Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Josiah Harris’ story on graduating early is one refreshing tale

MORGANTOWN — It is rather rare these days, especially in a world of college athletics that seems to have universities cemented in greed and athletes always searching for greener pastures elsewhere, that there is much good news to report.

So rare, that when trying to drum up a lead for the story you’re about to read about WVU men’s hoops player Josiah Harris, it was extremely difficult to come up with something catchy enough that didn’t sell his accomplishment short.

The best we can do is just hit you with it point-blank: Harris is just two months away from walking onto a stage on Dec. 16 and earning his degree in communication studies.

He is just a sophomore, and barely one at that, with WVU’s 2023 fall semester not even two months old yet.

How do we begin to put Harris’ accomplishment into words? Well, it was WVU interim head coach Josh Eilert who nailed it:

“It’s refreshing to hear in 2023,” he said.

Absolutely it is.

We assure you there is a story behind it all, filled with numbers and breakdowns that comes with any sports story.

We begin, though, with Harris’ motivation and desire to pull off such a feat.

In speaking with the media Tuesday, the Canton, Ohio native told the story of his great-grandmother, and how she wanted to see Harris graduate college before she passes away.

Harris’ great-grandmother is 93.

“I feel like that’s an amazing thing to accomplish for her and I’ll get to see her face when I’m on that stage,” Harris said.

We also are told the story of Harris coming from a very large family, one with several younger brothers and sisters.

“My biggest thing is seeing my siblings growing up, I wanted to not only be a great role model to them on the basketball court, but off the court as well,” Harris said. “I want to show them that it’s bigger than just sports and you can be good with your education as well.”

In telling the story, Harris is very nonchalant about it all, like this sort of thing happens all the time.

It doesn’t, obviously, but listening to Harris tell it all in such a composed manner is maybe the most fascinating part of this whole tale.

“I just took the classes and got it done,” he said. “I just did the work. I don’t think it’s anything crazy, but I do think it’s a blessing.”

A blessing that goes back to his sophomore year of high school at Richmond Heights, just outside of Cleveland.

In the afternoons and evenings, he was working and playing with the Spartans boys’ basketball team. During the day, he was actually attending classes at Lakeland Community College.

It was part of Dveron and Carrie Harris’ vision that their son Josiah would get a head start in life by earning both high school and college credits at the same time.

“My parents were looking up different programs and they saw the CCP (College Credits Plus), and they were like, ‘You can get college credits while still taking high school classes,’ ” Harris said. “It was something we wanted to do to make things easier once we got to West Virginia.”

At 15, most are thinking about closing in on getting a driver’s license. Harris was walking around a college campus worrying more about midterms.

“A lot of my friends were older,” Harris said. “It made me grow up a lot faster being in those classrooms and seeing how they went about it. It got me adjusted for West Virginia, having already been on that level.”

Three years of college credits while still in high school add up — “I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was a lot,” Harris said. By the time he enrolled at WVU in 2022, he was essentially a college senior as a freshman.

WVU requires 120 credits in order to graduate. As a freshman, Harris loaded up on courses during his first two semesters.

“Every time I talk to him, it’s just an incredible story on how he can graduate that quickly,” Eilert said. “He looked at me and said, ‘They’re paying for it. Why wouldn’t I take as many classes as I can?’ You just don’t hear that from college athletes anymore. He’s taking advantage of what’s put in front of him.”

By the time he enrolled in summer courses in 2023, Harris was ready to apply for graduation.

Sure, that fact brings some respect and maybe even some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.

“Quinn (Slazinski) probably says the most stuff,” Harris said. “He always tells me I’m a genius.”

But there came a day when Harris saw the light at the end of the tunnel. He was about to transition from life as a college student to life as a college graduate.

Of course, the first call went back home.

“My mom just kept on crying,” Harris said. “She still couldn’t believe I did it. My parents were just so proud of me.”

The only question left is what’s next for Harris?

Some of that answer will be found this season on the floor of the WVU Coliseum, as Harris has higher expectations for himself this season after playing in 17 games as a freshman.

Some of it, too, will continue to be found in a classroom somewhere in Morgantown.

Harris’ bio at WVU states he’s already pursuing a master’s degree in executive sport management. After that, he wants to pursue his Master of Business Administration (MBA).

“The way they’re doing it, I can do it on a one-year pace,” Harris said. “I can graduate with my master’s in sports management. Next year, the MBA will be a one-year course. I could possibly do something after that, too.”

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