How strong? Maybe the television spot has it right after all.
Try Army strong. Desert Vista senior Austen Harris certainly has the approach, and the mindset right. And, come fall, the 5-foot-6 points guard will be suiting up as a member of the Army women’s college basketball team.
More important to Harris, however, she’ll be a student at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., continuing her basketball career while propelling herself into a future of opportunity.
“I just thought it would be a great opportunity to get to play for the military academy and get to grow up there,” Harris said. “My dad used to be in the military, and West Point’s been on my back all summer. They wanted me.
Averaging 12.6 points and 6 assists a game, Harris is every bit the lead-by-example, if not understated, floor general for coach Rachel Proudfoot’s Thunder, who have opened the season white hot at 7-0 so far. Off the court, the soft-spoken future doctor – “I want to go pre-med,” Harris says without hesitation – is learning now, with the help of her coach, how to deal with everything that is sure to come flying at her once she steps on campus at West Point.
“She’s very intelligent. She’s such a great kid,” Proudfoot said. “The thing I think now, is I’m trying to take that coaching aspect one step further, for her. I say, 'You know, I know what you’re going to go through.’”
Proudfoot admits that while some coaches are loose and tend to go-with-the-flow at times, she runs a tight ship – likely a product of her three-year experience as a soldier in the Army herself.
“I know it gets a little bit tedious at times for them, but to me accountability is huge,” Proudfoot said. “I’m trying to teach all of them to be accountable.
“(Austen) is getting there. She’s truly learning. She’s come so far from last year,”
Added Harris: “She’s always telling me, 'Go hard soldier!’”
Harris said she’s well aware that her commitment to West Point extends beyond the possibility of a four-year playing career. For West Point entrants, five years of active duty is required after graduation, followed by three years of reserve status.
For Harris, the next decade or so will have a purpose beyond basketball and simply serving, however.
“I want to go pre-med,” she said, adding that she plans to take advantage of everything the Army can do to help her future career. “I’m excited.”
Harris said that, in committing to play college basketball, there’s something bigger when you step on campus with the rest of the Cadets.
“Everybody works together, works hard. You have to there,” she said. “Everyone is there to get things done. They’re there to accomplish something.”