By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
At a recent Bossier High basketball game, principal David Thrash was watching from the stands with a former parish school administrator. The visitor noticed that the Bearkats’ starting center walked down to the end of the bench, took off his jersey and walked to the locker room.
“Did that kid just quit?” he asked Thrash.
“Nope,” he said. “Not only is he one of our best basketball players, he’s also one of our best soccer players. He’s got another game to go to.”
Welcome to the world of Marquis Harris.
Multi-sport stars are not unusual (though they are becoming less frequent) in high school sports, but what Harris is doing – especially during this time of year – isn’t typical.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior is playing two team sports at the same time – and doing it at a high level. The Bearkat star is the center on the Bossier basketball team, which will again be a top seed in the Class 3A playoffs. He’s also a forward on the soccer team, which is seeded No. 4 in the Division III playoffs.
And by the way, this comes after an outstanding career on the football team as quarterback, running back, wide receiver and kicker. Once the spring arrived, he will also be in multiple events for the Bossier track team.
Is that all? “I never played baseball,” Harris said. “But I might have to try it.”
When he is faced with the situation of having two games on the same night, he has to make a choice. Usually, it’s fairly obvious, since the Bearkats have had great seasons in both basketball and soccer. “I usually just tell him to go on,” basketball coach Nick Bohanan said. “Heck, I try to get there after our game to watch him (play soccer) myself.”
One thing about Harris – he’s not hard to spot. Typically, he’s the tallest on the basketball court, but in soccer? Let’s just say that you can’t miss him. The opponents certainly take notice.
“They look at me and I hear them say, ‘Oh man, this guy is big,’” Harris said. “They want to know how tall I am and ask me ‘Why do you play soccer?’ I tell them it’s because I love the game.”
“I don’t know how he does it,” Bohanan said. “It’s not like he’s just on the team. He’s a big part of each team that he’s on. He’s a focal point for both.”
See, Harris didn’t just go out for soccer on a whim. He has been playing the sport since he was three years old and soon was part of the club soccer circuit.
Loyola coach Mark Matlock was one of Harris’ youth soccer coaches and has seen his development. “With his size, you don’t think of quickness, but he covers so much ground with his strides,” he said. “To be as big of a physical presence, he really has a soft touch. When he was younger, he was all about power and raw speed, but I think he has refined his technical ability.”
“He’s at my practice every day, works hard and then he leaves and goes to soccer practice and does the same thing,” Bohanan said.
On Dec. 14, Harris played for a half as the Bearkats took on Benton, one of the top soccer teams in Division II. Then he came inside to a basketball game against Captain Shreve, one of the top local Class 5A teams.
“You could tell that night he might not have had his legs,” Bohanan said. “He went to dunk one and he didn’t have his typical lift. But I think it’s very impressive that he’s able to do both simultaneously at a high level.”
“We do that on purpose to let the other team think he’s not playing,” soccer coach Orlando Medlin said. “When he comes in the game, it’s a distraction. He’s going to pull two or three defenders with him and that makes the field bigger for the wings. That’s his job.”
With a talent like Harris in demand for two sports, you’d think the coaches would have issues.
“We’ve worked together since Marquis got here,” Bohanan said. “We will talk and say ‘Do you need him tonight?’ or maybe we will decide to split time with him.”
“It might be better,” Medlin joked, “if we could just split him in half.”
When it comes to the playoffs, that shouldn’t be a problem since the soccer and basketball postseasons are staggered. The soccer Bearkats, seeded No. 4, had a bye in the opening round of the Division III playoffs and will play this weekend. The basketball playoffs for Bossier, currently No. 2 in the Class 3A power rankings, won’t begin for another two weeks.
“He’s only going to get better,” Bohanan said. “He’s going to get bigger and he has not reached his potential, no matter what sport. He’s polite, he’s a pleasure to work with and a joy to coach.”
“Marquis is like a son to me,” Thrash said. “He tells me all the time he loves me and I love him. His parents have done a great job. If there’s a family more supportive than his, I haven’t seen it.”
Where his athletic talent will take him from here still remains to be seen, no matter what the sport. “Somebody is going to figure it out,” Thrash said, “and everybody else is going to realize they made a mistake.”
But for now, Harris will continue to take it one sport at a time, no matter which one that is.
“I just play them,” he said, “and hope for the best in all of them.”
Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL