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Raphael Harris: Hoops dreamer, Part III of III

Edging closer to his dream of playing professional basketball, tough decisions await former Mustang

Posted: July 12, 2010 8:23 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Raphael Harris, a former forward at The Master’s College, trains to play professional basketball. But as a road toward his dream opens up, Harris faces many new obstacles. Raphael Harris, a former forward at The Master’s College, trains to play professional basketball. But as a road toward his dream opens up, Harris faces many new obstacles.
Raphael Harris, a former forward at The Master’s College, trains to play professional basketball. But as a road toward his dream opens up, Harris faces many new obstacles.

On the fourth floor of a Beverly Hills office, Beatrice Fakhrian, an agent with Mega Sports, composes e-mails and makes phone calls for her client, former The Master's College forward Raphael Harris.

She's been trying to find an NBA suitor for Harris, but it hasn't been easy.

"A lot of teams have shown interest," she says, ticking off a few names. "We've had a lot of communication and movement."

The problem, she says: "The exposure to the NBA hasn't been there, and that's what he's been fighting. They want a little bit more of a seasoned player, with at least a year of (professional) experience."

She adds that it's a pivotal year for NBA free agency. Team spending sprees will leave many looking for hungrier, "roadrunner" type players like Harris - youthful, athletic types - to fill remaining roster spots.

But a hit-and-miss history with untested players makes most teams leery of making the investment of a professional contract on a talent considered unproven, she says.

"Every team is wanting somebody else to train the player, at least expose him to the NBA," Fakhrian says, "and show (other teams) yes, he's been exposed to the game.
"Exposing a player to that for the first time is difficult."

It's been an eye-opening summer for Harris in that respect. His numbers for the Drew League - which pits him against NBA competition - bolster the confidence he has in his professional potential.

But his summer school has been an education in how difficult attaining his NBA dream will be.

"At first, when I started out, I was dead set on the NBA," Harris says. "Now, after what I've been through, playing in the summer leagues, talking to people. ... Just playing anywhere professionally would be a big plus for me."

With each passing week without an NBA summer league team invite, Harris gets closer to a trip to Southeast Asia.

He hopes a two-week opportunity to tour Indonesia in August might lead to an offer, or at least help raise his profile.

With the Basketball Club International Edge team, he'll get an opportunity to play several exhibitions against top teams from there over a 15-day stay. The group is made up of a dozen players with NBA, NBA Developmental League or European playing experience.

The all-expenses-paid trip includes a small stipend, but it could be worth much more if it earns Harris a professional contract.

James Mosley, a basketball coach at Santa Clarita Christian who also organizes the JBL summer-league team Harris plays on, says showcases like that can really be career-makers.

Mosley says he used a similar opportunity as a small-college player trying to earn his first professional break.

After finishing his playing career at TMC, Mosley got noticed after a tour of England, he says, and managed to parlay that into a career playing in England, Ireland, the Philippines and the Continental Basketball Association.

"A lot of guys wait around for ‘maybes,'" Mosley says. "I encourage (Harris) to take whatever opportunity he can to get him rolling, because you'd be surprised where that opportunity can take you."

After playing professionally on three continents, Mosley says his favorite place to play was the Philippines.

"I know it's a third-world country, but they gave us a driver, really took care of us," Mosley recalls. "For me, it was closest to the NBA in terms of atmosphere and the amount of fans.

"It was a big arena, and the whole city (Manila) would make a big deal about it. On the bigger nights, you'd get 7,000 to 10,000 fans."

Harris is trying to stay open minded as well as determined, but he knows his situation is atypical. His daughters, Destiny, 7, and Alana, 5, provide an urge to stay close to home.

He already complains about the distance between where he and their mother stay, which makes visits difficult. Often they resort to a Skype-like web cam service so he can see them more often. He knows that a move to Europe or Asia would make things much harder.

Harris says if he goes overseas, it has to be a situation that affords him the opportunity to fly his children over for visits.

But he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it, he can't afford to worry about that right now.

Right now, his basketball focus postpones most major plans. He says he's about eight courses shy of his kinesiology degree, which is his top priority when he hangs up his high tops.

He also admits he hasn't planned too far into the what-if scenarios if professional basketball doesn't pan out. While he says he definitely wants to go into coaching when he's done playing, it's not as though the time constraints of his full-time training schedule allow him time to earnestly pursue other career options.

"It's putting a cramp on everything right now," Harris says, "but I'm going for it."

Aside from his agent and family, there are plenty who believe in his chances professionally.

Mike Penberthy, TMC's only player to ever play in the NBA, says Harris has the potential. He's the one who helped secure Harris a spot on the BCI Edge team.

Mosley also says the player has the ability to make it. It's just a matter of if he wants it bad enough.

"He really has the physical tools," Mosley says. "It's all about him being in the gym and combining the tools he needs, work on the fundamentals and his athleticism."
Harris says the "want" really isn't an issue. Right now, waiting is the tough part.

Unfortunately, that's the stage of the game Harris is at.

On July 19, he'll have another opportunity to prove himself in front of the pros when he tries out with a group of players in Las Vegas for scouts from Japan.

Shortly after that, he'll be packing his bags for Indonesia. Harris sounds committed to chasing his NBA dream wherever it may take him, and he knows it could happen anywhere.

"If he's good enough, he'll get noticed," according to an NBA scout. "Between the Internet and all the services out there, there's no amazing talent out there toiling in obscurity."

Harris' agent naturally is optimistic about Harris' prospects, but says in the end, it's on Harris.

"We're confident he belongs (in the NBA)," Fakhrian says. "We can talk to him and get him an opportunity, but the bottom line is, it's up to him to perform."

In the meantime, Harris continues to chase after the dream, with runs on the beach and the hardwood - to make sure he's ready for the opportunity when it does come.

"When I look back, I want to make sure that I put my best shot forward," Harris says. "I want to look back when I get older and not have to say, ‘Well, I woulda, coulda, shoulda. ..."



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