SPOKANE, Wash. - Back when he was just a freshman, Elias Harris showcased the type of ability that had many basketball scouts thinking he might leave college early for the NBA. Four years later, though, he's still at Gonzaga University.
On a sleepy Sunday afternoon at the McCarthey Athletic Center, Harris, now a senior, displayed those exact same skills that have served him so well during his longer-than-expected collegiate career. He also furnished a convincing reminder that he may still be worthy of those early projections.
Harris corralled a career-high 18 rebounds to pace Gonzaga to its third blowout in as many games. This time, the Bulldogs, ranked 19th in both polls, thrashed South Dakota 96-58.
"Elias just had a great approach tonight," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "He was trying to get every (rebound) that was out there."
Through the Bulldogs' first two games, Harris grabbed a total of only 14 rebounds. But part of that was due to limited minutes, either from foul trouble or lopsided margins. On Sunday, however, the 6-foot-8 forward from Germany was far more aggressive.
"Just come out with lots of energy and just attack the boards and grab as many boards as I can," Harris said. "That was my mindset."
Prior to Sunday, the best rebounding effort of Harris' career was 16. It's a feat he has accomplished twice, most recently against BYU in February of last season. Against South Dakota, a pesky team playing its fourth game in five days, Harris nearly matched that total in the first half alone with 13 rebounds.
"I was just trying to get myself going and get my team going," Harris said. "I was just crashing the boards as hard as I could."
Perhaps his most spectacular rebound, at least judging by the fans' reaction, came in the opening period when he snatched the ball out of mid-air off a missed shot and dunked it all in one motion. It was one of five offensive rebounds for Harris.
"He went and got some man-sized rebounds," Few said. "It was good to see."
The Bulldogs have won each of their first three games by at least 34 points, which means Few has not needed to rely as much on his starters. Playing time, in fact, has been spread almost equally among the Zags' deep bench. That just makes Harris' display on the boards against South Dakota all the more remarkable considering he played only 25 minutes.
"His rebounds-per-minute is how he needs to be judged," Few said. "And I think they are pretty exceptional right now."
Harris also added a season-high 16 points on an efficient 8-of-14 shooting. It was the 22nd double-double of his Gonzaga career and sufficient evidence why he is on the watch lists for some of college basketball's most prestigious honors, including the Naismith and Wooden awards.
"We just need to go out every day, every night and play as hard as we can," Harris said. "I think that's what we did."