Most 21-year-olds don’t expect to be told they can no longer pursue their lifelong passion, but that is exactly what happened to Dexter Harris ’16, who was diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder two years ago. He was told he could never play basketball again.
But not playing and not being a part of the team he had called his own for two years, were two different things and for Harris, walking away was never an option. Instead, the senior guard transitioned into a new role, as a student-coach, offering his support and encouragement on the sidelines at every game and every practice.
Jesse Balcer, head men’s basketball coach, refers to Harris’ actions as “leadership by example.”
Because of that quality, Harris was honored with the Sam Cozen Player of the Week award at the Philadelphia Area Small College Coaches Association luncheon earlier this year.
“When Coach Balcer told me what he was doing, recognizing me for my leadership, I just said thank you,” Harris says. “We have a lot of leaders on the team, so to be honored for that was something special.”
After dealing with injuries and surgeries for much of his high school and college career, in 2014 Harris’ life changed dramatically. A CAT scan revealed he had a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Harris was rushed into emergency surgery, followed by a 43-day hospital stay. During this time, the hematologist told Harris he has a blood disorder called Factor V Leiden.
“They started hinting that I might not be able to play anymore but it was just a hypothetical, it wasn’t until I actually got the news that it was for real, that it hit me,” Harris says.
After that, it took Harris time to cope with his new reality but when he did, he found purpose and motivation that has him on a new path in life, one that includes a career in sports psychology.
“It made me look at what's really important, what I want to do 10 years from now, instead of maybe using basketball for a couple (more) years and then asking myself what I want to do,” Harris says. “I've matured a lot. I'm thankful for that and I feel I have a lot to offer people who might be in those same shoes.”
Harris’ journey will continue as he pursues his master’s degree in psychology at Chestnut Hill. And as far as seeing him on the sidelines next year?
“As long as they’ll have me, I’m happy to continue to play a role with the team in any way I can.”
— Marilee Gallagher ’14
For more on Dexter Harris and his inspirational story, read Philly.com’s article, Chestnut Hill’s Dexter Harris continues to play leading role.