By Rory Sharrock
A tiger doesn't change its stripes, but if things work themselves out this coming weekend, Dennis Harris, 17, will change his tiger suit from the orange and navy blue of Mundy's Mill High School to the purple and gold of Louisiana State University.
Harris, whose skills have made him a household name throughout the Southern Crescent, hopes to one day be known throughout the Southeastern Conference and the nation as the six-foot 10-inch forward has verbally committed to attend LSU during the 2008-09 school year.
On Friday, Harris and his family will make the 520 mile road trip down to Baton Rouge to visit the campus, look at the athletic facilities and meet with coaches and students.
"I feel real good and I'm really excited," Harris said. "I can't wait to get down there to see the campus and see how the students interact with each other."
Harris made the decision to verbally commit to LSU after Tigers' head coach John Brady and his staff came to his home in Clayton County to meet with the family in person. They discussed the family atmosphere on campus in addition to his placement in a summer job internship program that would help him achieve his academic goals.
Once he officially signs on the dotted line, Harris will join a basketball program that has produced stars such as "Pistol" Pete Maravich, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formally known as Chris Jackson), Shaquille O'Neal and Tyrus Thomas, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft.
"It's a true blessing that a school of LSU's caliber sees that Dennis can have a future there," said his father, Dennis Harris Sr. "Not only as a basketball player, but as a student-athlete and that's number one. LSU has a proven record of evaluating big men."
Harris' talents have caught the eye of 21 Division I schools including perennial NCAA tournament participants such as Providence, Virginia Tech, Xavier, Cincinnati and Auburn. He also received offers from highly accredited academic institutions like Vanderbilt and George Washington, however, LSU is the place he hopes to call his home away from home.
This coming fall, Harris will wear a Mundy's Mill jersey for the final season with plans of taking the Tigers deep into the playoffs for the fourth-straight season. Last year he helped Mundy's Mill capture the Region 4-AAAAA tournament title by defeating Tri-Cities 81-78 in overtime.
"Dennis is one of the most coachable kids I've ever had," said Mundy's Mill head coach Tu Willingham. "I've often told all the college coaches that I'll never beat him to the gym and I get there pretty early. He just has the desire to be good. It's a celebration we knew was going to happen, it just was a matter of when it was going to happen."
In addition to his superb athletic abilities, Harris is also a gifted student in the classroom. He recently scored a 1300 on Scholastic Aptitude Test and currently maintains a 3.7 grade point average.
While playing in the NBA will be a life-long dream come true, he is focused on his academics and hopes to pursue a major in either business management or education.