DON'T THINK Xavier Harris is one of those guys whose drive begins and ends on basketball courts.
You would be doing him quite the disservice.
How important is schoolwork to Harris? How hard does he work in the classroom? How hotly does his desire to attend an Ivy League college truly burn?
Here's all you need to know: He has nixed scholarship offers from a handful of lower level Division 1 schools because his heart is set on Penn or Dartmouth (or any other Ivy school that would like to join the sweepstakes).
Harris, a 6-5, 210-pound senior, plays power forward for Constitution High, a special-admit school, on 7th below Market, in its second year of Public League membership.
And yesterday, as his team completed a crazy, 3-day adventure (more on part of that later), he contributed 17 points and 12 rebounds while the Generals were jolting a fellow Pubber, Murrell Dobbins Tech, 75-56, in a showcase event at Widener University.
Next, Harris talked try-your-best turkey.
"I want to take things to the Ivy League perspective," he said. "I want to use basketball to help me get a great degree.
"It would mean a lot to get into one of those places because I definitely work hard in the classroom, and I've been putting extra time into the SAT, too. I'm very close to what I need there.
"My dad [Prentiss Holmes] passed when I was 1. My mom [Bridgette Holmes] has pushed me all these years with my schoolwork and that's why I've always excelled."
Rob Moore, ConHigh's coach (that's how the school refers to itself), said Harris, who envisions a career in business or marketing, is 30 points shy of an Ivy-level SAT score.
Last summer, he added, he sent Harris' transcript to every school in that grouping, and that since then "X" has tacked on 70 points. His GPA is 3.7.
Episcopal Academy product Dan Leibovitz, a Penn assistant, was among yesterday's witnesses. In Harris, he saw a kid who actually enjoys, even treasures, being on the blocks or baseline and can show savvy in addition to strength.
Harris' most impressive moment featured a 10-foot, turnaround flip shot from the side of the lane. He also made a barely-look, over-the-shoulder pass for a layup.
Pretty much throughout, either man to man or shaded-to in zones, Harris (7-for-14, 3-for-7) was covered by La Salle signee Jerrell Wright, who's 6-8 and strong.
"Ah, I didn't think it meant that much," pooh-poohed Harris, who spent his first 2 years at North Catholic. "I'm used to playing against [D-1 prospects]. In the summer, you're always going against guys with schools chasing after them. The way I feel, the better the competition, the better it makes me play.
"I know I'll have to show more versatility in college, but I actually enjoy playing the post. There's a lot of physicality. There's much more work going on, as opposed to what happens up top. If you get things going down low, it opens everything up."
Harris posted three X's (as in field goals) in the early going and the last was part of a three-point play. Junior wing guard Daiquan Walker, mixing in two treys, tallied 10 (of his 19) points in that first quarter and the Generals finished on top, 21-14.
Dobbins finds itself without a floor leader. ConHigh pressed early, both forcing turnovers and preventing Wright from imposing his will. A comfort zone was maintained thereafter. The Mustangs weren't helped by the fact swingman Basir Fulmore, Wright's chief sidekick, picked up his fourth foul right before halftime.
Marvin Champ (11) joined Walker and Harris in double-figure points for Constitution while Mamadou Diakite (eight) and Adbul King (seven) helped Harris on the boards. Walker dealt four assists. Six-eight Erik Raleigh, battling a hand problem, settled for eight points and four rebounds.
Wright finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Daquan "Day-Day" Brown added 13 points and three assists while Fulmore used a late burst to reach 11 points. Tellingly, the Mustangs managed just four steals.
Tuesday and Wednesday nights, ConHigh won games in Reading to capture a tournament that also involved Simon Gratz and Ben Franklin.
Moore is a teacher at Franklin. That school's squad hung around Wednesday after its consolation game with Gratz to watch the Generals and then share a bus home.
"We got a call that Gratz' bus broke down in King of Prussia, and we'd have to stop there to pick them up," Moore said.
"When we arrived, the only guy there was the bus driver," Moore said. "Their players took SEPTA back to Philly."
Said Harris: "I didn't know what was going on. I woke up just before we pulled up to where Gratz was supposed to be. I was like, 'Where are we?' I didn't get home [near 13th and Lehigh] until about 1-1:30. Then I was up until about 2-2:30, soaking and icing my body. And today we met at 10 for our rides up here."
Next stop: New York City.
With friends and family, Harris will be spending the next few days in a Manhattan loft.
Tonight, might he hit Times Square?
"I probably will," he said. "I've never seen that in person. I'll only be 5-10 minutes away. That atmosphere will be crazy."
If the ball drops the wrong way, we know who'll rebound it. *