WATERLOO, ON–Coming out of high school, Kale Harrison wasn’t sure if he’d even play basketball at the CIS level. He was only being recruited by a few schools, and the program he had his heart set on playing for, the University of Western Ontario, didn’t show interest. Looking back on that situation, it seems laughable that so many basketball programs could look past a player who is currently the NPH #16-ranked CIS prospect. However, as is often the case in sports, the best talents remain buried in the rough until they are discovered and given the chance to shine.
In this instance, it was the Laurier Golden Hawks who swooped in to grab Harrison. A middle-of-the-road team, the Hawks were looking for players to step up and help push their program to the next level. When they plugged the 6’5 shooting guard in their starting lineup as a rookie, they were looking for a spark. Instead, lightning struck. Harrison made an immediate impact, averaging 17.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. For his efforts, he was named the CIS Rookie of the Year.
“I didn’t have any expectations coming to Laurier, so to receive such an honour in my first year was very cool,” Harrison tells NPH. The key to his personal success was the matchup problems that he created for the opposing defence.
“I am a versatile player who can guard wings and post players,” says Harrison.
“But I also pose matchup problems for wings because of my height, and posts because of my quickness.”
Harrison followed up his impressive rookie campaign by averaging 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore, declining to 13.1 points and 5.3 rebounds as a junior. Yet, while he found individual success at Laurier, the team still had plenty of improvements to make. They finished under .500 during his first three years, and failed to make it past the second round of the OUA playoffs. It was time for a change.
“I, along with the other senior players and the coaching staff at Laurier have been trying to establish a winning culture here,” explains Harrison.
“During my first two years, we were content with just making the OUA playoffs, but now we really believe we can beat the best teams in the country. Practices have become much more intense, and our mindsets going into games have changed to thinking we are going to win, instead of just being happy to play.”
With renewed focus and intensity, both Harrison and Laurier made vast improvements. Harrison’s fourth year saw him average a remarkable 21.2 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, which led to him being honoured as a 2nd-team CIS All-Canadian. He played a pivotal role in the Golden Hawks going 13-9 throughout the regular season, and then coming up just short of upsetting the eventual CIS national champion Carleton Ravens in the OUA semi-finals. Laurier certainly caught some folks off guard this year, but with some legitimate momentum, and a star player leading the way, another strong season seems very likely. Harrison, for one, is motivated and ready to go.
“I want to be remembered as someone who worked hard to help improve our basketball program and who brought a national championship to Laurier.”
It will be a tough task, but the Golden Hawks seem to be ready to soar. It just so happens that the man leading Laurier is someone who has carved a career out of making those long shots.
PHOTO COURTESY: WATERLOO ATHLETICS