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Harris is rising star for Zags

It did not take long for Gonzaga basketball players to realize their prized recruit from Germany, Elias Harris, was the real deal.

"Obviously we hadn't heard or seen him play, except maybe a YouTube highlight here and there," said Bulldogs star Matt Bouldin. "But when he got here I think his first four or five possessions during pickup ball were all dunks. We were like, 'OK, he can play.' "

Harris will be one of the fascinating players to watch in today's second-round NCAA Tournament game between Gonzaga and Syracuse. The freshman is projected to be a first-round NBA draft choice in 2011 or 2012; or whenever he decides to turn pro.

The 6-foot-8, 215-pounder is the Bulldogs' starting power forward, averaging 14.7 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. His presence inside could be a key factor given the absence of Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku, out with a thigh injury.

Harris is good with his back to the basket and finishes in traffic well. He plays a power-forward position but would be a small forward in the pros.

Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd played in Germany in 1999 and found out about Harris through a German coach he stays in contact with. Harris played on the senior national team last summer in the European championships. Harris picked Gonzaga over Washington and Cincinnati.

Harris' father served in Germany in the U.S. Army and played in the German second-division pro league. Harris' mother declined an offer to play professionally.

"Back in Germany I played against men since I was 14 years old, so I'm used to that physical, fast game," Harris said. "My experience with the German national team helped. We play a lot of great players, so I felt comfortable coming over here."

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Few has resisted the temptation to leave Gonzaga for a bigger school, which prompted a question to coach Jim Boeheim about whether he ever seriously considered leaving Syracuse.

"I've been at Syracuse for 48 years," Boeheim said. "I honestly have really never contemplated going someplace else. I had one interview, and I wouldn't even leave Syracuse to do it. I did it because somebody just said we're coming in to see you. I said that's fine. I don't want anybody to know about it. I'm not going out of my house. If you want to come here you can. That's the only time I ever talked to anybody else. There was never a thought in my mind of leaving. It was just a courtesy."

Ohio State was the school. How long ago was that?

"Derrick Coleman was coming in as a freshman," Boeheim said. "It had to be '86. . . . I had Derrick Coleman, Stevie Thompson coming in and Rony Seikaly and those guys sitting there. Sherman Douglas. There was no way in hell I was going then."

Syracuse lost to Indiana in the NCAA final that season.

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Boeheim wasn't thrilled SU had to play the late game Friday, which finished just after midnight, then was scheduled to play today's early game at 12:10 p.m.

"I don't know what the process is in this," Boeheim said. "I was going to try to find out. So I don't want to be upset about it. But I don't see any reason why we would be playing at 12 unless it absolutely had to be."

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While SU never has played Gonzaga, Boeheim and Few have gotten together at various events for the Coaches vs. Cancer charity and have gone fishing together. "He just kills me," Boeheim said. "He's an unbelievable fisherman."

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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