Danvers Cager Devan Harris The Perfect Addition

The story has become legend by now among the Danvers High boys basketball community.

Devan Harris’s mom, an executive with Proctor & Gamble, is transferred from corporate headquarters in Cincinnati to Boston to work at Gillette. The Harris family settles in Hingham.

During the summer between his sophomore and junior years, Devan becomes a teammate with Danvers High’s Vinny Clifford and Peter Merry playing for the Boston Warriors AAU team. Not entirely happy with the Hingham High basketball program, Devan is asked┬áby his summer teammates to consider coming to Danvers and playing with them. Devan asks mom. Mom says yes. They’ll move to the North Shore, to Danvers.

The rest is history, or, should we say, Harris continues to make history in this, his second and senior season as the most potent power forward in the Northeastern Conference and among the best at his position in Eastern Massachusetts.

The result? Harris was the Salem News Player of the Year in 2014 when he led the Falcons to a 20-3 record, to their third straight NEC Small Division title, to the mythical NEC overall title and a berth in the Division 2 North tournament final, where they fell to New Mission.

That was a completely new DHS squad a year ago, since the lone returning starter from the Division 3 state champion team from the prior year, the aforementioned Clifford, sat out the entire campaign following ACL surgery.

Harris enjoyed a spectacular debut season, averaging 18.9 points and nine rebounds during the regular season and 23.7 points and 14.5 rebounds in the tournament. His All-NEC and co-MVP recognition came as no surprise.

The 6-4, 255-pound Harris, fingered by every opposing coach as the player his defense must stop, or at least hold down, as the new season got under way, has been all but unstoppable in the Falcons first 11 games.

He has averaged 18.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, been held under double figurers only twice and has scored 35, 27 (twice) and 25 in his top four offensive outings. Devan, with his inside power game and uncanny offensive rebounding ability, is the perfect complement to the 6-10 Merry in the pivot and the 6-3 Clifford at small forward, the latter the team’s — and arguably the NEC’s — top three-point shooter who can also penetrate to the basket when the opportunity presents itself.

The Falcons might have been no better than a .500 team last year if Harris had not arrived on the scene. They surely would not be undefeated after 11 games this season without his impressive all-around game.

“It’s just great we got him to come to Danvers,” says Clifford. “He’s a great player and a great teammate.”

“Devan’s a fantastic player whose true value can’t be fully measured, he’s so important to our success,” adds coach John Walsh.

“I’m just glad my mother agreed to move up here and allow me the chance to play for Danvers,” declares Harris, whose fiery determination is infectious among his teammates.

This blogger calls Harris a reincarnation of Charles Barkley, the all-time NBA great whom Harris resembles both in stature and with his wondrous moves inside the paint, spinning one way or the other and slithering between multiple defenders when he sees daylight to the basket. At the same time, Harris runs the floor like a gazelle, is an exceptional defender and has become a reliable three-point shooter to go along with the “trey” abilities of Clifford and guards Devonn Allen and Rashad Francois.

Harris, who started at offensive left tackle for the football team this past fall, also has an uncanny nose for the loose ball, whether it’s bouncing off the rim or falling to there floor. He has a rebounding reach and sturdy positioning which is the envy of most NEC frontcourt players.

“I just try and anticipate where the ball will go if it’s a miss,” says Harris. “And if the ball is loose on the floor, I tend to dive for it like a football fumble. That’s my style.”

And a beautiful style it is; a style never before seen by DHS boys hoop fans, at least spanning the last 55 years.

And, coincidence of coincidences, if you’re a “name” person like me, he’s only one of two Devonn/Devans on the team. What are the odds of that? If coach John Walsh, the architect of Danvers’ unprecedented five-year run of 89 wins and 19 losses is smart, he’s been calling out those guys by last name in practice and in games this season.

Harris is grateful for the Falcons’ amazing success, his talented teammates who start and come in off the bench, and in particular for the “other” Devonn. As a sophomore and the only non-senior starter, the burden he’s carried as the No. 1 point guard successor to the graduated Mark McCarthy, has been substantial.

Harris calls Allen’s effective play a critical element in the teams’ ability to be 11-0, including a two-point win over Salem, a three-pointer liver Marblehead and a six-pointer over Somerville.

“Devonn’s emergence as our point guard has been amazing,” Harris said. “He got some good experience last year (as the first guard off the bench). But to make such a big jump this year and to come up with so many big plays at both ends of the court, like those big plays that saved us against Salem (39-37), has been amazing; just what we needed.”

As for dealing with the high expectations and game-to-game pressure, Harris says the team simply “tries not to think about it. We try and focus in on the game at hand and nothing more. It’s worked okay so far. We’d also rather be a team that has high hopes and has to deal with pressure than a team that’s just .500.”

It’s no secret what the team’s goals are from here. “Keep winning, win the Conference and try and get to Worcester (for the state final),” Harris says in stating the obvious.

No matter where the season goes from here, a lion’s share of the credit for the Falcons’ phenomenal success last season and this must go to Devan Harris.

 

 

 

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