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Coatesville's Zuri Harris adjusting to "new" surroundings quickly

12/03/2022, 11:30pm EST
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

COATESVILLE — The Coatesville uniform might be one that Zuri Harris is still getting used to, but not much else about his new surroundings are unfamiliar.

Zuri Harris (above) finished with 15 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 5 steals against Chichester. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

His new head coach, John Allen? Well, the former Coatesville and Seton Hall standout was Harris’ middle school coach when they were both at Collegium Charter. Also on that team were a few of Harris’ Coatesville teammates, including Dior Kennedy; many of the others he’s played with in summer leagues, AAU teams, or just around the neighborhood. 

“He’s played with them his whole life,” Allen said. “He’s from Coatesville, he’s in the school district. He played with those guys his whole life, there’s not one player he didn’t know.”

So that’s how, just about a month after he arrived at the school, Harris has already fit in seamlessly with his not-so-new teammates. Harris called it “leftover chemistry” from their youth years, and it shows.

The 5-foot-11 guard had quite a debut weekend for Coatesville, scoring 20 points in a win Friday night and then following that with a stat-sheet-stuffing performance to help power his squad to a 65-51 win over Chichester on Saturday in the championship of his program’s season-opening tournament.

“It’s been great,” Harris said of his new surroundings. “If someone has a good day, we’re going to give them the ball, if someone’s hot, they’re going to get the ball. As we keep playing together and playing with each other, it’s great.”

Harris has only been at Coatesville for a month, the junior making the decision quite a few weeks into the school year to leave Cardinal O’Hara and go to his hometown school, a variety of factors convincing him he needed to make the switch.

“Everything went into it,” he said. “I don’t just focus on basketball, it’s academics and everything in it to make sure I’m the best student-athlete possible.”

He got to school just in time to get his paperwork submitted and get to tryouts, earning his way onto the varsity team, though not into a starting role. It was a team that had already played in a number of summer and fall events (“We played against him,” Allen said with a laugh), getting their chemistry together. 

Having Harris come in and instantly jump into the starting lineup would upset the balance that the first-year coach and local legend was hoping to build. Instead, he’s served as a super-sub, and is thriving in the role.

“[I’m] just coming in and staying aggressive,” he said, “because I know even though I might be off the bench, I play the entire game. If I’m on the court or off the court, playing aggressive, coming in with energy, taking my shot and being confident in my shot the entire game.”

Harris provided a burst for Coatesville (2-0) during a second quarter that went 14-4 in the host’s favor, turning a tied game after one quarter into a 10-point halftime lead; his 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer gave his team plenty to feel good about in the locker room. 

Playing the majority of the second half, he continued his all-around presence, racking up 15 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals. With Kennedy (11 points) struggling with fouls for much of the game, Harris’ presence was the catalyst for a Coatesville press that forced 27 turnovers and an offense that shot 9-of-19 from 3-point range, getting his own points seemingly as an afterthought to those of his teammates.

“A lot of us, we knew Zuri for a long time,” senior guard Jeremiah Marshall said, “so since he’s come, it’s been clicking ever since [...] everything just flows when he’s in there.”

Marshall was named the tournament MVP after scoring 19 points Friday night and adding 12 more on Saturday, with four rebounds, three assists and two steals. 

Amon Fowlkes (above, left) had 16 points to lead all scorers. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Coatesville’s leading scorer was sophomore Amon Fowlkes, who also played for Allen as a middle schooler at Collegium Charter; the 5-11 sharpshooter was 4-of-5 from downtown and then threw in a couple fourth-quarter floaters to finish with 16 points. 

The hosts kept their foot on the gas during a third quarter that saw them open up a 21-point edge, though Chichester (1-1) got within nine points midway through the fourth. The Eagles got 10 points each from senior Vince Wildrick and Zaiyin Keys and eight points and five assists from senior point guard Mazen Sayed.

Allen is motivated to turn around a Coatesville program that finished one spot on the outside of the District 1 6A field, which had its head coach resign midway through last season, knowing he first needs to provide a foundation and build from there. The pieces are in place for Coatesville to be good right way, this year — Allen pointed to some offseason wins over Catholic League programs as a sign they had what it takes — it’s still a young group that needs to learn how to win together, and know they can do so.

“I think we have to be patient as a coaching staff and understand what they went through last year,” Allen said, “a coaching change in the middle of the season is not ideal. We have to be patient and understand what they had. 

“We’re going to have losses, we’re not going to go undefeated — I’m telling you now, we’re going to have losses, we’re going to have tough games, and we’ve got to be able to fight through adversity.”

By Quarter
Coatesville: 12  |  14  |  26  |  13  ||  65
Chichester: 12  |   4   |  15  |  20  ||  51

Coatesville: 22-42 FG (9-19 3PT), 12-20 FT
Chichester: 19-39 FG (6-15 3PT), 7-14 FT

Coatesville: A. Fowlkes 16, Harris 15, Marshall 12, Kennedy 11, Peoples 5, VanOrden 3, Brown 3

Chichester: Wildrick 10, Z. Keys 10, Sayed 8, Gordy 6, Clay 5, Anderson 5, A. Keys 5, Johnson 2

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