COVINGTON, Ga. — Time is ticking for Armani Harris, and he’s embracing it.
The 6-foot-7 junior who will be a senior for the Newton Rams for the 2018-19 season knows that his senior season will be his last to prove himself as a player, as well as his last to be a leader for the Rams’ boys basketball team, and he doesn’t mind the potential stresses that could bring.
In fact, being a go-to player for one of the most consistent basketball programs in Georgia is something he’s been working for since he arrived at Newton.
“Since my freshman year, my game’s really come a long way,” Harris said. “When I was a freshman, I was just strictly a five on the court. I didn’t know how to dribble and shoot. My sophomore year, I was like a sixth man basically, one of those players who came off the bench to rebound and play defense.”
But his junior season was different. With the departure of players such as Josh Tukes (Georgia Tech), J.D. Notae (Jacksonville) and Isaiah Miller (UNC-Greensboro), Harris knew that even though he was one of four new varsity starters, he’d have to learn to lead fast.
“This year I realized I had to step up and score more, rebound more, be a starter and one of the leaders on this team,” he said. “It was a big task for me to take on, but I’m glad I was able to do it.”
Harris didn’t disappoint, either.
His 10 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots per game were instrumental in helping an inexperienced Newton squad rally around star point guard and Kentucky commitment Ashton Hagans to produce a Class AAAAAAA Final Four run.
His play produced his first college offer from Limestone. He’s also gotten heavy interest from Presbyterian, UNC-Greensboro, Radford, Morehead State and Jacksonville, to name a few.
But now with Hagans, also a junior, contemplating a reclassification that would catapult him to Kentucky a year early, Harris is met with an even greater sense of urgency to empty out the fullness of his potential and attract some more college hoops suitors to his game.
“I’m blessed to have at least one offer,” he said. “Anyone is blessed to have the chance to play at the college level. At the same time, I’m looking forward to showcasing my talents in front of everybody, and hopefully by my senior year, I can choose which place is best for me.”
Harris will play this summer for the Atlanta Celtics 17u squad on the AAU circuit. He’s already played in Dallas, TX and has traversed through some of the same AAU circles through the Adidas gauntlet that Hagans and his Game Elite squad are a part of.
He said he hopes to have the chance to unleash another side of his game on the summer circuit this year.
“Playing with a group of guys like Ashton, Dre Butler and Tyrease (Brown), and just that whole program, you know, it made me better,” he said. “Being in that kind of program helps me showcase my talent on a big level. Now at AAU, I’m hoping to showcase even more talent that I couldn’t show at Newton. It’ll give me a chance to put my full display of abilities on the line.”
Whatever development he gets during the AAU circuit, and during summer league play with Newton should equip Harris to be more of a pacesetter for the Rams, come next season.
Newton will lose several seniors, in addition to the possibility of Hagans’ early departure. But Harris says he's excited about the prospects of returning guys like Tre Clark, Brown and Norcross transfer Ty Harper.
Harris added that he’s ready to do whatever it takes to help keep the program pushing forward.
“Hopefully we’ll have another big man to fill Dre’s spot,” Harris said. “That’s one thing I’m gonna miss is playing beside my friend Dre. You had two big men who were unstoppable down low. And then if Ashton does leave, we wish him the best. That’s family. We love him to death and will love him no matter what decision he makes.
“But if he does leave, I’d love to take that role as being the next go-to player on our team. I’m working to be that kind of player, and I’m ready for next season, whatever comes my way.”