‘More than just a game’: how basketball transcends the court for Tyler Harris

Harris has also established a skill-based camp leveraging the resources available to him in Qatar to build up the capacities of young athletes around him.

With the dream of making it to the NBA, Tyler Harris considers Qatar a chance to invest in his talents on and off the basketball court. 

Graduating as a Division 1 athlete at North Carolina State University, Harris made a name for himself as he made it to the Sweet-16 of the NCAA tournament, the regional semi-finals for college basketball in the United States. 

Basketball runs in the Harris family as Tyler shares the spotlight with his brother Tobias Harris, an NBA player for the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Stemming from a home of athletes, Harris has strived to become the best in the game, playing on several teams to earn his minutes on the basketball court. 

After graduating, Harris sought to dominate overseas in the pursuit of reaching his vision to return to the US and play for the NBA. 

Playing in several countries throughout his career, the young athlete made his way to Qatar’s small peninsula after playing in elite leagues in France, Japan and Argentina.

“I been playing overseas for the last eight years, and during COVID, I had offers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. I came to Qatar after speaking to the coach,” Harris told Doha News.

Tyler Harris winning the Amir Basketball Cup 

It didn’t take long for Harris to become a household name in Qatar’s basketball courts, as he drove the country’s Al Gharafa to first place in the Qatari D1 and whilst being crowned the team’s top player in his first season. 

Averaging 23 points in the season, the 6-foot-10 power forward, who has the skills to play in any position, went on to win the Qatar league, the Qatar Cup title, and the Amir Basketball Cup during the 2020 season. 

Harris has been described by coaches and his teammates as an all-around hooper, as he can dominate within the paint and drain 3-pointers at any moment. 

Home away from home

For Harris, Qatar’s environment was alluring for more than one reason.

Traveling and living overseas for so long, the country’s balance for lifestyle drove the basketball player to invest himself outside of the gym, as he would go on to start his own family and commit to an entirely new purpose.

“Shortly after signing back [his second-year contract for Al Gharafa], we found out that my wife was pregnant. We then decided to stay here and get used to building a family here and get more involved with the community, basketball-wise,” Harris told Doha News.

Marking another year with his club, Harris sought to do more than play, as he noticed progress was needed in Qatar’s basketball courts.

Unlike its football pitches, the Gulf country is yet to be seen as competitive in the realm of basketball.

The recent championship wins of the Qatari U18 team in the GCC Men’s Basketball Championship provide proof that progress has been made. However, the community still lacks the resources to consistently win locally and internationally.

“It’s a big difference,” said Harris when asked how Qatar measures up in the basketball market compared to other countries.

“It’s not the most competitive; it definitely could be. It could be a lot stronger competition-wise; it’s a great place for a lot of overseas athletes to come to and play because of the lifestyle here.”

“But the competition isn’t that great, and most guys like to play in a highly competitive atmosphere,” Harris added.

The athletes believes that more investments are needed for Qatar to convert its basketball landscape.

Citing the resources of the NBA, Harris hopes to see his own brother here one day: “the league will need to be more invested in bringing those types of guys here,” he said.

Retaining the support of the NBA is vital for any country to advance its basketball pursuits, and Qatar’s neighbours have done precisely that.

Abu Dhabi hosted NBA games this year for the first time, inviting the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks in the pre-season at Etihad Arena.

Both former and current NBA players debuted in the week-long event dubbed ‘The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022’, connecting with fans and partaking in basketball activities.

With a basketball foundation close by, Qatar athletes like Harris have given back to the community by coaching and mentoring in camps. 

Seeing it as his purpose and duty, Harris has been involved with organisations like Evo Sports, which aims to facilitate the growth of Qatar’s athletes.  

With over 2000 athletes of 95 nationalities, the institution has expanded its scope since its foundation in 2007. 

In basketball, the sports academy has evolved into competing in leagues with Harris at the centre of it, guiding students to become the best versions of themselves. 

Tyler Harris coaching his team at Evo Sports

Headed by Adam Rickwood, a former member of the Wales National Team, Evo Sports is perceived as a perfect hub by young basketballers, given the various former athletes who coach in the camp. 

“The coaching team we have now is stronger than we ever have before,” Rickwood told Doha News.

Rickwood points to the contributions of players like Harris, who maintain the knowledge to train athletes of all levels, as a “lucky” component outranking other camps within the country.

Practice makes perfect

On and off the court, Harris believes that dedication can transform any athlete to reaching their dreams. Outside Evo Sports, Harris is working on delivering that message through his own camps.

Alongside playing, Harris has also established a skill-based camp wherein he leverages the resources available to him in the country to build up the capacities of young athletes around him.

“I really want to build something here for professionals, NBA professionals, trainers, overseas professionals to make this a place that people would like to regularly come to train and enjoy the Qatar lifestyle here, what they have to offer,” Harris said.

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