Senior captain leading young Wolverines to greatness
By David Yarger
Niagara Falls Wolverines boys basketball coach Sal Constantino has coached a lot of players in his time and he loses seniors on a yearly basis. Saying goodbye to players is never easy, but this year it will certainly be tough seeing one of his players walk across the graduation stage: Josiah Harris.
Harris is a three-year varsity basketball player whose contributions on and off the court have made him what Constantino calls “the poster child” of the Niagara Falls program.
Harris, who averages 12 points per game and shoots 40 percent from behind the 3-point line, has become a vital asset to a Wolverines team that is looking to win its fourth straight Section VI Class AA title, as well as back-to-back Niagara Frontier League crowns.
Additionally, off the court, Harris is 90-plus average student and helps coach the unified basketball team at the Falls, which gives kids with special needs the chance to play a varsity sport.
“On the court, off the court, in the classroom – everything. … On the court he’s always … trying to keep guys level-headed. He’s truly like what you’d call a poster child for the program that I’d like to be known for, he really is,” Constantino said.
Harris helps captain a Constantino squad of four seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and a freshman. Coming into the season, Harris admitted a lot was asked of him with a young squad, but he has answered the calling.
“I just keep getting on them. Like every time I see them drop their heads or anything, I keep getting on them. They just need that guy to stay on them and I feel like I’m that senior leader that can stay on them so they keep their head right,” Harris said.
“With the young guys that log a lot of minutes, his maturity has been huge,” Constantino added.
Youth is a big part of the Wolverines squad, which currently sits at 17-2. Freshman Willie Lightfoot and sophomore Jalen Bradberry have garnered much of the attention from this year’s team, leaving Harris known as that “third guy” on offense. Regardless, he’s taken it with a grain of salt and just tries to help the duo focus on wins.
“None of us are in competition,” Harris said. “We know it’s a team game, so we all just play our role – whatever it is – big or small. We just stay on the right track. We all got the same goal: states.”
“It’s not about the points or getting the steals, but as a team playing together and getting other people involved,” Harris added.
Constantino said that, while more attention might be focused on Lightfoot and Bradberry, Harris has triumphed.
“He’s embraced his role with this team,” Constantino said. “I’ve seen in years past where the seniors have a little resentment towards some of the younger guys. But it’s not even close (with Josiah). It’s not even a thought in my mind when I think of 'Siah.”
“As I’ve looked over the years – and I’m in my ninth year now – I told his parents, he’ll be the most missed senior I’ve ever had,” Constantino added.
And with three years spent on the Wolverines squad, both noticed growth since Harris’ inaugural sophomore season.
“Really just finding a way to get other guys going besides myself. So being effective without the ball … being vocal, stuff like that,” Harris said.
“He’s arguably one of the best shooters we’ve ever had. … We’ve never had a team shoot the ball as well as this, and he can really stroke it. His whole game is like off the ball, defensively, his intelligence on the court. He leads the team in charges. He’s really kind of blossomed as a person, too,” Constantino said.
As of Tuesday, Harris had taken 17 charges this season, which Constantino said is a school record.
“He’s probably the most intelligent guy off the ball,” Constantino said. “If you ever watch a game you see that we talk – not as much as we should – but he’s the one always getting us going talking, coming helpside and stuff like that.”
“Defense is really what gets our offense going,” Harris said. “It speeds up the game for us. With me taking that charge, it ends the play. It’s either going to be a block or a charge – (I’m) hoping for a charge – but either way they won’t get a score.”
Harris’ resume with the Wolverines is up there with some NF greats. Despite the success, the Wolverines have succumbed in the Far West Regional the past three years. Despite a long road ahead with the Section VI playoffs, Harris and Constantino said it would be nice to go a bit further this season.
“It would feel real good, especially with me being a senior,” Harris said. “My first year, I couldn’t play in the Far West Regional due to injury, and last year I didn’t play as much; but I feel I got a bigger role this year and I hope we can take it home.”
Constantino added, “Believe me, I can say it about everyone on this team and stuff, but if there’s anyone that deserves it, who’s put his time in and embraced who he is to our team, it’s that kid.”
With 12 Section VI titles since 2001, playing for Niagara Falls can be difficult with the assumption that every year is title or bust. Despite that, Harris said he’s been proud to play for home.
“I’m just glad I can stay in my own city and play for my hometown team,” he said.
Harris and the Wolverines will try and hoist a second straight NFL title at 7:45 p.m. Thursday versus Lewiston-Porter at Lockport High School.