Coach brings energy, spirit to SRHS boys hoops team


It helps that first-year South River High School boys basketball coach Rodney Harris knows what winning is all about.

A 1987 graduate, Harris started all four years for Rams teams, which annually finished with winning records and captured its share of Central Jersey Group I tournament games. That is in stark contrast to South River’s fortunes on the court in recent years. As an example, last year was, unfortunately, a typical season with the team posting a dismal 3- 19 record in the GMC Blue Division.

When Harris, who is still active in the Air Force with a tenure of 16 years, took over the reins of coaching South River this year, he inherited the same team, minus a graduated senior. The first words uttered out of his mouth to the assembled group on the initial day of practice were, “we’re wiping the slate clean.”

Apparently, the cleansing has worked. With four games played, the Rams have an even 2-2 record and are playing what Harris describes as solid basketball.

“Today’s game [a 61-53 win over Keansburg] is a good example of how the kids have changed their attitude,” Harris said. “We came out in the fourth quarter [led by sophomore guard Larry Smith’s 11 points] and really stepped it up. We’re not looking at how things went in the past.”

Smith is the player Harris points to as the catalyst South River lacked in the past. He is 5-10, and brings an energy and spirit that has carried the Rams, even in losses. Perhaps the team became believers in themselves during a seasonopening loss to a quality Spotswood team, 70-55.

“The score was not indicative of how close the game was,” Harris said. “We were in it for most of the way. We knew if we could close out an opponent, we would win games. We believe in each other.”

The starting lineup for South River features a mixture of height and athleticism. Shawn Fenton, a senior, is 6-4, and compliments Smith well at one spot. So does junior Nick Boyler, a 6-1 guard-forward. Two other seniors, Kevin Gilbert and Brandon Walsh, 5-10, are the other starters.

Off the bench come Xavier Foster, junior, 5-9, Gavin Campbell, junior, 6-2, Kyle Majewski, junior, 5-9, twin brothers, Tim and Craig Huff, 5-11 juniors, and freshman Tyler Harris, 6-1.

Besides his Air Force job, Harris operates the Millennium Ballers with another former South River player, 1,000-point scorer, Audrey Taylor. The academy helps future basketball players refine their skills so they’re ready for high school basketball.

“Running the business and coaching the basketball team has definitely challenged my time management skills,” Harris says. “I kind of thought the coaching job would be teaching a lot of Xs and Os. But there’s a lot more than that. You have to keep tabs on the players, making sure they are doing the right things academically. And then, there’s the fact these kids are just teenagers.

“I’ve had to double my blood pressure medication,” Harris joked. “But I enjoy this new job and I know the kids are enjoying the fact we’re winning games.”