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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Blane Harmon – Men’s Basketball 1997-2000

Harmon stayed close to home

 

 

By Bruce Brown

 

Written for Athletic Network

 

 

Some of life’s lessons are hard ones, but those can be the ones that have the most staying power.

 

Blane Harmon compiled a dazzling resume’ as a high school basketball star in his hometown of Rayne, helping coach Louis Handy’s Wolves to a state title his sophomore year and semifinal berths as a junior and senior.

 

"Name” schools were interested in the 6-foot-2 high school All-American, who had older brothers before him go on to star at Louisiana College and at McNeese, but he left out one part of the equation.

 

I was an All-American, but I didn’t prepare myself right,” Harmon said. “I could have gone to any school I wanted, but my ACT scores were low. Some schools wanted me to go to a junior college, but I decided to go to whatever school stuck with me.

 

And, UL stuck with me.”

 

Harmon sat out the 1997-98 season to regain his academic standing, then scored 1,060 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns in three seasons under coach Jessie Evans and was a vital part of the 25-9 Sun Belt championship team of 1999-2000.

 

Now, some 13 years after he last dribbled and shot for the Cajuns, Harmon was running for a seat on the Acadia Parish School Board in an ongoing effort to see that today’s students make better choices than he did in his youth.

 

I played high school and college ball, then came back to the community,” Harmon said. “I want to look out for the kids. You’ve got kids quitting school in the fourth or fifth grade, and that’s not good. I’ve coached and been a substitute teacher to reach them.

 

I had older brothers who stayed on top of me,” added Harmon, the youngest of 11 children. “Some don’t have that. I caught on to sports. I started basketball when I was 7 or 8, and in Biddy Basketball we were second in the world.”

 

But Harmon learned there was more to life than games, leading to that first year in college.

 

The hardest part about that first year was going to class without someone standing over you,” he said. “Once I got past the first semester, I was all right.”

 

That year was Evans’ first season at the helm (1997-98), taking over for Marty Fletcher. By 98-99, he was ready to put Harmon to work.

 

That first year I played, Coach wanted me to be a combination guard, someone who could play point guard and also score,” Harmon said. “I said I’ll do what I can do.”

 

With Harmon leading the team in 3-point baskets (65) and assists (109), the Cajuns finished 16-13. He averaged 12.2 points per game and chipped in 30 steals, using some of the skills polished under Handy at RHS.

 

Harmon was the Top 28 Class 3A MVP as a sophomore when he led the Wolves to the 1995 title, and Rayne won 33, 33 and 34 games in three campaigns. As a senior, he averaged 20.1 points, 10.3 assists and 10.1 rebounds, hitting 57 percent from the floor and 92 percent at the line.

 

For his prep career, Harmon averaged 18 points and 11 assists per game.

 

No wonder the Cajuns were willing to wait.

 

When I got to UL, I thought college (basketball) would be hard, but high school was way harder,” Harmon said. “Coach Handy prepared us for the next level. We worked on conditioning, didn’t shoot the ball until November. He prepared us to win games in the fourth quarter.

 

Coach Handy drilled us on the fundamentals of the game and that helped a whole lot. I was 6-2, and should have played center, but he put me at guard because I could shoot and handle the ball.

 

Coach Evans was not an X’s and O’s kind of guy. He could recruit and then motivate you, get the best out of you.”

 

Harmon drained 7-of-12 3-pointers in a win over Arkansas-Little Rock in his first season, hitting for 23 points in that win, had 22 against Western Kentucky and 20 against South Alabama.

 

The next year, he scored 12.5 points per game, led UL with 85 treys and 112 assists on the 25-9 Sun Belt champions. In the Sun Belt Tournament finals, Harmon’s layup in the final 30 seconds pulled the Cajuns within 1 of South Alabama, and his pass to Lonnie Thomas produced the game-winner at 3.5 seconds.

 

A 9.7-point average, 62 treys and 80 assists followed the next season, which was highlighted by Harmon’s brilliant 26-point effort (5 treys) in a Sun Belt semifinal loss to WKU.

 

An All-Sun Belt Tournament pick in 1999 and 2000, Harmon was twice an honorable mention All-Louisiana pick as voters recognized unselfish team play.

 

On that 25-9 team, everyone played a role,” he said. “You could score 25 points, and lose by 15, so what’s your point? It’s better to win.”

 

He still has that approach.

 

It’s a thrill to motivate the kids,” he said. “Rayne hadn’t been to the (Cajundome) since we went in 1997, but I helped coach the teams that went in 2006 and 2007. That’s everyday life to me. You’re always competing at something.

 

I like to sit down and watch a kid’s skill set, so you can play to his strength. It’s like when they play PlayStation – when they get comfortable, they don’t have to watch the buttons.

 

It’s the same with basketball – once you get comfortable, you can do anything.”

 

Harmon is also re-visiting one more life lesson. He tried for an NCAA medical redshirt after breaking a bone in his foot in preseason, but was denied an additional year of play.

 

I got frustrated and quit school,” he said. “I never finished. But I have two hours left to graduate, and I’m going to get it next semester.”

 

Life’s lessons, learned in full and ready to be passed down.

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Court’s in session-Blane Harmon, Billy Jones, Coach Jessie Evans, Lonnie Thomas, David Patrick. Photo of 2000 teammates with Blaine.

 

1997-98 Basketball Team.

Click here for Blane’s Athletic Network profile.

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Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.