coachable. Burnett, who is sometimes guilty of over-dribbling and bail-out passing at the club level, put in a performance against Bermuda that clearly made him the MVP of the Series, an award he received.
Harris could be heard and seen on the bench instructing Burnett with incredible animation, which ensured that the talented player did the right thing on possession. Burnett is a defensive guard, so there was no problem with him on the other end of the floor.
What Harris needed from him was better decision-making, and he managed to get that out of the one player that made life difficult for the Bermudians once he got to the paint. Burnett combined with Kanhai, Shelroy Thomas and Dave Causway to create havoc for the big Bermuda team with an up-tempo system that won them an International Series.
Also, Harris made the muscular forward, Ryan Gullen play on the wing instead of in the paint. It opened up Gullen for big shots that he nailed to keep Guyana alive in close contests; three points separated Guyana from Bermuda in the first and the last games (76-73 and 59-56). Gullen’s shots from beyond the arc in crunch-time are largely responsible for the victories.
Interesting to note, was Harris’ reversal of a popular trend of reverting to the more senior players in the team, Royston Siland, Stephon Gillis and Neil Marks; they had their roles, but Harris was unafraid to take the risk with the next generation of players and it paid off in a major way. Harris got the results from the ‘youngsters’ in the team.
Harris is a leader. The GABF must ensure that it invests in him; that they do whatever is possible to expose his basketball brain to superior training in the form of workshops and clinics overseas.
You sucking the dry seed of your own mangoes, while the foreigners eating sweet flesh.
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