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Wolverines' Harrison follows her destiny on the basketball court

NIAGARA FALLS -- Scoring has always come easily to Destiny Harrison.

As a fifth-grader, Niagara Falls High School's star shooting guard once scored 47 points in an Amateur Athletic Union game.

But scoring isn't the only thing that comes easily on the court these days to the Wolverines senior. It turns out Harrison, the first female since the merger of old Niagara Falls and LaSalle high schools to earn a Division I basketball scholarship, can be quite the positive on-court presence.

She's the type of player whose leadership is vital toward helping a young team learn how to win on the fly. That attitude has been just as important as her 31 points per game scoring average in helping a rebuilding Wolverines team survive in the rugged Niagara Frontier League.

"Years before, you could see little outbursts, her being a little uptight on the court because her emotions would get so high," Niagara Falls coach Martha Amoretti said. "This year, you rarely see any negative reactions from her. You'll even see her smiling and having fun, which she should be [doing]."

"I think I needed to have more fun out there, keeping all of my teammates happy," said Harrison, who will attend Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh in the fall. "Basketball is a serious game, but you've got to have fun out there."

Harrison had a good time Jan. 19 in helping the Wolverines hand host Lockport its first league loss of the season, 59-45. She poured in a Wolverines girls single-game record 45 points to conclude a two-game stretch in which the 5-foot-5, 18-year-old averaged 39.5 points per game.

Besides the realization that basketball is supposed to be fun, another reason Harrison is more relaxed on the court is that she doesn't have to worry about her academic or athletic future.

She signed her letter of intent to play at Robert Morris back in November for former University at Buffalo coach Sal Buscaglia, who also led Manhattan College to the NCAA Tournament in 2003.

All she has to worry about these days is playing her best to help the Wolverines.

She's not playing for the potential college recruits in the stands looking for hidden gems. Instead, she has been able to work hard in practice and in games to help Niagara Falls build on the strides the program has made in recent years.

The Wolverines were 8-7 overall, 6-5 in the league, as of Wednesday night.

Harrison has scored 1,415 points during a scholastic varsity career that began when she was an eighth-grader. Even though she's clearly the one opposing teams must worry about on the court at all times, she said scoring has been even easier this season than in the past.

She's quicker to recognize what kind of defenses opponents are using against her. She also worked out with weights and did some cardiovascular training to help improve her stamina during games.

Still, the Wolverines needed more than just scoring from her this season after graduating three starters who helped the program reach the Section VI Class AA semifinals last winter. They needed a calming influence on the court, someone who could make sure inexperienced players with ability didn't become discouraged after making mistakes that simply are a byproduct of not being seasoned varsity-level players.

A positive attitude helps build confidence, which in turn leads to wins.

"She plays a position for us where she's inherently a leader," Amoretti said. "She's a quarterback. She runs the offense. She helps teammates. "We've matured a lot. I think all of our expectations in the beginning were kind of low, so they were playing that way. But after they saw how they could play, they realized their capabilities." They realized they could win, which is simply what Harrison wants to do during the final few weeks of her high school basketball career.

That, and have fun.

"Everybody has a role they play out there on the court," Harrison said. "They know what they have to do.

"Me being a leader, I try to help them on and off the court. I knew I had to step it up knowing some of our leaders [graduated]. I knew I had to step it up twice as hard. We've just got to win. No matter what it takes, that's what we've got to do."


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