By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Nursing a love for the game

Linfield’s nursing program is at the college’s Portland campus, making the likelihood of commuting extremely difficult. Harris said he’s going to move to Portland next fall to attend classes.

When you ask Linfield men’s basketball coach Larry Doty about Harris’ decision to end his career after two seasons, his reaction is extremely positive.

“B has had a great year,” Doty said. “It’s unfortunate that we’re going to lose him, but that’s Linfield and that’s Brandon. He knows what he wants to do.

“We’re going to miss him dearly. … But he’s making the right decision.”

Harris, who graduated in 2011 from McMinnville High school, will play his final two games for the Wildcats this weekend. Linfield hosts Whitworth at 8 p.m. today, and it finishes the regular season at 6 p.m. Saturday vs. Whitman.

Like many small-college athletes, Harris knows life beyond Linfield won’t include playing basketball professionally. He’s made a decision that will benefit his career. What makes the circumstances of Harris leaving more difficult is the season he is having. Harris has started every game this season for the Wildcats at point guard and is averaging 11.6 points per contest. He’s Linfield’s second-leading scorer, and after the Wildcats’ top scorer Andrew Batuik was diagnosed with stress fractures in his foot, Harris has become an even more integral part of the team.

“He’s just made the most of it,” Doty said. “If you look at what he’s done since the other guys went out with injuries, he’s moved up on the scouting report. … It’s pretty special because he’s the No. 1 guy on everyone’s scouting report for Linfield, and he’s still getting the job done, which is really great. I’m proud of him.”

Harris said he’s wanted to be a nurse since high school. He chose Linfield because of the automatic acceptance to the program. He didn’t even approach Doty about playing basketball until the summer after he graduated. This ending has been scripted for two years, he said.

“I think I’ve played a bigger role this year than even I expected, which makes this harder and tougher to walk away from it at this point,” Harris said. “But it’s something I have to do. It would be really tough to make it work.”

Harris’ last two coaches have the same things to say about him. His maturity and kindness stand out to Doty and McMinnville boys basketball coach Willie Graham. The first thing Graham says after Harris’ name is brought up is just how good of a kid he is.

“He’s a great kid,” Graham said. “He’s super consistent in everything he does. That’s just Brandon.”

Graham said Harris still sends him encouraging texts before Mac games, and he has come to multiple games this season. The Mac coaching staff gave Harris a nickname — Mr. Grizzly — because he was always around the program. He would stick around for every basketball camp, be at every open gym and work out whenever he could.

“He just kept plugging along,” Graham said. “But with Brandon, you wouldn’t expect anything less.”

Harris’ two seasons at Linfield haven’t been filled with a lot of winning, which he said has been a little frustrating. The Wildcats went 5-20 last year and are 4-19 this season. Through it all, Harris said he has enjoyed the time he’s spent with his teammates and working on his game.

“He has the right attitude,” Graham said. “There have been times this year where he’s been frustrated with the losing or how he’s played, but the thing about him is that he’s resilient. He bounces right back and is ready to go.”

Harris said in the last two years, he’s proved to himself that he could play college basketball. It’s something he always wondered whether or not he could do.

“I feel like I’ve achieved more than I thought,” he said. “It’s been great.”

For Graham, there’s one story that sticks out in his mind about Harris. Right before the start his senior year at McMinnville, the football team went through its now famous medical problems with compartment syndrome. Harris, who wasn’t on the team, went to Mac’s first game at Barlow. He stood on the sidelines, and that night he called Graham. Harris told Graham he was going to start playing football to help the team out. Because he started late, he didn’t play in an actual game for a few weeks, but by the end of the season he not only played but was a contributor.

“That’s just how Brandon works,” Graham said. “When things are going well, there’s a guy to count on.”

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