FOR Alaska coach Alex Compton, eight years was worth the wait for Mike Harris.
Unknown to many, Compton had his eyes on Harris since 2010 back when he was still an assistant coach for Bo Perasol at Coca-Cola after the Philippine-born American coach was tasked to find an import for the team.
“Nag-start ako sa Coke kay coach Bo Perasol. Sabi ni coach, tulungan niya ako sa pagkuha ng import,” said Compton, who starred for the Manila Metrostars team in the old Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).
“Ang hirap ng trabaho na ‘yun kasi sobrang tagal ko na sa Pilipinas. Mas kilala ko pa ‘yung mga high school players sa NBTC kesa sa mga import sa US. I came here 1998 and in 2010, wala ako masyadong kilala doon eh.”
After watching hours and hours of video, Compton was able to get hold of a footage of Harris, a product of Rice who in 2010 was named the MVP of the NBA D-League.
Needless to say, Compton was immediately impressed.
“I watched a ton of videos, reached out, looked at it, and there is this D-League MVP and if you watch his film, it was like ‘Oh my Gosh,’” Compton said.
Compton, though, admitted getting Harris was easier said than done, as is usually the case with blue-chip imports. Since he first saw tapes of Harris' games in 2010, he tried to recruit the import every single year.
“So I took a swing. I took a shot at the moon basically to reach out. I found out through some research that his agent is Tony Dutt. I emailed him and found a way to get his phone number, sent a text, no reply.
“But same thing next year, same thing next year, same thing next year,” Compton said.
Finally, Compton got hold of Harris last year, but it still took some time to convince Harris to come over. Fortunately though, Harris had friends who were encouraging him to play in the Philippines.
“I didn’t start talking to Mike since last year. And we got to talking. It just wasn’t going to work out. But he had some friends telling him that he would love playing in the Philippines. Him and I were talking, kinda hit it off.
“We started talking and explored the possibility of coming out this year. In college, you have to recruit, it's like full-time, full-court press recruiting, try to figure out what is the appropriate amount of calling or messaging him, not too makulit on following up.
“Finally got a reward,” Compton said.
Although Harris was eight years older from the time he first saw him in videos, Compton was confident the American player would still make a big impact on the Aces because of the work ethic that Harris became known for.
“Kasi si Mike, 35 ngayon. Dati, 43-inch vertical leap siya, something like that. Grabe ‘yung talon niya. Imagine ‘yung likot ni Allen Durham, with brusko ni Mike. Ang galing,” Compton said. "I knew that even if he is 35, kaya pa nya ‘yan. ‘Yun ang pinapakita niya. He keeps on going."
He was right.
In his first conference with Alaska, Harris averaged 29.82 points, 21.73 rebounds, and 1.36 blocks in the Governors’ Cup eliminations then led the Aces past San Miguel and all the way to the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
Better yet, Harris himself in the conversation in the Best Import conversation in his debut season.
“In an import conference, so much depends on your import. We have a talented, good, smart one who has an incredible experience in terms of character and leadership. It’s amazing,” Compton said.
As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
“I didn’t want to wait until he was 50,” said Compton. "So I’m grateful."