For Jason Harris (FC ’01), Fordham is about relationships. Of course, the ones he made as a two-time captain and all-time leader in three-pointers (274) during his four years on Rose Hill. But also the ones he’s fostered since, his connection as a graduate opening doors in the business and coaching world, an area in which the gregarious sociology major and 1,218-point career scorer has excelled over the past two decades after a stint playing in France’s top league alongside the likes of future NBA star Tony Parker.
Harris starred under two Fordham coaches, Nick Macarchuk in his freshman and sophomore seasons, beginning the Rams’ ascent in the Atlantic 10, and Bob Hill for his final two years, collecting 274 three pointers and leading the team in steals three straight years. He coached both boys and girls on the high school and AAU level before accepting a women’s basketball assistant coaching position at Division I North Carolina Central University in Durham, where he is completing his second season.
Harris’s wide circle includes a strong relationship with Fordham women’s basketball coach Stephanie Gaitley, cemented when one of his AAU stars, Danielle Burns (FC ’17), signed on as one of her early recruits. He took some time recently to talk about his Fordham experience, some of the players, coaches and others who shaped his time at Rose Hill, and his continued success since then.
Rebounders Club: What was your experience like at Fordham?
Jason Harris: Great. One of the best experiences of my life. I had some other good choices coming out of high school [St. John’s at Prospect Hall in Maryland], but I chose Fordham for the location, and the reputation of the school. Like others, I had dreams of playing in the NBA, playing professionally, but I also knew that a Fordham education and degree had a lot of weight, and could help me get a job anywhere. There was also the opportunity to help lead the transition to the Atlantic 10 and be a part of that.
RC: There was that transition, and, after two years, a change of coach. How was playing for Coach Macarchuk and Coach Hill.
JH: I was recruited by Coach Macarchuk; he knew everything about me as a person, my family, he had a great personality, it was like family when I came to Fordham. Coach Hill had come from the pros, so it was more businesslike, definitely different. It was a different style from the start.
RC: Who were some of your favorite teammates and who do you still keep in touch with?
JH: Well, first Bevon Robin. He’s the reason I came to Fordham, he was my host when I visited, and we just clicked right away. He and I both came from high-level, winning high school programs, so we connected on that. He has a tremendous work ethic, unmatchable, he was the hardest worker on the team. Even today, we speak a lot, I’m godfather to his daughter, we speak to each other all the time.
Some other guys: Steve Canal, Duke [Freeman-McKamey], T.J. [Teremun Johnson], Scott Harmatuk, Mark Jarell-Wright, a lot of guys. I like to keep in touch with people.
RC: And though obviously you’re a men’s basketball alumnus, your closest connection at Fordham today may be its women’s basketball coach, Stephanie Gaitley. Tell us about that.
JH: I played for two different coaches, so I learned things to do, things not to do, when I started coaching in high school and AAU. Eventually I had some players for Coach Gaitley to look at, and we talked and formed a bond. What she’s done there, from what the program was like when I was in school and then right before she took over, is amazing.
RC: The first thing people might think of with you is 3-point shooting, since you’re the #1 all time 3-point leader at Fordham, but defense was your real trademark. How much pride did you take in that?
JH: I played with six or seven or eight McDonald’s All-Americans in high school, so I didn’t get to shoot the ball much. So I had to help in other ways, and defense was the way. And it carried on into college, where I took pride in taking on the other team’s best player and stopping him. It was as important as scoring.
RC: You played in France after graduation, what was that experience like?
JH: I had an opportunity after I graduated as an assistant at Stony Brook with Coach Macarchuk, but I thought this would be the one chance I had to see if I could play in the pros. It was an amazing time. Our team was in Nice, called Antibes, right on the French Riviera, the highest level there. But I was there on 9/11, on a bus going to Spain, and couldn’t get in touch with my mom, or my friends in New York. The coaches, the team, they didn’t care much, we had a game to play, so I felt after that that I needed to be home, it really changed my perspective. But I don’t regret my decision [to go overseas].
RC: What are some of your other memories of Fordham?
JH: Mostly the people. Jill [Shapiro], Vinny [Porricelli], ‘The Old Fox’ [Jim Wilson], Lorraine [Corcoran], they are some of the best people I know. I still stay in touch with a lot of them.