Congrats to HCS 2016 grad Ty Harris (#52) and the rest of the South Carolina Gamecocks for winning the NCAA championship! What an amazing accomplishment for the freshman guard. Eagle nation is proud of you!
South Carolina celebrating after beating Mississippi State for the NCAA title on Sunday. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)
Heritage Christian's Tyasha Harris helped lead the Eagles to a third-straight state title.
As we celebrate with Ty and her NCAA Championship victory, we remember some of the great stories about her amazing freshman season. Here's an ESPN article from March 22:
Fearless freshman Tyasha Harris plays beyond her years as South Carolina's point guard
South Carolina point guard Tyasha Harris said before the SEC tournament final in early March that she expected to have a few jitters, considering she was playing for a championship. But they never showed up.
"I live for big moments," she said, smiling. "I thought I would get nervous, but nothing came. I was ready to go get that ring."
Ah, the life of a freshman. Much of what you encounter in college basketball is new. But depending on your personality and how your coaches and teammates respond to you, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. It can be exciting.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has said she decided to give Harris "the keys to the car" as her point guard. The 5-foot-10 guard Harris has started 23 games for the 29-4 Gamecocks, is averaging 5.3 points and has a team-high 109 assists.
"My teammates bestowed a lot of trust in me, and they gave me a lot of confidence this season," Harris said. "I feel like I can run a team. Coach Staley is always harping on me in practice: 'Play your game that you normally play, and let everything come together.' "
The Gamecocks need Harris and her poise. Junior Bianca Cuevas-Moore also sees time at the point for South Carolina, and she can be an X factor for South Carolina. But Harris earned the starting job with a more consistent floor presence.
Admittedly, having a freshman point guard might be seen as an obstacle, especially in the postseason, because of inexperience in a leadership role. There's a lot to that, but there's also another way to look at it.
A freshman generally carries nothing into the postseason. No memories of falling short or disappointments or difficult situations. Players can learn from those things and get better, and that often can propel them into achieving great things in their next chance. But experiences also can weigh on players. Again, it can depend on their personality. In Harris' case, she has been staying very even-keel.
"The kid is special; she has a presence about her," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said after Harris had seven points -- including a key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter -- and five assists in the SEC title game against his Bulldogs. "You want point guards to have presence. When you have a freshman point guard playing that many minutes, whether it's in November or in March, that's pretty big."
The perimeter was the biggest question mark for South Carolina coming into this season after losing senior guards Tiffany Mitchell, Khadijah Sessions, Asia Dozier and Tina Roy.
And Harris wasn't even in the fold yet as a future Gamecock last March, when South Carolina was upset by Syracuse in the Sweet 16 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She didn't commit to South Carolina until April 13, 2016.
After South Carolina won the SEC title game, Harris was asked about the NCAA tournament, and whether she had heard any "horror stories" about how things went wrong in South Dakota. Nope. For Harris, it was a fresh slate.
In South Carolina's NCAA tournament opener last Friday, a 90-40 victory over No. 16 seed UNC Asheville, everything went smoothly. It was different in their second game, a nail-biting 71-68 victory over No. 8 seed Arizona State. In the third quarter, South Carolina fell behind by 11 points. There was the kind of tension that even a cool customer like Harris hadn't experienced before: Win or you're done.
But she and the Gamecocks rallied to make the Sweet 16. Her line doesn't stand out -- three points, three assists, one rebound -- but she played 32 minutes and did her job in a game that could have gotten away from South Carolina.
Staley, of course, is one of the best point guards in women's basketball history, going to three Final Fours while at Virginia, playing on three gold medal-winning Olympic teams, and competing for 10 seasons professionally in the ABL and the WNBA.
It was 25 years ago that Staley, as a senior with the Cavaliers, made her final push at the NCAA title. It eluded her with a 66-65 loss to Stanford in the national semifinals. Harris says she has seen "a few clips" of Staley's playing days. But like most young players, she doesn't have much concept of just how great a player her Hall of Fame coach was.
But Harris does have a few more recent-vintage role models who've had a lot of success: former Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins and former UConn forward Maya Moore, now both in the WNBA.
Harris is from Noblesville, Indiana, about 20 miles north of downtown Indianapolis. She won three state championships at Heritage Christian High, and was very meticulous about making her college choice. Which was why it took until mid-April; she wanted to be positive that South Carolina was the right fit. And it has been, for both sides.
"It stays warmer in South Carolina, and I like that," she said. "My teammates make it home for me, so I'm not homesick.
"When we had a team-bonding session, one of the things they told me was, 'Be the leader. You know what you're doing. Even though you're young, you have a lot of knowledge. We have all the faith in the world in you.' That's really helped me."