Shaquille Harrison sank a game-tying free throw after drawing a foul in the closing seconds. Moments later he slashed to the basket for the winning layup.
It didn’t matter that it would be the only basket in a sudden-death overtime. Or that he and his teammates were a few years removed from their high school days.
Making those shots, and running up and down the Lee’s Summit West gym floor Saturday afternoon, made Harrison feel right at home.
“I work out when I come back home here, but I haven’t played an actual game like that since my (senior) high school year,” Harrison said. “It brings back so many memories.”
This wasn’t just a pickup game trip down memory lane for Harrison. The 2012 Lee’s Summit West graduate who now plays point guard for the Phoenix Suns was back home to start what he hopes will become a longstanding tradition of community involvement.
Harrison and his younger brother Monte, with the help of Lee’s Summit West basketball coach Michael Schieber, organized The Harrison Brothers Kansas City Basketball Alumni Tournament. The first tournament drew eight teams of former high-school and college players in a fundraiser for LS West basketball and the National Stroke Association.
Harrison’s grandmother, Eunice Francis, died from a stroke three years ago.
“Me and my brother always wanted to do something for my grandmother and keep her name alive somehow, some way,” Harrison said. “We came up this and it’s a great idea, I think.
“Everybody loves basketball in Kansas City. When I come home I play a lot of pickup games and everybody’s asking, ‘Why don’t you get a tournament going?’ ”
Harrison also got a skills camp going the day before, and more than 100 boys and girls took part. The camp and the tournament are just the start of what Harrison hopes will be many other efforts to give back to the community.
Monte Harrison, a second-round pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft now playing for Class AA Jacksonville in the Miami Marlins organization, got the ball rolling by funding the construction of a clubhouse for the Titans’ baseball field. Monte Harrison couldn’t make the tournament because he had a game that day.
“We were raised by good people, and we had good mentors,” Shaquille Harrison said. “It’s just what we do. It’s what we’ve seen and what we were taught. It’s a blessing that we can give back to the community because a lot of people are less fortunate and don’t have the things that we have.”
Schieber saw that giving spirit in the Harrisons back when they were at West. He also saw in Shaquille a drive and determination that he credited with turning him from a scrawny 5-foot-7 110-pounder into an NBA player.
“He kind of grew at every level that he played at; every point that he played at he just got better and better and better,” Schieber said. “He’s a phenomenal athlete, but he has worked for everything that he’s gotten.”
Schieber said Harrison didn’t get a scholarship offer until late in his senior year, despite averaging 17.3 points a game and leading West to the Class 5 final four. The NBA didn’t come calling after he became the first player to start every game in his four-year career at Tulsa.
He wound up with the Northern Arizona Suns, Phoenix’s G-League developmental team in 2016, and worked his way to earning a 10-day contract with the Suns last February. He wound up averaging 7.7 points over 23 games and earned a multiyear deal.
And after averaging 12.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds during the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas, Harrison learned last week that the Suns plan to keep him on their roster. Harrison will receive a $50,000 guarantee if he remains under contract through Aug. 1, but his $1.4 million salary won’t be fully guaranteed until January.
“I just take it day by day,” Harrison said. “I control what I can control and everything else worked out. Once you start worrying about those other things … it starts getting involved with your work ethic and playing with your mind.
“I did my part. I had a great summer league and now I’m just trying to grow on that and show them that I am an NBA point guard.”
Harrison has been working too hard for too long to sit back and admire where he is. Rather than thinking he’s arrived, he’s thinking about how this could be an opportunity for doing more for his hometown.
And plenty more opportunities to hoop it up again on the old high school floor.
“I want this to be around for years and years to come,” Harrison said. “Thirty years plus. That’s the plan.”