Harris and the Seawolves look to improve on last season. Photo by Nina Lin
Harris and the Seawolves look to improve on last season. Photo by Nina Lin

            After two years in community college, most athletes have a choice to make. You can either move on into the NCAA and play your final two years at a different school, or you can go into it strictly for the academics and get your degree. Senior Teasha Harris made the decision to come to Stony Brook relatively easily coming out of Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

            “The atmosphere was great here,” the Bloomington, Ill. native said. “I saw the teammates’ chemistry and it was great.”

            The senior guard lead the Eagles at Kirkwood to a sixth place finish in the 2011-2012 NJCAA DII Women’s Basketball Championship in her final year at the community college level, while averaging 10.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals and earning first-team All-Conference in the process.

            But even with that fantastic stat line, she was still hesitant about the jump.

            “I was really nervous coming in,” she said. “My teammates gave me a great sense that everything would be okay and working me through everything.”

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            By playing in all 30 games this year, averaging 5.5 points and being second on the team with 43 assists and 31 steals, it is easy to say that the jump was pretty easy for her. But she did not do it alone.

            “I have 15 other girls on this team,” Harris said. “There’s not one person who we would let down. We’re always going to be there to push each other”.

            The NJCAA has great talent in its organization and for most athletes serves as a jumping off point into the NCAA, whether it is in the Division I, II, or III rank. The difference between the two levels, however, is a lot more significant than some might expect, and some players are not able to make this jump for a number of reasons.

            “It’s a bigger jump than what a lot of people think,” Harris said. “You’re playing against people who are quicker than you, stronger than you and sometimes smarter than you. So you have to be smart in everything you do.”

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            Not only is the athletics a big jump, but the academics are also an even bigger part. Harris gives a lot of credit to the Goldstein Academic Center which helps keep them on track.

            “We have a great academic center here,” she said. “Our academic advisor, Courtney, does a great job keeping our schedule together.”

            The Seawolves last year made a big jump in wins from a year ago, going from four to 14 wins and losing on a buzzer beater in the first round of the America East tournament. A big reason for this would be camaraderie and the leadership qualities on the team.

            “It was in the way we worked together,” Harris said. “We had a great group of seniors to provide the leadership.”

            Those seniors brought a big improvement in their program and Harris would like to lead her senior class in taking the next step with her team. And she brings the intangibles to the team that every successful roster needs.

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            “I bring a lot of energy to practice and games and am always talking,” she said.

            “She’s got the energy to go,” coach Beth O’Boyle added. “She makes plays on the offensive side, and we’re definitely going to rely on her this year”.

            Now that they made the first round of that tournament, it is time to take the next step and trying to do that would be impossible without building on last year’s performance.

            “We want to have a great year,” Harris said. “We have to focus on bringing back things from last year.”

            “We have to take every practice and move from it and keep learning from every situation that we’re in,” she added.

            The Seawolves have a very competitive non-conference schedule, as they play two teams who qualified for non-conference play in the 2012-2013 season. They will take on Patriot League champions, who were upended by the Seawolves 44-40 last season, on Nov. 10 at the Naval Academy. Exactly one week later, the Seawolves will travel to Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes, who participated in last year’s WNIT.

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            “When you play really good teams, you have to learn how to play at a higher level,” Harris said. “They push you more so when you get to conference, you know you’ll be able to do it.”

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