Dec. 15, 2004 - Behind the building at Immaculate Heart High School 10 players from the Catholic school's eighth grade boys basketball team run up and down pavement playing on a nine-and-a-half-foot rim, in hopes of syncing up its game.
Of the 10 players, two of them don't need much help in coordinating their games, after all they've been on the same wavelength on the basketball court since the second grade. On and off the hardwood they are practically the same person.
Chris and Greg Harris are the newest additions to the Immaculate Heart eighth grade boys basketball team. Since transferring to the school in early November from Oregon, the identical twins have breathed new life into the school's struggling basketball program.
To say this year's eighth grade has had its share of struggles is an understatement. Most of the players on this year's squad (10 of the 14) have grown up playing alongside each other for years, rising up through the ranks of Immaculate Heart's program.
Since the sixth grade, this band of basketballers has managed to win just one game. In stepped the Harris twins and with them what may very well be the missing link toward manhandling opponents.
Through three games this season the Knights already are 2-1 and would have been 3-0 if not for a last ditch effort to beat a dominant St. Peter and Paul's team coming up short.
"I think now we can hang with anybody," said Immaculate Heart head coach, Chris Bannon. Although nobody likes to lose, the loss is seen as the proverbial morale victory for Immaculate Heart which regularly lost to Diocese League powerhouse St. Peters by 30 to 40 points a game.
Even with the Harris boys, easily the team's tallest players at 5-feet, 10-inches, Bannon insists this team is fueled by its uncompromising assertion on the court.
The Harris twins can't take all the credit for revitalizing the eighth grade team.
"There are no superstars on this team," said the head coach, "but they are real aggressive."
What the Harris twins bring to the squad that is invaluable, says Bannon, is the duo's altruistic attitude and compassion for the game. The pair is constantly pulling teammates aside and offering advice on proper techniques.
When the ball is in play, the two "loor leaders are as unselfish as they are quick. The problem arises when teammates try too hard to get the ball back to the twins rather than take shots or look for another open player, said Bannon.
Their playmaking ability and "killer instinct" as described by Bannon, is a direct result of the time the two spend working together. The duo can no longer play each other one-on-one, said Chris Harris. No, they just work on drawing up plays and figuring out where to look for each other on the court.
"I know everything he's going to do," said Chris. "He gets that look on his face."
Although here for a little more than a month, they couldn't move to Tucson from Portland until after the youth football season, the twins have already hooked up to play on several Tucson basketball club teams. Proficient at football and baseball as well, the biggest choice the eighth graders will have to make in the upcoming months will be to choose a high school.
The pair has narrowed down their choices to either Salpointe Catholic or Ironwood Ridge. In fact a majority of the players on the eighth grade team will choose between the two schools when asked in between drills at practice.
When the time comes they will sit down and figure out which school would better suit their needs, said Greg Harris Sr., the boys' father.
Unfortunately for the school, many kids choose to abandon Immaculate Heart after the eighth grade. The Class 1A high school currently has less than 60 students in attendance.
School officials hope that will change with the addition of its new gym. Construction on the gym, which began this summer and was expected to be finished this month, was delayed when a bureaucratic snafu halted construction this fall. According to Mark Schneider, Executive Vice President and Director of Development, a miscommunication between the architect and U.S. Steel caused the wrong information to be sent to Oro Valley planners.
Since then U.S. Steel has agreed to cover a majority of the cost out of respect to the school's sisters and kids, said Schneider. The new calculations will be sent to Oro Valley officials in the upcoming weeks and construction should resume shortly.
"Everybody is excited," Schneider said of the new gym. He stopped short of targeting a date when the gym will be complete.
Immaculate Heart hopes to attract Class 1A tournaments with the new gym in sports such as basketball and volleyball. For now, the Harris twins and their teammates will have to play outside.