Correction: This article has been updated since it was originally published to correct that Jamir Harris is a senior, not a junior.
Senior guard Jamir Harris and senior guard Stacy Beckton Jr. have their eyes set on major team success headed into the 2021 NCAA college basketball seasons, which has been delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as the new-look American University men’s basketball team’s post-Sa’eed Nelson era looks to create their own identity.
Nelson, the Eagles’ former starting point guard, and the school's all-time leading scorer was the heart and soul of the team during his time at AU.
With Nelson graduating at the end of last season, the Eagles are going to look very different on both ends of the floor this year.
Harris and Beckton both have close personal relationships with Nelson and have used it to help them grow as players and leaders on the floor.
“I talk with Sa’eed almost every day, basically every day. The one thing I really learned from him that showed me how great of a leader he was and how selfless he was is that he never cared about his stats,” Harris said. “He never cared about how many points he had, or whether he was near a triple-double, any of that. He just wanted to win games, and that was evident in every game we played.”
Harris also said that he learned from Nelson that a star player should be selfless and push his teammates to improve.
Beckton also said he has a very close relationship with Nelson, saying the pair probably talk “a little too much.”
In terms of leadership, Beckton said Nelson took him under his wing when Beckton initially came to AU. Beckton has been able to watch and learn how a leader should communicate with his teammates and carries himself on and off the floor through Nelson.
“I’ve been around Sa’eed for three years, and he took on a leadership role from his first year at AU,” Beckton said. “So being under his wing has kinda helped me spurt some leadership from me.”
With that new hole on the roster, Beckton also said he feels the responsibility to be a leader this year after Nelson graduated.
“I mean, Sa’eed did a lot for us last year, so just being able to reciprocate some of the things he did, I think that would help us a lot with the time that we have going into the season,” Beckton said.
Both Harris and Beckton were back in their respective hometowns for the past seven months during the coronavirus worldwide pandemic, but both found ways to work out and stay in shape by having access to private gyms and coaches helping them.
Regardless of where both athletes have been for the past few months, the duo is excited to play with each other and envision a bright 2021 season.
“I think me and Jamir kinda bring two different aspects of the game,” Beckton said. “Jamir is a shooter and I’m just great at being able to do what the team needs me to do.”
Harris also thinks that playing with Beckton will complement his role as a shooter, and he expects the duo to play off each other early and often.
“Our styles complement each other,” Harris said. “Beck is a great player. He is also another selfless teammate. He just wants to win, I just want to win, and having him in the backcourt with me, it’s gonna be special. As older guys, we are going to be able to lead the rest of the team and develop that same mindset in those guys.”
In regard to what both players want to achieve in the upcoming season with a young team that hasn’t played together all that much, the goal doesn’t change, as both players remain fixated on capturing a Patriot League Championship.
“That’s the goal for this team, I’m not going to sit here and say that we expect anything less,” Harris said. “Yeah, we have a lot of freshmen coming in, but we have guys returning too who have been through the wars [on the court] and what we went through last year, and I feel like our experience will get the freshman up to speed quickly. They are going to know the level of urgency we have going into this year.”
Both players understand the changes and pressure associated with this upcoming season. Beckton and Harris are focused and ready to create their own identity and unlock the potential this team has. will come through practicing hard and maintaining that effort throughout the preseason and into the NCAA season until the season actually begins on January 2nd against Loyola University at Reitz Arena in Baltimore, MD.