Lincoln Head Coach Teaches the Game of Basketball and Life

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Lincoln High School boys basketball coach Jeff Harper Harris Photo by Don Boomer

By Keith D. King

Lincoln High School Boys’ Basketball Head Coach Jeffrey Harper-Harris is a man with a purpose. I recently set down and talked to him about the Hornets’ upcoming season, what he demands from his players, his role in their life off of the basketball court, his motivation and his role in the community.

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Harper-Harris has been a staple in the San Diego community for 24 years. He is all too familiar with the issues and obstacles kids are faced with growing up in the inner city. In 1992, his older brother was killed in San Diego due to gang violence. The following year, his younger brother was killed back in Ohio due to a case of mistaken identity. Since then, Harper-Harris has taken on the responsibility to show young people in the community that they can do better and that there is more to life.

Harper-Harris demands a lot from his players on the court, in the classroom and even in the community. A requirement to play on Lincoln’s Basketball team is mandatory 30 hours of community service every year. His goal is to prepare his athletes to be ready for the next level not just in sports, but also academically and socially.

Things are looking good for the Hornets upcoming basketball season. The team plans to capitalize off of last season’s 16-15 record and playoff berth with many returning players. While Coach Harper-Harris’ success on the basketball court is a priority, success in life for his players is really where he takes pride.

“Of course you want to win, but our main thing isn’t how many games we win and banners we put up. It’s about how many lives we help” said Harper-Harris. “What motivates me is hoping that one day they will understand what I’m trying to do in their life. They might not get it now, but it has been many times over the last 20 years where players have called me, or texted me and said ‘Coach, I finally got what you were saying, and teaching us’ and those are the things I take pride in.”

Harper-Harris is dedicated to his work and has always been willing to be there for his players. Rather it be helping with clothes or school supplies, picking up someone stranded, speaking a juvenile cases on their behalf and even opening up his home. In 1992, shortly have his brother was killed due to gang violence, Harper-Harris started a non-profit organization in affiliation with Basketball Initiatives called the San Diego Cougars Basketball Club. The organization helps basketball players stay focused on their basketball aspiration and limits their free time, giving the kids less of an opportunity to be in streets or getting caught up in the wrong crowd.

Every year around Christmas time, he also coordinates a toy drive in Southeast San Diego.  The next event that he has coming up is the 7th annual basketball tournament and inspirational speaking event titled the ‘Increase The Peace, Stop the Violence Blacktop Classic’ which takes place September 4th at O’Farrell Charter School starting at 9am. Guest speakers will include former Lincoln star and current Toronto Raptors Guard Norman Powell and members of the San Diego Police Department. The discussion will surround topics such as stopping gang violence, anti-bullying and bridging the gap between the community and law enforcement. San Diego State University alumni Malcolm Thomas will be in attendance as a guest coach.

“Every day that I wake up, I ask myself what Impact can I make on my community and I understand that to some people it may not be a major impact, but I don’t need a pat on the back from anyone that doesn’t understand my community,” said Harper-Harris. “If you don’t understand my community then you won’t understand why I do what I do.”

Coaches like Harper-Harris should always be respected and acknowledged for being positive role models in the community for the youth. The impact should never be taken for granted. When we spoke, I saw a man that was passionate about what he is doing, a man of faith and a man who is willing to do whatever he can in his power to assist in the empowerment of his people.

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