Matt Harris is one of the leading 3-point shooters for the River Hawks. (Matt Dwyer/Connector).
The UMass Lowell men’s basketball team is off to their best start since entering Division I. The team has won five of their first seven game, with key wins over opponents that got the better of them in the previous season. Chances are, those who are familiar with River Hawks basketball are also familiar with senior guard Matt Harris. Number 22 for the UMass Lowell is currently averaging over 16 points a game and has been known to score in bunches during critical moments for UMass Lowell.
This year marks the first time that the River Hawks are eligible for both the America East post-conference play and the NCAA tournament. The increased importance of the games this year has undoubtedly excited the staff, players and fans. Serving as added motivation, the team certainly recognized the meaningfulness of this season.
“A switch definitely flipped, not only with me but with the team,” said Harris. “We realize that this year is special and that this is the first time that we don’t know when our season is going to end. Being a senior, I try to approach every day like it is my last time playing.”
Harris is shooting 46 percent this season from beyond the arc. “Matt is one of the best [three-point shooters] not only at this level but also in the country,” said UMass Lowell assistant coach Louis Hinnant.
Harris, the well-respected shooter and visible leader for the team, received the calling to pursue basketball initially from his family.
“My father was a basketball player. He won a state championship in high school and furthered his career in college,” said Harris. “My dad is a huge role model for me from a character perspective. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without him.”
The choice of UMass Lowell as Harris’ college destination was quite the road trip. The Erie, Penn. native knew that it would be difficult to move far away from his upbringing. Harris described the feeling of Erie to be comparable with Lowell: both are cities in cold weather climates.
“My dream, from an early age, was always to play Division I [basketball]. The hardest part about coming here was the distance from home. I’m eight hours away [from home], but my parents do a great job keeping up with me,” Harris said.
Though his dream of playing college basketball had come true, Harris joined a team that was struggling to adjust to the caliber of Division I competition. The early struggles served as a learning experience.
“We’ve definitely had our rough patches. I feel that the tough times were building blocks to where we are now,” said Harris. “The players that have [since] graduated really helped us become the team we are today.”
Upon reflection, Harris said he thanks his coaching staff for the opportunity to represent UMass Lowell. “I really appreciate Coach Duquette and the entire coaching staff for bringing me here and believing in me,” said Harris. “The entire athletic department and team treated me like family and made me feel comfortable like the way I felt back at home. That made my transition a lot easier.”
Harris studies within the Manning School of Business at UMass Lowell with concentrations within marketing and management. He said in the future, he would like to work in professional sports and entrepreneurship.
“After I receive my degree, I’m hoping to continue playing basketball either overseas or in the United States. [In addition], I hope to someday own my own business,” said Harris.
UMass Lowell fans can see Harris and the team back in action in Lowell on Wednesday, Dec. 13 as they return from a three-game road trip to host Boston University at 5 p.m.
“My first couple of weeks [in Lowell], I don’t think I said a word. Now, my coaches can’t stop me from talking,” Harris said. “[My teammates] are like brothers. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to be around.”