Ty Harris Has a Basketball Mentor at South Carolina in Head Coach Dawn Staley
Point guard Tyasha “Ty” Harris was born in East Lansing, Michigan, and grew up in Noblesville, Indiana, where she led Heritage Christian High School to multiple state titles, but what led her to the University of South Carolina was the chance to play for a legend in three-time Olympic gold medalist turned Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley.
“That’s one of the reasons I came to South Carolina — because of her,” Harris said. “Just to get the knowledge from her. Everything that she’s done, I want to do. Outside of basketball, she knows so much. She has a lot of connections so she can help me whenever.
“When I was younger, I didn’t watch a lot of basketball, and then I started when I got into high school and started learning that the (great former) players are now coaches. I started looking up on that. I watched coach Staley’s old highlights. I was watching and everyone was telling me, ‘Oh, she is wonderful,’ and how great a player she was. And I was like, ‘Maybe I should go there to learn how to be a great point guard like her?”’
Harris is well on her way. She was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team in 2017 when South Carolina won its first NCAA championship.
“That was kind of the best thing that’s ever happened to me, especially as a freshman,” the 5-foot-10 Harris said.
She was a Nancy Lieberman Award finalist this past season and holds the record for most career assists in the SEC.
“I’m a true point guard,” Harris said. “I feel like now and then a lot of people look at scoring as the main thing to do, but I get more excited to assist. Mentally I get it. I have a high IQ. My goal is to have a high IQ and be
Harris also has been a part of USA Basketball for several years — she won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in 2016 — and will be playing for the U.S. team at the Pan American Games this summer in Peru.
“It’s a great feeling and a great accomplishment,” Harris said. “It’s an honor just to have U.S. printed across the jersey. Because you’re not just representing yourself or your school, you’re representing the whole country. It’s a great accomplishment to have and not a lot of people get the chance to do it. It’s a love for me, and I feel honored to represent my country.”
Harris did not make the first USA team she tried out for, but has ever since and has continued to get better and better.
“It’s not like it’s a thing where you know you’re going to make it again,” she said. “I was always nervous each time I went back. And you always know that you’re playing against other great players who want to make the team. It’s crazy even just to think about.”
The USA National Team had a training camp at South Carolina one year when Harris was able to meet two of her favorite WNBA players —four-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
“I was able to attend that and was able to talk with Diana, and it was amazing just to get that knowledge from her,” Harris said. “They’re the greatest to ever play, and that they took time to talk to me and tell me things that will get me better.”
Like those players, Harris also will be looked to as one of the USA team leaders this summer.
“I think I do (lead), just because I’m more of an experienced player,” she said. “This will be my third time being on a USA team, so I just have a knowledge of what they expect and going overseas and all that stuff that not a lot of people playing the first time know.”
Harris is majoring in sports management and, after a probable pro career, she also is considering becoming a sports agent. She also is hoping to make the Olympic team in 2020.
“I hope I get the opportunity to do that, too,” Harris said. “That’s another thing — knowing I make the team every year, the next thing is a step forward to making the Olympic team. It will be hard. A lot of spots will be hard to beat them out but I’m going to keep coming back.”
In other words, she doesn’t give up. And in that way, she’s a lot like her college coach. Staley didn’t quit either while helping the U.S. win Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004 as a player.
“Just having her as a coach, just being around USA Basketball and her being head coach of the Olympics team kind of helped me out,” Harris said. “She taught me what to expect.”