Recently, UMass Boston Basketball Coach Jason Harris visited an Honors Intermediate class in which he detailed the extensive efforts that go into creating a solid foundation for the Beacons. Coach Harris, the second, full time coach in UMass Boston’s men’s basketball history, has guided the Beacons to their record winning season and the program’s second three-year run, the latter of which had wins in the double digits. Under him, the Beacons jumped out to a 4–0 start for the fifth time in program history. But the success of the Beacons doesn’t come so naturally. Behind every hard fought win is the tireless efforts of its coach.
Whenever the Beacons are faced with an opponent, Coach Harris sits down two or three nights before the game in order to study the opposite team’s player. A chart is filled out with the players’ heights, year, and a couple of personal notes on each player’s different techniques. Such notes could include things such as a player being “athletic and bouncy,” or another having a habit of being a “shifty scorer.” Harris also watches clips from players’ performance in past games as a way to garner the type of player they are. This database (on which games are clipped and assigned to players) is crucial in providing important information such as the player efficiency rating, which is a measure of a player’s productivity per minute; points per possession, or the number of points scored divided by the number of total possessions; and the true shooting percentage, which measures how efficiently a player can throw the ball. Every single player in the nation in every university is on this database, with clips that compile their successes, style of playing, and their athletic techniques waiting to be studied and analyzed by coaches nationwide.
Once the sheet with this information is compiled, along with the athletes’ official photos, the strategy the Beacons adopt comes into play. A strategy Harris mentions he prefers to coach is man-to-man, since that way, each player’s focus is on a single target, and the attention of the team is advantageously divided. Harris also mentioned that when one player possesses the ball for too long, it could threaten the effort other players are willing to put into the game, which is why traveling isn’t particularly recommended.
Coach Harris also stresses the difference in Division III sports compared to the other, more “elite” divisions where the school’s back the teams more heavily. One difference is the lack of live numbers in real time during the game, the statistics of which would be incredibly beneficial to guiding the team to a win. Another difference is that the players on the basketball team are required to fundraise in order to afford additional supplies, they “literally pay to play,” or “pay for the experience,” since the university only covers so much. But this is a reality Coach Harris presumably understands, as his familiarity with Division III basketball can be assumed by him having played his college basketball at Rhode Island College.
The best thing that we, as a student body, can do for the basketball team, according to Harris, is show our support. Every athletic game is free for students. We aren’t expected to paint our faces or scream, Harris jokes, but simply showing up at any games to show support for the team is enough.